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This Future Archaeological Site Is Filled With Obsidian Nintendo Controllers

A new exhibition by artist Daniel Arsham renders contemporary objects in geological materials, an eerie comment on the passage of time.

When ogling ancient artifacts unearthed from archaeological digs–like Iron or Bronze Age tools–it’s easy for museum visitors to forget that at the time of their use, many of these objects represented the height of technology and luxury. Likewise, while, say, extolling the virtues of the shiny new iPhone 6, it’s easy to forget that it too will become a dated relic sooner rather than later.

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New York-based artist Daniel Arsham explores this interplay between technology and the passing of time in Welcome to the Future, a new exhibition opening in Miami. He’s created a fictional archaeological site filled with 20th-century media devices–Nintendo controllers, boom boxes, electric guitars, SLR cameras, BlackBerry phones, VHS tapes, Walkman players, film projectors, portable televisions, radios–all rendered in ancient geological materials, like volcanic ash, crystal, and obsidian.

The installation, opening November 15 at nonprofit art space Locust Projects, is part of the annual art show Art Basel Miami Beach. To create the site, Arsham dug an excavation trench 25 feet in diameter into the concrete floor of the gallery and filled it with his new-old sculptures. They’re arranged on a color gradient–the objects on the perimeter are black, and then get lighter and lighter towards the center. Each object individually is an intriguing sculptural study, but when amassed in a giant pile, the overall effect is beautifully eerie, with a post-apocalyptic sheen–a pile of your childhood toys cast in ash, like the ruins of Pompeii.

“There’s this confusion that happens when you’re looking at a Blackberry made out of ash or a keyboard made of crystal,” Arsham tells Co.Design. “It’s an object from the present day that appears as if it’s 1,000 years old.” Seeing an object you’re familiar with presented in the context of a futuristic archaeological site invites you to reimagine your position in time, and to reflect on the idea that the objects you use, no matter how shiny and high-tech, are evanescent.

Welcome to the Future is on view at Locust Projects in Miami starting November 15.

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About the author

Carey Dunne is a Brooklyn-based writer covering art and design. Follow her on Twitter.

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