New instalation in Snarkitecture demolishes perception of visual art and architecture as distinctive forces.
Loop - an installation by the New York-based design practice Snarkitecture, which was exhibited at Seoul’s Gana Art Center in November 2017 - begins with an ending. In one room, glass marbles emerge from the wall, slide down a track, and are deposited onto the floor into an ever-growing flood of white spheres.
In a second chamber, identical marbles dart onto one of four 100m rails, careening around each other in a constant whirl of motion before vanishing into funnels on the ground. There is a constant whirring noise which shifts as the marbles accelerate and slow down, occasionally joined by the staccato note of a marble plonking down to its final destination.
Viewed entire, this installation looks like a gnomic megastructure and sounds like a strange machine; from close up it can feel like a futuristic Scalextric set.
“We’re interested in children’s toys and games,” explains Snarkitecture co-founder Alex Mustonen, “and bringing those experiences into the space of an art gallery.” The ball - a form indelibly associated with play - reoccurs throughout the studio’s work. Marble Run (2014) invited visitors to deposit marbles into a clump of vertical tubes, while The Beach (2015), at Washington’s National Building Museum, included an immersive sea of one million plastic orbs.
Humans at the heart of Loop
Both of these installations were activated by human presence. Whilst the majority of Loop’s marbles appear as if propelled without human agency, visitors are encouraged to add more to the network themselves, augmenting or disrupting those already within the system. “Interactivity is an important element for us,” says Mustonen. “We’re always straining make architecture more accessible.”
Snarkitecture are one of a wave of design studios that straddles the boundaries of visual art and architecture; Mustonen’s co-founder Daniel Arsham is a practising artist. It takes its name from Lewis Carroll’s nonsense poem The Hunting of the Snark, which depicts “impossible voyage … to find an inconceivable creature.”
As well as installations, the group has designed store interiors and furniture objects. Exploring the boundaries sits at the heart of their activity. “It’s why we started Snarkitecture,” asserts Mustonen, “to create work that sits in the little space between disciplines.”
No prescribed meaning
Installed in a gallery whose architecture it interacts with and fabricated with the interest in materials and tactility characteristic of design, Loop occupies this middle zone. “There’s no prescribed message or meaning,” continues Mustonen, “but we hope it informs people’s understanding of how art, design and architecture shape our world.”
Loop was commissioned by the Swedish clothing brand COS, for whom Snarkitecture have previously designed a showroom at the Salon del Mobile and a pop-up store in Downtown Los Angeles. While those two projects have obvious retail applications, however, Loop’s connection to COS is stylistic.
“The way Snarkitecture chooses fairly uniform materialsis pretty interesting,” opines COS creative director Karin Gustafsson, “And they work in reduction, which is something we have in common.” And all Loop’s twists and turns, much of its appeal stems from the simplicity of its components and process: balls, rails, apertures and the passage of an object from one locus to another.
COS itself is no stranger to bridging disciplines. The retailer has collaborated with Hay on a furniture range, sponsored an Agnes Martin exhibition at the Guggenheim and commissioned projects from product designers Nendo, photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto and the London-based Studio Swine, whose fragrant, bubble-sprouting tree New Spring was one of the most memorable satellites of last year’s Salone.
To the label’s credit, collaborations such as these seem borne from a genuine interest and affinity for other modes of expression. A global business such as COS could very easily pursue more flagrantly commercial “cultural” collaborations, such as Dolce & Gabbani’s Smeg appliances and Louis Vuitton’s Jeff Koons handbags.
But Loop and New Spring are both beguiling creations in their own right rather than as appendages to fashion, and COS’s willingness to let its collaborators speak for themselves stands out.
LOOP Snarkitecture courtesy of COS