Daniel Arsham


Written by Tshepo Mokoena
25 Sunday 25th September 2011

Main image: Sheet

Inside his studio

First off, are you still living in your ping pong-walled studio? What initially drew you to the space?

I am no longer living there, the space functions now as a space to sleep if I am at the studio too late. I initially wanted to create a space just for sleeping and getting dressed. I spend so much time in the studio that it made sense to have a kind of space like this there for me. The space was initially conceived to be an accelerated design and build experiment in my studio. From conception to completion was only eight weeks.

Arsham, with Cloud

Your 3D work has just the right balance of mind-trickery and real architectural flair. What's your artistic background like?

I was nearly killed in a hurricane in Miami in 1992. The house I was living in with my family was pulled apart by the storm. Somehow that experience informs a lot of my practice.

If you had to choose between working solely in 2D or 3D for the rest of your career, which would it be?



How does your creative process differ from one medium to the next? We've seen that your art transcends the usual gallery-viewer pattern and has been featured in theaters and on stage. How did that jump in location first come about?

Much of my work engages architecture. It causes buildings to perform and act in ways that they are not supposed to. In my work the surface of walls and ceilings can melt and ripple in the wind. In 2005 Merce Cunningham asked me to collaborate with him on eyeSpace, his new dance. I created the stage design for that piece as well as the lighting and costumes. Following that Merce asked me to work with him many times. I am now working on the stage design for his company's final performances which will take place at the Park Avenue Armory, New York in December 2011.

How much does the 'scene' and community in New York and Paris (and any other cities you've recently been working in) impact upon your work?

Because I work between art architecture and stage design, the people who are around me are often from different disciplines. My practice takes me to the forefront of all three of these practices and I am able to meet and work with some of the most amazing artists in the world.

Corner Knot

We love the Corner Knot and Sheet plaster pieces you did a few years ago. Any plans to return to that sort of project? Or are you focusing on the installation/performance work for now?

I am working now on some architectural interventions which cause the walls to appear as if they are melting. This process involves sculpting the dripping forms by hand and then having them cast in fiberglass. The works are then joined with the actual architecture and they are seamless with it. These pieces will be part of my next solo exhibition at OHWOW in Los Angeles in January 2012.


Which have been your favourite artist, dance or fashion collaborations to date?

In the summer of 2009 Robert Wilson invited me to his compound in Watermill New York to work with him and about 100 other people on a new piece for stage. After working with Merce I had certain expectations of what it meant to create work for the stage. I entered a large room where everyone was sitting on the floor, except Bob. I was the last one to enter the room. Just as I sat down he walked over to me and took my hand. He then walked very, very slowly across the room. I too walked very slowly. When we reached the other end he turned me around to walk slowly in the other direction. I walked back the other way while a hundred people watched. After a few steps he took someone else's hand and pushed them to walk as well. After five minutes there were twenty people walking very, very slowly across the room in silence.

And which is the next dream collaborate on your list?

I would like to collaborate with David Lynch.

See more of Daniel Arsham's work at danielarsham.com

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