Where one person might see a blank wall, Daniel Arsham spots infinite potential. While another guy ignores a boring, old clock, Arsham sees time dripping (quite literally) down the wall. Such is the nature of this “multidisciplinary” artist — even though the term hardly seems big enough to encompass a career spanning art, architecture, performance, and film. Arsham’s all about manipulation — think of his work as room-sized brainteasers where dangling clouds are made of Ping-Pong balls and walls appear to envelop people. “I’m interested in architectural transformation,” says the Cleveland-born, Miami-raised artist. “How can I use the things that architecture is already made out of and make them different?”
He’s been succeeding mightily for years. After attending Cooper Union in New York, Arsham decamped to Miami to work at The House, an artist-run gallery space. This was before Merce Cunningham saw his designs at Miami's Museum of Contemporary Art and asked him to collaborate for eyeSpace in 2004 — the duo went on to work together until Cunningham’s death in 2009.
Next on his agenda is giving public art an immense stage. After a commission from the Arts Initiative, he’s bringing interactive art installations to the upcoming Fashion Outlets of Chicago, which will host works by 10 renowned artists, Arsham included. (Frequent fliers take note: The shops will be dangerously near O’Hare airport.) More below from the man with an overly active imagination.
“I do believe that my practice is completely unique right now in that I pursue everything from architecture to stage design to visual art and film and collaboration with clothing designers. It’s much less about this desire to do everything and more about a desire to allow my vision for this universe that I've created to expand into different areas and different audiences. When I create a stage design with [choreographer] Jonah Bokaer, the audience is totally different from that which may see my work in a gallery in Paris.”
“An experience that I had as a child — living through a very powerful and violent hurricane that nearly killed us — informed a lot of my notions about architecture and movement. Much of my work manipulates architecture in ways that cause it to do things that it shouldn't do, like an earthquake or a storm would — but my work does that in a very soft, sort of gentle, almost invisible way.”
Big Bang Theory
“My practice is much more about a lot of creation and a lot of editing and destruction. Out of the many countless things that are created, few actually leave the studio and become my work. There are accidents that happen in the studio that inform other things. All the works I’ve made that cause the architecture to drip have come out of accidents that involve pouring molds and plaster dripping out of the sides of them — and then transforming that idea to an architectural scale.”
Buy It Now
“What excites me the most? Film, images in film, stills from film. I spend a lot of time looking at images on the Internet and eBay, where all objects go to die and then get reborn.”
“Often people are caught off-guard when they see things in a context that they wouldn't otherwise see. The installation with the Arts Initiative similarly manipulates architectural surfaces, causing them to melt and drip. There's a clock, which is something that you might typically find in a large public space, but the clock is falling and sort of melting down the wall, bringing the architecture with it.”
For more in-depth interviews with inspiring visionaries, click here.
Grooming by Andrew Colvin