Armory Week 2017 News

Concrete Block to Levitate at Armory Show

Studio Drift, Drifter, 2017, concrete, robotics, mixed media.©STUDIO DRIFT/SIL VAN DER WOER/COURTESY PACE GALLERY

Studio Drift, Drifter, 2017, concrete, robotics, mixed media.


A magician never reveals her tricks, so maybe that’s why the Dutch design team Studio Drift declined to explain how, exactly, they are making a huge concrete block levitate at next week’s Armory Show in New York.

Then again, they would also object to calling it magic. “Believe us, there’s a lot of technology” in the piece, Studio Drift founders Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta told ARTnews by Skype earlier this week from their headquarters in Amsterdam. (Only one was speaking, but they prefer to be quoted together.)

When the Armory Show opens to select visitors next Wednesday the monumental concrete cube, which measures 16 x 8 x 8 feet, will float above fairgoers at the booth of Pace Gallery. It is called, quite appropriately, Drifter.

“It’s straightforward, but of course, it’s not simple,” Gordijn and Nauta said over Skype. “Concrete is something we completely rely on. The whole world is built on concrete, and the concrete block symbolizes the main building element of our world.”

Drifter, they said, will “show an uncontrolled system, [one] which is in control of itself, which has a mind of its own. It’s confined to this small space, and it’s almost trying to find its way out of that space to find minds similar to its own.”

The piece is part of Pace Gallery’s ongoing, technology-oriented “Future\Pace” initiative. Pace’s president, Marc Glimcher, said the project will be a risk, but it’s one that he hopes will play well in a setting like the Armory Show, where up to 75,000 people might see it over the five-day course of the fair.

“I just took one look at it, and said, ‘What is this?’ ” Glimcher said of his first experience with Drifter. “If it actually does what they say it’s supposed to do, it’ll blow people’s minds.”

Glimcher added that he’s interested in artists like Studio Drift because their work appears to be where art is headed. “What I’m looking at is how these artists are carrying all the dialogue forward,” he said. “This project, it’s like something that is being used in movies—something that exists only in the virtual world. . . . Bringing it into the real world makes this experience amazing.”

As for Studio Drift, they have a particular interest in the material that will be floating above. “Concrete was described as an idea of how we wish to build an ideal world,” the artists continued. “Not even five hundred years later, it has nothing special—it has no particular identity.” The idea behind the installation, they said, was to make visitors stop and think—to make them question the technologies that they use on a day-to-day basis.

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