by Sukanya GargDec 11, 2019
New York-based artist Daniel Arsham’s debut exhibition in Amsterdam, Connecting Time, lies at the cross-section of architecture, design, fashion, sculpture, fine arts and films. On display at the MOCO Museum from January 18 till September 30, 2019, the exhibition has been organised in partnership with Galerie Perrotin and Galerie Ron Mandos.
Daniel Arsham merges past, present and future in fictitious archaeology in this show. Stepping inside the MOCO Museum, one feels like one has entered an alternate reality.
The artist has transformed 11 spaces inside the museum to create an immersive experience. Arsham is fascinated with pop culture, sports and the impact of archaeology, which is expressed through a range of objects and symbols that have been fossilised and eroded.
Connecting Time is a retrospective with works that span Arsham’s entire career. The concept of fictitious archaeology is a central tenet in Arsham’s work. Ambiguous installation spaces merge art and architecture, intertwining past, present and future. Objects from the millennial era, such as laptops (eroded laptops) and cornflakes boxes (cereal box), are calcified and eroded, showing what objects that are recognised by most people will look like in hundreds of years. There are also sports items, such as the Miami Heat Jacket, and animal characters, such as Eroded Pluto Dog, that seem to have originated in an archaeological dig. They encourage the viewer to consider the value of these objects in the present time, and how they will be seen in the future, much like relics from ancient Rome that are now on display in museums all over the world. The exhibition also stimulates awareness of the impact of technological developments, which cause certain objects to become obsolete little by little. The exhibition then is a commentary on the rapid transformation, in some cases even ruin, that objects of everyday existence are undergoing and how what is real is increasingly being replaced by the fictitious or the virtual.
Arsham extensively employs the architectural aesthetic into his work. The combination of architecture and art is used in many works. He experiments with the timelessness of symbols and gestures in cultures, for instance in Falling Clock. Museum walls come to life with the ‘elastic’ wall installation titled Corner Knot. The work questions fixed forms and incites us to think about the properties of materials and structures. Hiding Figure shows a person behind a curtain. The pleated fabric is inspired by the technique of draping used in ancient Greek sculptures. Arsham captures the refined texture of fabric in stone.
Another interactive installation at the show includes Calcified Room, a work that was especially created for the exhibition at MOCO. It displays a modern home setting filled with mid-century furnishings that have been designed to appear calcified. The interior of the space makes us feel we are inside a cave covered in minerals or stand amid the city of Pompeii, which was covered in volcanic ashes during an eruption of Mount Vesuvius and was preserved in perfect condition. The furniture, walls and personal belongings in this room have been fossilised, perhaps due to an event as violent and unexpected as in Pompeii, or rather a slow geological process such as the formation of a cave.
Further, the most Instagram-able work of the exhibition, Amethyst Ball Cavern, displays a space in which the walls and ceiling are covered with volleyballs and tennis balls, each covered in purple fabric. The work has a crystallised feel, highlighting once again the ephemerality of our time and how all of it could collapse unexpectedly. Arsham used amethyst coating on a few basketballs to make them glow, a metaphorical representation of the charm of being pulled into the future, thereby calling them ‘future relics’. A mirror placed inside the installation provides a scope for introspection, not just about the passing of time and what has been left behind, but also the transient nature of all existence and what it means to live in the present times.
Whether it is the absence of inhabitants in the Calcified Room, the figure diffused inside the wall in Hiding Figure, or the use of amethyst crystal, the feeling rendered is of obsolescence, a sort of dematerialisation where what once was may soon be redundant, including us humans in the face of increasing technological invasion. Perhaps, by offering a visual insight of the past or rather what the present would look like in the future, Arsham silently directs the viewer's gaze to look at the future and re-channel the present into what they wish to see in hindsight.