Daniel Arsham’s surreal new exhibition messes with time and reality

What would people in 3019 think if they found your iPhone?

Photograph: Yu Zhiming
When you think about archeology, you likely picture scientists unearthing ancient objects buried and forgotten long ago. At Perpetual Present, Daniel Arsham’s largest solo show globally to date, the gallery spaces inside HOW Art Museum are sprinkled with what he calls ‘future relics of the present’, everyday objects from the millennial era like cameras, radios and guitars made of a mixture of materials including crystal and volcanic ash. And it’s true: parts of the exhibition feel more like a pristine laboratory than an art museum.

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Photograph: Yu Zhiming

That’s what the New York-based contemporary artist intended – to mess with reality and time. One gallery houses larger-than-life bronze sculptures resembling familiar cartoon characters with weathered surfaces and chunks missing and leads to the next, ‘Excavation Site 212’, where these future relics (a Blackberry, an Xbox controller, a pink jersey) are being carefully excavated from pits by actors posing as archeologists.

Arsham’s other works in Perpetual Present question our expectations of the physical nature of various materials, like a wall that appears to be more like fabric, stretched out and tied together into a giant knot, and walls like glaciers melting away from the center, revealing what’s behind.

Photographs: Ellen Schaft

Photograph: Yu Zhiming

Presenting dichotomies between present and future, reality and fiction, destruction and creation, this surreal exhibition will leave you questioning things you’ve known and held dear. If after the show you start considering all the bizarre yet funny scenarios that might happen when someone from the year 3019 unearths your iPhone, then you’ve got the gist.