It’s made from materials like volcanic ash and crystal, as if it had been discovered in an ancient tomb and smashed from its protective fossil shell like a geode. But, of course, the carbon dating won’t be necessary–any casual observer can see that this Casio MT-500 keyboard couldn’t have lived in a previous millennium.
The sculpture is a collaboration between Daniel Arsham and Pharrell Williams. Arsham is known for creating faux-archeological renditions of contemporary objects. And Pharrell, following another recent wave of hits (Get Lucky still sounds good a thousand plays later!), probably needs no introduction.
“Pharrell was visiting my studio in Brooklyn last year and we embarked on this series of works,” Arsham tells Co.Design. “It began with a question I posed to him: What was something you used at the beginning of your music career that was very important to you at a certain moment that you no longer have or use.”
Pharrell’s answer was the Casio MT-500. And the resulting collaboration, a 1980s relic that looks to have been buried in 1980 BC, is strangely captivating, eliciting images of our own future, a post-apocalyptic wasteland in which our footprint has remained iconic but lost any functional value.
“I always try to create a scenario where audiences can question their own perception of the world. This is done through the manipulation of things that they already know. By taking an object that people are familiar with and altering its form and material I am able to collapse their concept of time and reality,” Arsham explains. “I come to the studio every day and pretend that I’m an archaeologist and the year is 3013. I work with payphones, 35-mm movie cameras, microphones, etc., always objects that are related to communication. In order to do this, I need to unlearn what these objects are. Its very hard to look at an object like a camera or a cell phone and try to forget its purpose. This process teaches me to look at objects for their form and typology rather than their function.”
Indeed, that process may be why there’s a certain perceived authenticity to Arsham’s artifacts. So even while a Casio keyboard would never rot away like a scuffed marble bust, the viewer can still experience the object anew through Arsham’s distanced temporal perspective, as a fossil that’s more foreign than alien: misunderstood but clearly once intended for human use.
And ironically, while this sculpture was based upon an object Pharrell has found obsolete and rendered in a way that made it appear ancient, in a sense, it may have more permanence than the music Pharrell sings today.
“Pharrell pointed out to me that most of what he produces is an ephemeral art. Music is just sound waves that exist for brief moments,” Arsham writes. “Objects like what we created together have the potential to last for millennia.”