A mysterious archeologist plays out a search for meaning along an ambiguous shoreline in Daniel Arsham’s new video work, “Future Relic 01”, that premiered as part of a series in the artist’s hometown of Miami as part of Art Basel this week. “Much of what I create presents an undefined scenario,” says the artist. “In 'Future Relic' you see these objects that seem as though they have been uncovered on some future excavation, but it’s left to the imagination of the viewer.” The work was shot in a secret New York City location that perceptive viewers can locate through coordinates included somewhere in the piece; realized with the help of directors Ben Louis Nicholas and Sam Stonefield, as well as
fashion designer with Richard Chai and hip-hop producer Swizz Beatz, it marks Arsham’s first foray into filmmaking. The Brooklyn resident is no stranger to collaboration. Since being invited by Merce Cunningham to work on stage design for the choreographer, he has created a keyboard made from volcanic ash with Pharrell Williams, and paired up with Alex Mustonen to found Brooklyn architecture practice Snarkitecture. Today’s film also introduces his “Mobile Phone”, the first work in a new series of limited editions that premiered in Miami with OHWOW gallery, and Arsham also presented his large-scale performance project with Jonah Bokaer, “Occupant”, at the international event. “Much of my work is about taking something normal and everyday, and making slight adjustments to it,” he explains. “It brings people outside of their normal experience and becomes about a shift in time.”
What did you draw on in order to create the world within “Future Relic 01”?
Daniel Arsham: The visual language draws from Lawrence of Arabia. The film was shot entirely at dawn, which is the same technique that was used in the 1962 film, this day-for-night quality. So we shot everything in the day and then the color was adjusted so it appears like moonlight.
Why was film the right medium for this project?
DA: A lot of the work I do is static. I work in many different mediums, and about six years ago I started to work with the choreographer Merce Cunningham, doing stage design. This notion of time-based art, something that creates a kind of arc, is a very different process from creating a static object in the form of a sculpture or a painting. Film is something that I love, but is definitely the sort of medium that requires collaboration. There are 20 or 30 people who worked on this film—it’s not like a painting that I can make myself. So it was really about waiting for the perfect moment, and finding the right collaborators.
How important is collaboration to your work?
DA: I think it’s extremely important. First of all, I can be a master of certain things that I do within the studio. But I can never master all of these other qualities in film. For me, collaboration has always been a way to recognize and learn from other people who have these amazing skills. For example, Swizz Beats did the score. This was something that was very outside of his normal way of working but I think he really made a beautifully subtle piece that was very much in key with what I was looking for.