Last week, Chromeo and Snarkitecture announced that they'd be sharing a two-day installation in partnership with Tumblr IRL at Milk Studios tonight, September 24, from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. The space will also be open on September 25 from noon to 6 p.m. with an online experience for fans outside of New York coming afterward.
Chromeo, whose new album is titled White Women, has told fans via a recent Reddit AMA that their new album is “Better, Funkier, Poppier, Catchier, Happier.” Its title references the photographer Helmut Newton's first book, but the literal interpretation works well for the collaboration with Snarkitecture, whose art typically exists in all white. Coming off of a fashion week collaboration with En Noir and Daniel Arsham's collaboration with Pharrell, Snarkitecture isn't stopping, and Chromeo doesn't seem to be either.
Read our interview with them where they discuss the project titled White Room, the power of Tumblr, and why their installation won't be like Jay Z's "Picasso Baby" video.
The idea was to make this installation not exclusive at all, to really open it up to the fans and to the public.
Where did this collaboration come from? Have you guys known each other for a while?
Dave 1 (Chromeo): We have a mutual friend who introduced us. We’ve been talking about this for the last four or five months, since early summer.
How did the forthcoming album, White Women, become the installation,The White Room? What is your goal for how the viewer experiences an album in a space like this?
Dave 1 (Chromeo): I knew of Snarkitecture and Daniel’s work before I was friends with them. I first came across Daniel’s work at the H&M Margiela event last year. Then I came across Snarkitecture’s work at Art Basel last year during Design Miami/.
When I was put in touch with them, I immediately thought it would be cool to collaborate, because I had the title of the album in mind. A lot of their language is white, so I thought that it would be a funny, super literal interpretation. Obviously the record is not about white women, it’s a reference to the Helmut Newton book and an homage to him, because he liked legs and that's been part of our iconography. It's just a funny title to get people thinking a little bit.
More importantly, I think that our aesthetic with Chromeo has always been really high brow/low brow. There are a lot of hidden meanings and a lot of kind of artistic references if you want to look for them. If not, the music is totally enjoyable as carefree, fun party music. So this felt like it would be a really cool next step for us, to collaborate with artists whose visual language could reflect a very literal interpretation of our album title. The idea was to make this installation not exclusive at all, to really open it up to the fans and to the public. The dopest vehicle for that was to create an affiliation with Tumblr, because Tumblr is basically taking artsy-ness and stylish-ness and making it accessible to everyone.
In the same way, remember when blogs started getting popular and journalists were getting upset, because everybody started calling themselves journalists? Well, I think Tumblr is going to do that for style, for curators, and for art critics. It’s totally democratizing the process, the same way that Wordpress and Blogspot did.
I actually did a test, because I know enough 23-year-old Tumblr girls. I said, "Do you know Daniel Arsham? Do you know Snarkitecture?" All of them were like, "Yeah, yeah, we know them!" I asked them how they know all these people, and they said from Tumblr!
We're able to bring our designs, architecture, and art sensibility to people who normally wouldn’t be at an event at the Milk Studios Gallery.
Alex Mustonen (Snarkitecture): Yeah, the Tumblr thing is pretty wild. Our work has been bouncing around on Tumblr for years, even before we got a Tumblr. I don’t know how all these people found us, but it just shows that Tumblr has this kind of wider reach.
One of the very first conversations we were having with Dave about the project was this idea of introducing people from the art and design world to Chromeo in a new context, in a different way. Then, we're also introducing fans of Chromeo to the world of Snarkitecture, which is something they may not know of. We're able to bring our designs, architecture, and art sensibility to people who normally wouldn’t be at an event at the Milk Studios Gallery.
Dave 1 (Chromeo): You know how like that Jay Z "Picasso Baby" video? To me, that's the perfect example of everything you should not do. You see how he has all the permanent fixtures of the art world; I could name all the people there, because it’s all the same people you see at all the art openings. It was closed off. It was made to look like it was open, but it was not. He had a couple of cute Fort Greene girls in there for good measure, but it really had an elitist feel.
It’s not Jay Z’s fault, it’s not anybody’s fault. Obviously when you have Jay at Pace Gallery, that’s what’s going to happen. Luckily we're not that famous, so we can have it be really open. What Snarkitecture does is something you can appreciate whether you have artistic or cultural baggage or not. We really want to open and democratize it.
On the Chromeo side, how did the Helmut Newton book White Women inspire not just the name of the album, but also potentially the overall aesthetic and themes in the music?
Dave 1 (Chromeo): Our idea has always been to draw from these references that people would never expect us to come up with. If you get it, you get it, and if you don’t, you don’t. We’ve been photography fans for a long time, and we’ve had that sort of female iconography for a long time. This was just a way to make it more explicit but also more provocative than ever.
For example, at the beginning of the "Night by Night" video there’s a shot of me throwing a rock into the East River, and I’ve got a toothbrush sticking out of my pocket. Everybody was asking me, "What’s up with the toothbrush? Why did you have a toothbrush?" In fact, it was a reference to a Robert Mapplethorpe photo, where you see a dude who clearly did not sleep at home, and he’s got a toothbrush in his back pocket. Nobody knew that, and we never made it explicit. 0.1% of the fans got it, and it’s fine, you know? We just like to fill in these sort of references, because that’s what stimulates us.
It’s the same thing with the title. What’s cool is that a lot of Snarkitecture and Daniel’s language is this sort of all-white universe. We were like, why don’t we create an environment where they take complete control of the visuals, and we make a 15-minute soundspace of some album highlights and just loop it?
We were like, why don’t we create an environment where they take complete control of the visuals, and we make a 15-minute soundspace of some album highlights and just loop it?
On the Snarkitecture side, you two have done immersive installations before. What makes this project—working on it and both the final result—different or similar from anything else you’ve done?
Daniel Arsham (Snarkitecture): In a lot of ways, this project is hugely different for us, in that there is going to be a sound score that's almost a physical presence in the room. Every other installation that we’ve done up to this point had no sound at all. If there was sound, it was just the ambient sound of the room. So I think that this is going to feel very theatrical, it’s going to feel like an experience that’s very much influenced by what you see and also what you hear.
Will any part of this project continue beyond New York, possibly? Will it be available for people to experience online in any way?
Alex Mustonen (Snarkitecture): The plan is that for anybody who isn’t able to attend the opening event tonight, there will be open gallery hours the next day from noon to six, and literally anybody can walk in. It’s open to the public, and they can experience essentially the same installation from the previous evening. There are plans for the installation to live online, on Tumblr, in a revised digital format so that people can experience it beyond the two-day installation in New York.
Dave 1 (Chromeo): There are probably more Chromeo and Snarkitecture collaborations coming in the future, as well.