Wavepool – A lot of your work references religious ideas, both conceptually and visually. Where does this interest come from?
Daniel Alexander Smith – I grew up going to church and Catholic school in the South, so theology is one of the frameworks I see the world through. It also makes a difference to me that the Catholic Church has a history of exploiting its members to support amazing art. It’s an interesting irony that the Church stabilizes individual’s lives around common values, and these values simultaneously serve to destabilize the Church. I look at icons as artifacts of this phenomenon, but I’m not just talking about Byzantine paintings, and counter-reformation clashes. It’s evolved, and we now have a secular art world where certain art works and artists have an almost divine prominence. I’m really interested in the way money is shaping the art world right now. It feels Byzantine.
Wavepool – Your series Ruckenfigur seems to be a bit more experimental than some of your other work. Does the process behind the project differ from others?
Daniel Alexander Smith – Yes and no. I do big, committed experiments, where I try a different idea and see it through on a large scale, and I do work that plays with a lot of little ideas in different ways. Ruckenfigur is play. I also wanted to keep it lighter than Gold Standard and Corpus, and develop a little humor that adds to the concept rather than just distracting. Sometimes I can be a little too serious, so an ejaculating milk crate felt appropriate.
Wavepool – I’m particularly interested in the milk crate image. Can you give a little bit of information about the image and the idea behind it?
Daniel Alexander Smith – The milk crate was largely inspired by Man Ray’s Monument to D.A.F. It’s such an elegant image. I didn’t initially realize that it’s a cross overlaid on a butt. The cross becomes Freudian, and it’s instantly weird. I’d already been playing with ways to visually unfold a milk crate, while thinking about Corpus Hypercubus. The idea for this icon of unfulfillable desire popped into my head pretty much as it is.
Wavepool – Do you have a final physical format in mind for the project?
Daniel Alexander Smith – Not yet, but I’m playing around with gallery installations… maybe a book.
Wavepool – It looks like you’re currently working on an ambitious display method for your project Gold Standard. Where did the idea for the installation come from and what will it add to the piece?
Daniel Alexander Smith – The content and format of the piece is largely tied up in my obsession with the Pergamon Altar. This monumental frieze that celebrates the gods’ victory over the forces of chaos was eroded and broken over time, then cut up and reassembled out of order by archaeologists. It’s a really modern piece now. The 3D structure of Gold Standard is my attempt to reference some of the contradiction of classical friezes, which are sculptural but flat. The images read as even flatter when the display structure is not. And flattening all of these figures is a tragic gesture for me. Flatness is the fate of the ancients, and it is ours too. We are also eroded, cut up, and reassembled out of order. Look at Facebook.
Wavepool – What do you want viewers to think about when looking at your work?
Daniel Alexander Smith – Context. Not as in “everything is determined by context,” but rather, “everything is determined by context.” Our history, our religion, our desires all determine our present, but we struggle against this context. We build monuments knowing they’ll fall apart. We cut up the pieces to preserve them forever. We battle our context, and I want to show this battle in my work. The stories and contexts in my work aren’t universal, but the story of context is.
To see more, please visit Daniel’s website.