Interview with Daniel Arsham
Dislocating people in time
In honor of his upcoming exhibition Static Mythologies at Galerie Ron Mandos and his book signing at MENDO on Saturday 12 January from 2.30PM – 3.30PM, we had a chance to talk with multidisciplinary artist Daniel Arsham about his work, the notion of time, and Amsterdam.
Architecture, decor, sculptures, fashion, installations; Daniel Arsham pretty much does it all. With a career spanning over a decade, the New York-based artist has made a name for himself that exceeds any niche or discipline. In 2018 Arsham released two books: Snarkitecture – covering all his architectural design work he did with partner Alex Mustonen – and Arsham, the monograph book that covers his entire career.
Hi Daniel, what was the process of making this book like for you?
This book was really looking back over the last two decades of work and trying to create a kind of compendium for people who may have only seen one or two exhibitions showing the broad scope of the work and also mixing the sort of levels of the hierarchy of how I work so everything from sneakers with Adidas to exhibitions in museums globally.
You released two books within one year. What are the boundaries between “Snarkitecture” and “Daniel Arsham”?
This was a question early on and we have come to define it by function really. If an object has specific purpose it is often relegated to Snarkitecture. If an object has ambiguous purpose, it can often be within my studio so we can say that it definitely serves a purpose but that purpose is undefined, can be created by the viewer. I don’t have any preference in terms of my disciplines. I love working in many different areas.
We have read that you are colorblind, how do you deal with that in your work?
My color blindness for me has always been something that has receded into the background but more recently, I began to explore it as a means of the selection of materials within my work. The limitation of palette of what I know I can see, right? I want to be able to look at something and know that what I’m seeing is what others are seeing as well so that I can properly execute whatever it is I’m trying to do.
What inspires you?
I travel a lot. Travel is certainly something that inspires me, it keeps me thinking about the world around me.
Are there any (young) artists in particular who inspire you currently?
I look at a lot of young artists from designers like Sabine Marcelis, to people working in fashion like Samuel Ross, to more traditional painters like Reginald Sylvester or Alex Gardner.
What is the idea behind “Static Mythologies”?
The Static Mythologies exhibition at Ron Mandos includes both an exhibition of installation of one of my zen gardens, as well as cast fictional archaeological objects. I despise titling exhibitions and artwork for that matter so we’ve come up with a system in the studio where words are selected somewhat at random from things that I’ve said in interviews or in books in the past and they are combined through chance so Static and Mythologies are both things I’ve used and they came together by chance for this show.
Time seems to be central theme in your work. Why is that?
I’ve always been fascinated with time, time travel, and science fiction. All of that is a factor in the same way that I enjoy playing with people’s notion of architecture and their expectations about it. I do the same or I attempt to do the same with time, to try to dislocate people in time.
How does that tie into your own aging as a person and artist?
I don’t think it really has anything to do with my own aging. I still feel like I’m in high school.
‘I still feel like I’m in high school.’
‘I still feel like I’m in high school.’
Your work is heavily influenced by (and perhaps even part of) pop culture in general. What does that mean for your position as an artist in the art world?
I think that the role of an artist is really to kind of evaluate culture, and evaluate people’s position within the world – whether that relates to politics, fashion, ecology, film, cinema, or music and sometimes all of those things. I use my work personally as a way to explore what I think about the world and all of the fascinating things that occur within it.
Does the art world value you as much as the fashion world, for example? And is that important to you?
I think I operate a little bit outside of the art world or sort of between it and other universes. Within the art world, I think I’m thought of more as an architect – architecture world thought more of an artist – in the fashion world I don’t know what I’m thought of but still working on that.
What is your relationship to Amsterdam?
I’ve been going there for many years. I’ve been working with Ron probably going on 10 years now. I’ve always found the city to have a vibrant culture. Sneakers have always been a big thing there and I think the community between kind of street culture, art, and music have all blended there in a way that speaks to me and hopefully my work speaks to as well.
Booksigning and exhibition
Daniel Arsham has been signing his books at MENDO on Saturday 12 January 2019, from 2.30PM – 3.30PM. Arsham’s exhibition Static Mythologies opens at Galerie Ron Mandos on the same day and will continue until 16 March 2019.
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