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Daniel Arsham On How Successful People Communicate And Other Stories

Sarah J. Edwards in conversation with Daniel Arsham on a vast array of subjects including Easter Island, fictional archaeology, hip hop, calcite, communication etiquette and his tweets.

Daniel Arsham On How Successful People Communicate And Other Stories
Interview by Sarah J. Edwards
Art by Daniel Arsham
Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Perrotin
Photography by Guillaume Ziccarrelli

Art is perhaps an overlooked go to experience when the quietening of the mind is required. Which, let’s face it we all need more of now that we are bombarded with so much information at such high speeds. 
Some years back, I kept chancing upon images of a particular piece by Daniel Arsham, a set of solid looking turntables which were both intriguing yet simple. Turntables or decks (choose your preference) are the heart of so many joyous experiences; incredible music, shiny vinyl blended and cut by great DJs commanding a room, creating entire atmospheres and pivotal memories.

Daniel Arsham’s signature style depicted this iconic technology as ancient relics, throwing it way back to the past and offering a silence never associated with such an object. That piece was my entry point to discovering more of his work, from calcite and volcanic ash teddy bears, basketballs to architectural illusions and zen gardens. Daniel Arsham’s work whether intentional or not, captures a sense of calm, perhaps even a sense of making peace with the past. 

First of all, I wanted to talk to you about your 1210 piece, because something about it keeps...wait, when did you make it?
“Which one is it?”

The 1210. The turntable, it’s the 1210, right?
“I’m not sure I know what you’re talking about.”

[Confused, I ask again] The turntable? 
[Pauses] “Oh right, the turntable. That piece was first done. It would have been 2012.”
Ah! So it was good for you to do it and right then for Technics to announce they were going to discontinue it. [Laughs] So it was a real hit for you to make that piece.
“Yeah, you know, it’s part of this larger series that I’ve been working on, of, fictional archeological objects. When I’m selecting the different objects, I’m always looking for things that are iconic or things that sort of signify a particular moment in time or reference some kind of cultural moments. So obviously the turntable is significant for a lot of different people but kind of calls out, it’s an object, it’s an icon of itself.”

Sally and I DJ’d a lot of parties, so that’s an important piece of equipment for me as I have a vinyl record collection and I kept seeing your piece, I absolutely love it and then I got into reading about you. You went to Easter Island, is that right? And is that where whole idea to work with fossilised objects came from?
“Yeah. Yeah, I spent about six weeks on Easter Island making painting of the Moai statues there. The Island is quite small, most people that visit aren’t there for that long, so I was really able to go everywhere on the island, a lot of different places that most visitors don’t go and there were some archaeologists there. I had a couple of conversations with them and was sort of curious about their take. Not only on the objects but the Island because it’s so difficult to get to. Nothing that’s brought there ever really leaves, even trash.”

Wow, wow.
“So, there’s a dump on the Island that contains essentially nearly everything, every waste object that’s been brought there for the last....since it was discovered. You know, hundreds of years ago. There’s this bizarre moment where the objects that have been brought to the Island overtime will become archeological relics the same as the Moai statue. That influence of time, or that confusion of time is something I found interesting and I began to work with that idea of a sort of lapse of time where I could take objects from now and cause them to appear as if they were uncovered in the future. I was doing it, not like a Trompe-lœil effect, I was actually kind of transforming the material of the object into things that we think about having a geological time frame; volcanic ash, crystal and trying to really let the objects have this sort of material truth to them.”

I love it.
“It felt authentic.”

This story was first published on 2019.

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