Question & Answer
Can you tell me your name and what you do for a living?
My name is Daniel Arsham and I am an artist. I make visual art, film, painting and sculpture. I’m originally from Cleveland, Ohio – I’m from New York now.
What is difficult to make about your art, that people might not know is difficult?
There’s not really a rulebook for casting or creating many of the things that I make. Many of the materials I use are not typically things you’d cast or create art from — crystal, volcanic ash — these are not typical materials to form ideas from.
You’ve written about architecture. Do you want to talk about that?
A lot of my work is about reforming the everyday and remaking things that people already have expectations about, and this is a way for many people to enter the work, because they find some familiarity in it, in the objects, in the materials, and these things are shifted in a different way.
What’s your infatuation with time?
In most of my work really since I started, since I left school, there has been a kind of obsession with time in a way where I’m allowing time to float so I never have put figures in any of the paintings, I never tried to tie it to a specific time period. I think allowing the work to kind of float in time creates a somewhat uncanny sense. The work can be from now, it could be from a thousand years from now, it could be from the past. In the same way that the work manipulates architecture or manipulates materials, it manipulates time in a similar fashion.
You have an interesting way you talk about the future. Do you have any specific viewpoint on how you look at that versus the past?
I think for me the future and the past actually feel quite malleable. The past is pretty subjective: it depends on where you were, and how you experience things – and the future seems unknowable, but the present is the only moment that we can know, which seems obvious, but there's this sort of confusion with time that I enjoy playing with.
Can you explain what a Future Relic is?
A Future Relic for me is an object that is from our present but has been reformed in materials like volcanic ash and crystal that we associate with a geological timeframe, so a Future Relic is an object from the present that feels like it’s been uncovered in the future.
Do you have any visceral memories from childhood that have manifested themselves into your work?
There’s an attention to iconic objects that I’m able to pull into my work and the selection of these things are done intentionally in a way that would allow a wide swath of people to have an entrance to the work. The works function in New York, they function in Tokyo, they function in Brazil - whether it's due to globalization, there are certain things that everyone recognizes, and that the thing I’m looking towards.
So you’ve talked about being colorblind in the past. Could you talk about how that affects your artwork?
I’ve known from childhood that I'm colorblind, and I didn’t think that it was particularly significant in my work, I just made the work that I wanted to make. But it severely limited the palette that I had selected. A number of years ago I received some lenses that partially corrected my color vision which allow me to see in a much broader scope of color. I’m not wearing the glasses now, I stopped wearing them regularly, but I use them as a tool in the studio to find a more objective view – so I’m able to see what you and everyone else might see, and then take them off and see what I see – so I can have it both ways.
Do you want your art to be approachable to everyone?
I want my work to be experienced by as many people as possible and for my work to be very accessible.
What is your vision for your new Daniel Arsham website?
The vision for my new website is really to create an experience, to create a place where people who are familiar with my work, or who are not familiar, can gather a complete understanding of it. I think there are many different places to see my work — in social media and certainly in a gallery or museum — and a website allows me to create my curated version of it, and I think that it’s one place where I’m able to control that in its entirety.