Daniel Arsham, Cave of the Sublime, Iceland, 2020.
Photo: Guillaume Ziccarelli, courtesy of the artist and Perrotin
The architect and artist Daniel Arsham is not afraid of the high concept. His cabinet, Snarkitecture, designed, among other things, the so-called “selfie destination” Snark Park inside the mall Hudson Yards. Arsham himself became known for his sculptures depicting modern decaying or fossilized objects and consumer litter. For his last show at the Perrotin gallery, “Time Dilation”, he subjects both classical statuary and Pokémon to his “signature disintegration”.
I remember visiting your office in 2007, and you had this very tall bookcase and a funny broken wall in the middle, and you lived upstairs in a loft bed accessed by a steep ladder.
It was a great space. We are no longer in this space. We have another cavernous space maybe four or five times the space of the other. A little over ten years ago Jeffrey Deitch had a branch of his gallery here.
But you no longer live there?
I switched to the Norman Jaffe House.
What’s the latest news with Snarkitecture?
When Alex Mustonen and I founded the company in 2007 it was sort of creating things a lot more related to my artistic practice and in some cases acting as a project architect on some exhibitions that I was doing. Over time, Kith and other brands have kind of acquired their own design language. The practice continues with 15 people. We are working remotely during the pandemic. We have worked on projects all over the world. We now have a Kith in Tokyo.
Eroded blue calcite bust of Laocön, 2020.
Photo: Claire Dorn, courtesy of the artist and Perrotin
How did you get inspired by archeology?
Much of this interest in archeology started around 2009, 2010, when I made this book of Easter Island drawings. I went there for a number of weeks, drawing, and there was kind of – just a very simple, curious idea that kind of came across to me there, that because this island is so remote, imagine cars or old computers, they don’t ship it off the island. It just goes to a landfill on the present island, and I was sort of thinking in a thousand years the distance between the dumped computers and the original moai statues would be closer in time from an archaeologist’s point of view. , is not it?
What prompted you to craft modern artifacts?
I thought, Could I reverse this idea of archeology, and this has led to the creation of works that surround technology, hence contemporary objects rendered in materials like crystal and ash that have been pushed to their material quality in the future. When I was invited to do this exhibition at the Musée Guimet, in Paris, they told me, a bit in passing, that they had molds of these works, which were originally made for the purpose of conservation and preservation, and some of the mussels themselves date back to the 19th century. As the current mold is almost a historical work of art in itself. So they invited me to visit them. And because the Guimet museum is part of this largest French museum complex which has all the works of the Louvre, in Versailles… they had molds of Venus of Milo and Michelangelo Moses and literally anything you can imagine. It was such a deep and strange experience to be in there; it’s huge, like the size of a football field. Remember that scene at the end of Indiana Jones, in the Lost ark, where they put the Ark in that box, and they put it in this government facility in a huge warehouse with crates … that’s what it is, but they’re all molds of artwork. art.
Is it fair in Paris?
It is about 40 minutes from Paris.
So you can use the molds.
But on condition that they cannot leave France. I actually had to ship my studio. Some of my staff went there, and we worked in their current facility, and we also did a number of tests of my materials to make sure they wouldn’t do anything to damage their molds. In fact, the new molds they use are almost identical to the way we make molds here at the studio, same technique, so it worked. And the other part is that when I went there… I saw all these works that were not related to Guimet, and I asked if I could use them, and they answered me absolutely not. And it took a bit of persuasion from the museum director to show them that it was going to be out of respect to use these things, so they basically gave me access to everything. And I went deeper into the archives and pulled out things that are used in this exhibit.
Large Amethyst Crystallized Gengar, 2020.
Photo: Guillaume Ziccarelli, courtesy of the artist and Perrotin. © 2021 Pokemon. © 1995-2021 Nintendo / CreaturesInc. / GAME FREAK inc.
And then what about the Pokémon part?
It’s something I grew up with as a kid, collecting cards and watching cartoons, and my kids are in it now. Basically, I created a sculpture of one of the characters from Pokemon, and the company contacted me and asked if I was interested in pursuing something bigger with them. So I went to their facility in Tokyo, met their original artists, and came out with the rights to use all intellectual property in my works. And my wife is half Japanese and half French, so in some ways the perfect combination of universes. But understand Japanese culture the little way I do through it, these characters in Pokemon are in some ways extensions of the old Japanese ways of thinking about the afterlife, magic, and rituals, and you can sort of trace them back, so I thought of them the same as those vehicles that could move through time, and this exhibit has become a combination of many Pokémon characters as well as these Greek and Roman sculptures… [chuckling] a kind of mixture of universes in time.
I just found out: are you color blind?
How does this affect your work?
Yeah, and then in the other job there’s just a limited palette, which, you know, I sure never thought of that as a handicap. It actually makes things a bit easier in that I am able to have more limitations which makes it easier to choose things as I don’t have that many options.
Blue calcite eroded nymph with a shell, 2020.
Photo: Claire Dorn, courtesy of the artist and Perrotin
What are the takeaways from the show for you?
I think the works are definitely an invitation to rethink your position in time. With crystal works in particular, there are a number of things going on within them: one obviously is the visual quality of seeing something degraded or with the appearance that it is collapsing, but you also understand. that it’s made of a different material the material is something geological … and then you start to think, How is this thing actually made? Does he collapse? Or is it actually growing together, crystals forming it? Thus, the material quality of it says almost as much about the feeling that surrounds it as about its appearance, its appearance.