6 september

Daniel Arsham: "I felt that VDNH takes a close look at the whole world"

On 30 September 2017, the famous American sculptor Daniel Arsham will stage his first Russian solo exhibition in Pavilion No. 67 "Karelia". It is being held as part of the 7th Moscow International Biennale of Contemporary Art's parallel programme. We spoke with the artist about what he has to show to visitors at VDNH and his impressions of the site.

Daniel, your works have been put on display in some of the world's largest galleries and museums, where would you place VDNH among them?

The exhibition at VDNH is very different from other projects. Its main feature is the scale — it is one of the largest spaces in which I have been lucky to work. At other exhibitions, there were works from different times, there were superfluous contexts, and this project concentrates only on the "Karelia" Pavilion — it's focussed exclusively on architecture.

You often say that you like working with the plasticity of walls. How do you like the plasticity of "Karelia"?

It is special. Almost all the buildings at VDNH have historical heritage. In "Karelia", we built temporary walls to work with the plasticity of the interior space more freely. By the way, I chose this pavilion also because of the impressive carved pediment that represents the wooden architecture of Karelia. It seemed interesting to me as a sculptor, that this building in a sense is already strongly associated with sculpture. My exhibition in "Karelia" is a kind of journey. At the entrance, the guests are welcomed by a voluminous text, it protrudes from the wall, and a large arch frames this view. Then the visitor turns left, walks around the pavilion and examines my pieces one by one — they gradually become visible. In addition, it took us a long time to design the special lighting for the exhibition.

What do you want to say or show to visitors to the exhibition?

I try to avoid situations where a work of art has only one true interpretation, I do not want to limit free interpretations. However, I am very interested in the idea that physically unreal events are still possible. When you encounter my works, you will see that they represent something that cannot happen. For example, architecture can only move if there is some external impact. Often it is destructive. Whereas my architecture moves gently and imperceptibly. Visitors to my exhibition might even feel that something strange and supernatural is happening.

Can you drop any hints about what new works you are preparing for "Karelia"?

In my opinion, the most important aspect of an exhibition at VDNH is the whole interconnected space. Imagine stretching the wall on one side of the room, then on the other, and then connecting them so that in the centre of the space there is a tangle, a knot. I thought about this artwork for a very long time, made a lot of sketches, but only now do I have the opportunity to translate it into reality.

Have you managed to have a walk around VDNH?

Yes, I did a little. I was very impressed by the amazing scale of the "Space" Pavilion, its huge dome. I also felt that VDNH takes a close look at the whole world. You are surrounded by pavilions built in unusual architectural styles, characteristic of different nations around the world — and yet all these buildings were constructed in one place!

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