Critics’ Picks

Daniel Arsham, Falling Clock, 2019, fiberglass, paint, joint compound, clock, 96 x 72 x 8".

Daniel Arsham, Falling Clock, 2019, fiberglass, paint, joint compound, clock, 96 x 72 x 8".


Daniel Arsham

Cranbrook Art Museum
39221 Woodward Avenue
March 1–June 23, 2019

Given its more than one-hundred-year history, the ready-made’s novelty and ability to shock spectators has substantially faded, but occasionally artists still manage to employ the device in illuminating ways. At Cranbrook, multimedia artist Daniel Arsham presents “The Source: A Catalog of Late-20th-Century American Relics,” a new collection of weathered objects cast from mass-produced commodities that allegorize the contemporary moment from the perspective of a future observer. Monochromatic reproductions of sneakers, basketballs, Blockbuster videocassettes, and slab-like Source magazines are placed as if they were ancient objects in softly lit vitrines. Accompanied by false dates and pseudo-archeological labels, these simulacra look as if they were buried in some world-altering conflagration before being transmuted through petrification. Evoking the spheres of leisure sports and media consumption, they characterize our era as one that indulges in fantasy and pleasure while hurtling toward catastrophe.

In the gallery’s staircase, a simple modernist clock has buried itself in the wall, which seems to crease like a fresh sheet, its drywall rippling as if it were being dragged down by the weight of the timepiece. Although the chronograph may symbolize our linear timescale to maximize industry and so-called rationality, here, it tears the order of the exhibition space apart, reminding us that the ground that supports our worlds could radically shift at any point. By simulating future relics, Arsham asks us to consider the dissolution of art’s history as previously distinct media merge and hybrid objects and audiences proliferate. Indeed, a great unraveling, he seems to suggest, may already have begun.