A couple of weeks ago, "future architect" Daniel Arsham released a tweet teasing his new technique: making crystals look like fabric. Using a handmade mold a year in the making, Arsham makes pulverized quartz appear beautifully smooth like cloths, as evidenced in the above 1993 Chicago Bulls jacket.
The jacket debuts this weekend at Frieze New York on Randall’s Island, alongside a showcase of works including a wall-mounted cast of an arm holding a basketball, and a version of his Welcome to the Future piece that was debuted at Art Basel Miami—but instead of it simply being a giant hole in the ground filled with Future Relic sculptures, Arsham's covered it in glass, so Frieze goers can walk over and look into an abyss of fossilized media.
Arsham’s works span time and place as continues to experiment with different mediums and methods, all while maintaining the monochromatic casts that tie themes like the ancient city of Pompeii to dystopic sci-fi future scenarios. Recently, we spoke to Arsham about being an archaeologist from the future, and on another occasion, investigated his Future Relic film, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last month.
The three works on display at Galerie Perrotin's Frieze booth are part of a larger body of new works focused around the theme of sports, a focus which Arsham will debut in full at his first New York solo exhibition in New York.
The Creators Project got a chance to talk with Daniel about the origins of his new, crystal-casting process, what it’s like to recreate "fabrics," and why he's making sportswear into sculptures:
The Creators Project: In your original tweet, you said these works are a year in the making. How did it all start?
Daniel Arsham: These developed out of previous works I’ve been making for years, which are these works that appear like they're figures housed within the architecture—but I’ve removed the figures. It started to make me think about creating casts of fabric that held the form of a body, but the figure had been removed. In some ways, it's a reference back again to figures from Pompeii, these famous figures which were flash-calcified images of people. It contains the same notion of decay and archeology.
So, I started thinking about this idea a couple years ago and the process for it seemed very complex; it's a mold-making process that I wouldn’t have been able to even comprehend a couple years ago. It took all the work I’ve been making to figure out how to do it. The molds for this piece were started about a year ago.
How is casting fabric different that casting other objects?
The material is something that I used before; these geological materials that I cast are in the forms of objects that we know, but I’ve never done it with fabric. Part of the difficulty when you’re casting a rigid form, like a camera: it retains its shape when you add other material onto it. But fabric is obviously soft and has no rigidity to it. So, I had to make the fabric rigid by not altering its surface; I had to artificially thicken it, because you can’t cast crystal, or any of the other materials I work with, in that thin of a surface. So, it’s all about an illusion. The mold-making process is infinitely complex, because it’s tw-sided. Just the mold alone took about 8 months to create.
Could you talk more about the making of the mold?
The mold was something we just went for and made. I mean, the process conceptually is similar to other things we’ve made, we’ve just never made any to this scale and complexity. Part of the challenge and psychological difficulty is—you’re eight months into it and I didn’t even know if it was going to work.
But it did! I haven’t been to Frieze yet, but in the photo it looks beautifully rendered. The surface looks totally smooth.
Yeah, the mold picks up all of the stitching and every single little detail is contained within the object. It’s all done by hand, it’s a silicon mold that is made on top of the actual fabric.
Was there a reason you decided to cast sports clothing?
I’m working towards an exhibition in November, so I’ve been thinking a lot about the geological materials I’ve been using. I started playing with some sculpture materials from antiquity, like marble, but I’m using marble dust. If you look at sculpture from antiquity, a frequent subject matter is sports. We imagine the man with the discus, often nude. I wanted to make a kind of contemporary version of that. This is the reverse of that in many ways, there is no figure, there is no flesh, only the clothing.
The baseball jacket is from 1993. Is there any reason you’re not using a new piece of clothing?
In some ways, these are things I can relate to personally, It’s a 1990s Bulls starter jacket. But, it’s not something that I’m the only one I have a relationship with—it’s the idea that it’s an icon. All the objects I’ve decided to cast before this, the keyboards and the cameras, they are all icons of sorts. They can come from many different time periods, but oftentimes things that are contemporary have not achieved that kind of iconic stage.
Is the Bulls jacket what you’re most excited to show? Or is there another piece that is your favorite right now?
That jacket has been a long time in the making, and to premiere it in a venue like Frieze is great because a lot of people will be able to see it.