The New York-Based Artist Gears Up for a Genre-Defying Performance at Art Basel
Daniel Arsham’s multidisciplinary art practice incorporates sculpture, design and theatre, creating a body of work that is both sublime and energetic. Today, photographer Clément Pascal captures a rehearsal of Arsham’s latest large-scale performance project, Occupant, opening this December at Art Basel Miami. The artist’s long-standing collaborator, choreographer Jonah Bokaer, joins him in the cavernous Basilica Hudson, a 19th-century, formerly industrial space in upstate New York where four dancers move delicately around Arsham’s chalk objects, arranged in a geometric spread across the floor. “Because I operate within so many different artistic spheres, people often confuse my role,” explains Arsham, who was first introduced to dance by the late avant-garde choreographer Merce Cunningham. “In the art world people think I have an architectural background, in dance I’m an artist in the traditional sense, and in architecture they have no idea where to place me.”
How do you approach the setting of a piece like this?
Daniel Arsham: Most theatrical work has a stage scenario in mind, though our work is more fluid and can operate in a gallery, museum or a traditional theatrical setting. Sometimes this can be quite challenging because of the changing nature of the shape of a space. If you choreograph a piece you need to bear in mind that the movements need to be easily translatable to retain the same impact.
Tell us about the sculptures used in Occupant.
DA: I presented Jonah with the idea that we would have numerous technological objects such as cameras and microphones, cast in chalk plaster. These are white ghosts of their former selves, and would be eroded and transformed by the performers. A lot of the way this happens is through games that Jonah creates with the dancers. Jonah will tell them which items they should touch, trying to get to a place where the dancers can forget the original purpose of the object.
What spurred the use of chalk plaster?
DA: I use chalk because it degrades as performers use it. In this show, the stage floor will be covered in black paper. As the objects are used, marks accumulate on the floor, creating a large drawing. The objects do break and I usually try not to prescribe to the dancer what the objects represent. For Occupant, it’s been helpful to put the dancers in a mental framework where they are actually trying to unlearn what these objects are, and how to use and hold them.
The Artist Duo Build an Affecting Urban Landscape for The One and the Many
Staged in Rotterdam’s disused Submarine Wharf, Elmgreen and Dragset's exhibition The One and the Many sees the Scandinavian pair transform the cavernous industrial setting into a homemade cityscape with actors inhabiting the roles of disaffected locals. Director Leigh Johnson filmed the installation's performers, including a teenage mother tensely conversing with her boyfriend, and a couple of resident hustlers making their rounds. The piece invites the audience to play tourists placed in a “wrong side of the tracks” neighborhood cloaked in a state of perpetual darkness. The architectural focal point is a four-story apartment block, frequented by “tenants” whose interactions can be observed from a Ferris wheel. “In its own poetic way it’s a tribute to public space,” the artists explain. “Today in many neighborhoods, these areas are left deserted after dusk due to a widespread fear of crime and obsessions with digital media, which we mainly interact with at home.” Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset have recently been selected to represent their countries (Denmark and Norway, respectively) with an installation in London's Trafalgar Square. The One and the Many, presented by Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen and the Port of Rotterdam, runs until September 25.
Simon Cahn Goes Pop with the Los Angeles Garage Rocker
Cheerleaders gyrate to the blistering garage rock of Hanni El Khatib's “Pay No Mind,” produced by lead singer of The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach in his Nashville studio. The video is directed by Simon Cahn, who in 2011 collaborated with Spike Jonze and Olympia Le-Tan on a witty, stop-motion romance set in a Paris bookshop. “Simon has a very specific type of humor that he always injects in his work. I like it when creatives don't take themselves too seriously,” says El Khatib of his longstanding collaborator. “I'd say it's all about having fun,” says Cahn. “The idea for this video was to go for the opposite of rock 'n' roll imagery. I really wanted to do something unexpected for Hanni.” While filming may have been fun, making his second album Head in the Dirt with Auerbach was a decidedly more bacchanalian experience: “During the recording of album track 'Nobody Move,' Dan and I lit the Hammond organ on fire, while keyboard player, Bobby Emmet, ripped his final solo on the track,” says El Khatib. “I think the best place to listen to it is in a Mazda Miata with the top down, naked and sucking on a piña colada.”