EVER ARAD | Ron Arad in Conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist
London, December 11, 2012
Hans Ulrich Obrist [H.U.O.]To begin, I thought it would be interesting to talk about the genesis of this exhibition. Obviously it's a very special exhibition for you, and it comes after your big survey exhibition at the MoMA and at the Pompidou, and the show at the Barbican.
Ron Arad [R.A.]The best one was at the Barbican. I was going to turn it down but then I had a meeting with Kate Bush and Lydia Yee and I couldn't turn it down. I said okay to the Barbican show, and I loved it. And now there's another one pending at the Stedelijk. The building work took forever and it is delayed. I can't do the same show again and again. I don't need to have a collection of my own work on pedestals with dates and materials; it's not that interesting. But enough time has passed and we'll come up with a fresh idea.So this museum [Design Museum Holon] that I designed, I owed them a show for a long time and I couldn't delay it any more. I had a different idea for it. I'm so glad I went off it, and instead of doing another survey, another retrospective, I thought of a way of doing a retrospective in big chunks of ideas, and we called it In Reverse: that's the name of the show.
When I started in the 1980s I did very physical things like bashing metal and welding and doing the nearest thing that you could do in three-dimensions to action painting. And recently, the digital world, which I thought was going to leave me behind, sort of took over - a complete dependency on zeros and ones. But I'm still in Camden, in the same place where I was bashing metal. I was sucked into the world of design through the scrapyards. My first ever piece of furniture, before I knew I was going to do furniture, was The Rover Chair (1981).
Recently I found myself in an amazing place in Milan where we crushed a sculpture called Dats Et (2012) to rescue it. It was designed for the atrium and roof of building in France, but the project was cancelled. The sculpture was already being made and had to be altered due to the scale and because it depended on the building for structural support. So we crushed it at the Milan Polytechnic. And I got the idea to crush in reverse. I used to bash metal to make things useful, or usable, and here we're doing the reverse. I was in Italy and I had a long love affair with the Fiat 500, the Cinquecento. I decided to take these three-dimensional beauties and make paintings out of them, to eternalize them.
[H.U.O.]So that ties in again with the beginning.
[R.A.]Yes, but I know I won't get away with not showing some of my things so it's technically two ways. First, the main exhibition hall is very big so I am building an exhibition within the exhibition, and walls that will be painted white like the perfect white cube, and behind them will be the backstage. And in the backstage we will put things that refer to what you see in the main exhibition. For me, when that show will be exhibited somewhere else, indeed in a white cube gallery, I will not need to show these references. But as it is a museum and as there is some expectation there, I am putting it behind the scenes.
[R.A.]And that's one thing I'm doing. The other thing is I'm building a car, a Fiat, in rods. It's a bit like other stuff that I did. I don't know if you remember, like the Thumbprint, and the Gomli, which are made of thousands of stainless steel rods that form contour lines over an armature. In that technique there a very exciting thing happening between the given - your decision to do something, the starting point - and what happens later, which you're not controlling completely. But it's a lot better than if you did control it, because it has unexpected patterns and things. And that piece was going to be shown next to the wooden mould of the original Fiat - which Dante Giacosa, the designer of the Fiat 500, did with his artisans. But then we thought about putting it outside because the museum itself is made of Cor-Ten, and it's rusty, so that the reflective stainless steel will be at the same time very jewel-like, pristine and reflective, but also rusty, because it's like a chameleon. And the rust will move on it as you move around.
And another thing that we want to do with the digital bit is to print the crushed car full size. And the film that we're working on will be shown very, very slowly until it crushes itself, but the crusher will be invisible and then when it's crushed it will start waking up. How fast or how long it will take we don't know yet. So far, I've crushed vintage models of Fiat 500s.
[H.U.O.]But that's already happened?
[H.U.O.]Before we move on, it's interesting that you said that this exhibition grew out of the Barbican show, and that this was by far your favorite exhibition. The Barbican is in itself a challenging space, so you can't really just install a show. It has this Brutalist structure, which often triggers the invention of the display feature.
Richard Hamilton said that we only remember exhibitions that also invent a display feature. Other exhibitions are doomed for oblivion. Obviously your Barbican exhibition invented a display feature. Can you tell me about this display device?
[H.U.O.]When you describe the display feature on the mezzanine, it is obviously also connected to the work you were doing in 2011 when you invented another display feature with a cinema screen for the Roundhouse, no? I had never seen before films screened on such curtains; it was very strange when people walked in, it created waves and irregularities.
something that I started with some reluctance, because I thought if it's going to be in that country it's going to be in Tel Aviv, not in Jerusalem. But they twisted my arm, and I don't regret it. It was pretty amazing.
[R.A.]My excuse was, look I've done my bit here. It didn't work, so we'll see, maybe...
[R.A.]The thing is that when I designed it, I didn't believe they were going to do it. Like when I started my company, One Off, I didn't believe that they were going to let me stay in England [due to visa problems], so there was nothing to lose. In the same way, I was very difficult, I was very "hard to get" when they asked me to do the museum. I said, "You need a competition. You can't just give a museum to an architect without a competition." The city lawyer said, "It's art, so we don't need a competition." I used to call the building an autistic building, because you look around and there is not much to want to blend with or to react against. I said, okay the museum is going to look at itself. And once you're inside the only outside you can see is basically the sky, wonderful sky. With architecture, there are always negotiations: with clients, with neighbors, with husbands, with wives, with the firemen... it's negotiation. And juggling the compromises is a great part of the profession. And there, because I didn't believe that they were going to go through with it, there was no negotiation.
Almost like Yohji Yamamoto. When I did his flagship store in Tokyo, he didn't interfere once. He sent his team of people to scout for an architect in Paris and in London. I thought I'd wasted half a day with them, but then they called me to go to Tokyo. I went, saw the place and met him. I showed him work. He asked me, "Are you crazy?" I said, "Yes, is it a good thing or a bad thing?" And he said, "Good," and that's the last I heard of him, until the opening. The day of the opening we had interviews, and the first one was Figaro, and they asked, "How was it for you two creative people to work together?" And while I was formulating my polite answer, thinking of saying things like, "He was more present in his absence," I didn't need to say that, because he was the first to answer. He said, "Ah, we didn't work together. I selected him and let him do what he wanted."