Artist Daniel Arsham’s Modern Artifacts
In museums, antique stores, and, occasionally, the basement of an abandoned house, artifacts from the past are common place. The evidence of their age is present with every crack and paint chip, and we can all look at it with disconnect knowing it doesn’t belong to our modern world. Looking at these dusty objects, it’s difficult to imagine the inevitable future where everything that’s familiar to us will be just as antique and archaic as a sundial, but this is what artist Daniel Arsham has been creating: modern artifacts.
Using natural existing materials, like obsidian and sand, Arsham creates replicas of common place items from the present or not-so-distant past, and then distresses them to appear as if left abandoned and decaying for decades. A keyboard, payphones, and a Polaroid camera among other things, are stripped of their modern context and made to look like relics pulled from the Titanic. They can be easily identified but their only remaining purpose is to remind us the past and to make clear the progress humans have made.
There will be a time when people look back on us with fascination and puzzlement in the way we lived and the tools we used. All the things we feel are so innovative and ground breaking will seem like children’s toys to them, oh-so-quaint and oh-so-rudimentary. But aren’t we doing that already?
Technology moves fast, a universally known fact, but the rapid pace is made all too clear by Arsham’s work. With each fascinating development, predecessors are quickly deserted and forgotten. There are the few exceptions that experience a revival, but more than enough end up in the technological graveyard. The introduction and technological achievements of these products, once so exciting is diminished as soon as rumor of the next generation or upgrade is out. Ten years past and your old cd player might as well be in museum. A hundred years? They’ll want to study it.
This simultaneous cycle of extinction and creation will be the legacy of technology long after all the plastic has broken down.