As the monomaniac art innovators collaborate with COS in Seoul, the collective reveals the secrets to their immersive worlds
Precisely 100,000 white marbles made up the unlikely crowd moving through a hidden gallery nestled in the mountains in Seoul, South Korea, last week. The reason was Loop, a new installation by the experimental New York art-meets-architecture practice Snarkitecture. Loop – which saw marbles travel in a rollercoaster-like structure through stark white space before emerging through the wall on the other side with a precision-engineered – was a collaboration with COS. The brand's adventures in the art and design world have been many and varied, including Studio Swine’s sculptural, mist-emitting tree at Milan Design Week, and a collection inspired by Agnes Martin’s minimalist art in collaboration with the Guggenheim. “We are a small team who works by constantly collecting things that we like. The main element always end up being art, or design, or architecture,” says COS creative director Karin Gustafsson, who trained in design at the Royal College of Art. “It felt natural to get involved in that area.”
Snarkitecture was founded in 2008 by Alex Mustonen and Daniel Arsham. An architect and artist, respectively, Mustonen and Arsham struggled to see why their two worlds shouldn’t meet in real-world space more often. In the overlap, Snarkitecture was born, a practice which has since made large-scale, outlandish interventions in public and private places. From filling the great hall of Washington D.C’s National Building Museum with a million recyclable plastic balls, to mounting ceramic Nike Air Jordan sculptures for NY boutique Kith, the studio is a lesson in following a path less trodden. Loop, which was six months in the making, is the duo’s third collaboration with COS.
To the somewhat relaxing background hum of thousands of marbles clicking and unclicking into place through mechanical metal tracks, we caught up with one half of the Snarkitects, Mustonen, to find out how the collective continue to make the seemingly insurmountable possible.
WORK WITH BRANDS THAT ALLOW YOU TO DO SOMETHING YOU COULDN'T DO ON YOUR OWN
“It’s our third collaboration with COS. We (did) an installation at Salone del Mobile in Milan in 2015, and then later that same year we did a project in downtown LA. Each time we’ve worked with them it’s been very similar in that they came with us with a venue and a site, and a schedule. But beyond that it’s very open. We kind of do two things. We are think internally about what we’re interested in and what we wanna create. Also thinking from COS’s perspective, maybe looking at their current collection, what they’re interested in. Filtering in this brand, (we’re) creating something that is different than something that we might create on our own.”
TURN THE BANAL INTO SOMETHING UNFAMILIAR
“I don’t think our work is very inherently technical, so Loop is a different approach for us. But we’re interested in how (the technical aspects) might contrast with this idea of the marble which is a very banal, kind of dumb object in a way. By taking that object that is very familiar and multiplying it to great effect. So over 100000 of these things. I think you recognise this object and have an association with it but when you see it at that scale it becomes something new and something unfamiliar.”
REDUCE COLOUR TO ITS BARE MINIMUM
“I think the idea of reduction of colour (is across everything that we do). In this case, there is a relationship between thinking about how the marble relates to the architecture of the space. It’s this kind of strange relationship. It’s not flat, it’s not square. It doesn’t really fit within this gallery’s flat walls. But at the same time it’s kind of suggesting that somehow there is this transformative event happening where the marbles are kind of pouring out of the architecture. And I think for us, also because we have an association of the marble as a coloured object, by removing the colour somehow it adds a layer to this kind of reduction, or abstraction, or transformation that’s happening.”
YOU DON'T NEED TO STICK TO THE DISCIPLINE YOU STUDIED
“We went to a school called Cooper Union. Daniel went to the art school and I went to the architecture school and that’s how we met each other, that’s how we knew each other. I think we were always interested in each other’s disciplines. And after we graduated from school, we obviously stayed in touch and continued working together a little bit. There was a project we worked on together in 2006 in LA. During that year we started talking about this idea of creating a sustained collaborative practice. What would a practice look like that was co-founded and operated between the disciplines of art and architecture as opposed to being a one-off collaboration between an artist and an architect? We didn’t really know what it would do or how it would perform. But that was to us the interesting part about it. It was this unknown exploration, this unknown territory between our disciplines.”
IN A WORLD OF DIGITAL MODELLING, DON'T BE AFRAID TO USE YOUR HANDS
“The first moment where I think we knew we had created something a little bit strange, and a little bit unexpected, was a pop-up shop in 2010 for Richard Chai, the fashion designer. The space was the size of a shipping container. But rather than add stuff into it to create the programme of the store, the starting point for our project was, 'Let’s fill the entire space with a single material and then remove what we don’t need'. We filled the entire space with foam. Dense architecture foam. And then cut it away. We basically sculpted it. It looks almost glacial, cut with a hard wire cutter. People who came in there, especially architects, all thought it was sort of digitally fabricated but it was entirely made by hand. At that time, architects who were thinking about creating alternative forms were all coming from a place of digital fabrication and parametric modelling. People were less interested in how things were made by hand. So that continues to be something I’m interested in – bringing this sort of a-logical strangeness of things that are made by hand into an architectural space.”
LEARN FROM FASHION'S FAST PACE
“Architecture traditionally moves very slowly. (Working with the fashion world is) a challenge but it’s also something of an opportunity for us. There is an invitation to operate at that same speed. For instance creating a project in this cycle of a fashion season or for a runway show – maybe creating a project in like 2 weeks, which is sort of unheard of or very difficult to do. Those projects that are moving quickly help keep things kind of fresh and help keep the creative ideas flowing.”
ALWAYS MAKE ART – AND ARCHITECTURE – YOU CAN TOUCH
“We’re looking to make architecture more accessible to make it more engaging, to invite a wider audience to participate. And to understand how not only architecture, but art and design they do shape our everyday surroundings, they shape our world. And I think with the opportunity to literally touch these things and manipulate them… I think so much of our day to day existence, specifically around art and design architecture is like 'don’t touch that'. And this is like opposite of that: 'go ahead and touch it and see what happens'”.
Loop is open to the public until 19 November at the Gana Art Center in Seoul