Interviewed by: Jesse Carr
Photography by: Sam Alive
Produced by: Dan Hwang
Nestled among buildings with unassuming facades in Greenpoint, the Snarkitecture studio’s plain brick exterior belies a space that’s home to one of today’s most sought-after duos of idea-shapers. After entering the studio and crossing through a workshop full of neatly-arranged tools and pools of Tiffany-blue liquid poured over items for casting, the Snarkitecture workspace emerges. A remnant from the Dig exhibition looms over the front of the studio–a hole excavated by hand and placed in the middle of a structure hanging from a tall ceiling. In the center of the studio, an item called Slab Table, a white ping-pong table with stalactite-looking forms hanging from the bottom, are Alex Mustonen and other members of the Snarkitecture team quietly enjoying their lunches in concentration. The table is designed to hold a ping-pong net, yet here at this moment in their studio, it doubles as a place to take a break.
After meeting at Cooper Union, Daniel Arsham and Alex Mustonen melded their respective strengths and formed a collaborative effort they called Snarkitecture. Since joining forces, their work has been seen on fully-imagined environments like those presented for fashion labels En Noir and Public School and functional items like drafting pencils or gypsum cement-molded iPhone “pillows.” Snarkitecture items and spaces often feature work that looks as if it lies somewhere in the paradoxical realm of being polished and hand-altered, an approach that’s has become a trademark of theirs.
Snarkitecture crafts items that provoke discussions of craft. In 2013, they converted the space at the Milk Gallery for a installation they called “The White Room” to celebrate the release of Chromeo’s new album. The monochromatic room features analog items like keyboards spilling out of a vintage sports car parked in front of an excavated landscape. The space was hand-crafted and chiseled, but when it came time to welcome the band’s Tumblr followers, it became a space that was also shared digitally through Instagram and other social-network sites, again challenging the person who inhabits the environment to navigate between the digital and analog.
Cave-like structures have appeared in multiple Snarkitecture spaces. For a 2010 Richard Chai installation, Daniel and Alex shaped architectural foam into a cavernous retail experience. A year later, for a project called Dig for Storefront for Art and Architecture, Snarkitecture reshaped architectural foam in a huge environment with picks, hammers, and chisels in a performance/exhibition that transformed the material into a series of tunnels and tiny niches that evoked the world’s most permanent snow fort. As Alex Mustonen told us during our interview, that space is one that can call to mind freedom like a child in the snow, or the tension one feels in a tight place, depending on what experiences viewers arrived with.
Snarkitecture’s workload shows no sign of shrinking, as current projects include a new table design with Grey Area and white-on-white apparel for Sight Unseen Offsite, an exhibition design for Roll & Hill at an off-site exhibition during ICFF, and even a forthcoming collaboration with Beats by Dre. Beyond these collaborative ventures, their online store also features an ever-shifting selecting of offerings that vary from customizable packing tape to shelving.
Freshness is proud to present our conversation with Alex where we examined the duo’s approach to making items and environments that involve, as he calls it, “real world experiences” in a world that sees people gravitating towards the digital. Click below to read the full interview, and prepare to see and read about settings that may help you look at your surroundings and the items you use every day in more exciting ways.