In Conversation with Daniel Agdag

Daniel Agdag

This issue, we chat to Melbourne based artist and filmmaker Daniel Agdag, whose delicate, inventive, and bewilderingly intricate architectural sculptures take the  humble medium of cardboard to completely new heights.

Your subject matter and visual style are instantly recognisable, what inspires your work?

I’m predominately inspired by the built world, from machinery to architecture. I’m intrigued by the myriad of hidden systems behind closed doors or utilitarian hatches.
I find myself absorbed by the designed details of elements made for very specific purposes and functions, from ducting systems in the streets of Tokyo to the now defunct levers and pulleys of the canal bridges in Amsterdam. Every part and fixture has a story and person behind it. Somebody, somewhere, devoted time and effort to solve a problem by creating it and I’m fascinated and in awe of that. I want to understand why something is shaped a certain way or why it needs to be where it is. This is what I explore in my work.

What do you hope people take away from your work? 
I hope people find within the work some contemplation, I hope they see more revealed on every view.

Your work is so intricate, how long does it take you to finish a piece? (And how’s your eyesight?!)
So far so good regarding my eyesight. Very grateful for that! The length of each piece can vary quite a bit depending on the idea and its execution. One of my smaller works can take up to three months. Because I work intuitively without drawings or detailed plans, I can find myself making and then remaking elements of the work multiple times on occasion which can take time. The journey of this process of sometimes reworking something to fit in a place it was unintended to go or as an afterthought leads me to weird and wonderful outcomes aesthetically.

In Conversation: Dan Agdag
Daniel’s sculptures and works in progress in the studio

We loved your work for Hermès, what was it like to work with the brand?
It was very exciting and a very special experience. Whilst I’ve collaborated with Hermès previously, this was the first time I was introduced to their atelier, petit h. Every four years, petit h produce a bespoke arrangement of unique limited-edition items to showcase in a Hermès store for a limited time. For this event, they engage with an artist to become the scenographer, and for this occasion I was the selected artist. This was the first time it was presented in Australia, to celebrate the opening of the new store in Sydney.

The concept was an immersive embodiment of an artist in their environment creating. They managed to capture the essence of my studio in my beloved medium of cardboard throughout the store. There was an in-store workshop where guests and clients were invited to make flying machines, created using my designs, in Hermès fabrics.

I was commissioned to produce five short films showcasing an artist’s journey of reappropriating objects and materials to form new creations. It was the first time I have ever incorporated other materials into my work, and I found it challenging and very rewarding – it definitely took me out of my comfort zone but the materials I was sent to work with were absolutely magical and I could channel the petit h spirit of making into my own creations. Their philosophy regarding the act of making was very much akin to mine, and they couldn’t have been more encouraging and sympathetic to my process. The team both in Sydney and Paris were extremely dedicated and amazingly supportive to work with so it was an absolute pleasure for me.

Do you collect anything? In Conversation: Dan Agdag
I would say I collect a lot of things. Not everything I collect is something worth displaying, and the items that are suffer from my lack of space to display them. I have a particular penchant for any vintage office or filing system paraphernalia; quirky machinery, punch cards, stamps, various stationery. Anything procedural or system related. Most of the items are small enough to be contained in tiny boxes, which I purpose build for their storage. One day I envision an exhibition of these items being displayed inside their boxes – or maybe it just happens that I like collecting boxes!

We were blown away by your award-winning short film ‘Lost Property Office’. (Readers – Google that if you haven’t seen it!) Do you have plans to make another stop motion animation? 
Thank you. Sitting in a darkened room, in front of a stage, and carefully lighting a composition of a shot is one life’s most wonderful pleasures for me. Whilst I have no immediate plans in development, I’m almost always thinking about film. The narrative nature of filmmaking informs every sculptural work I make. Each work holds within it a section of story hermetically sealed in a moment in time. It’s only a matter of time before I collect enough sections to put them in sequence for a film.

Dan Agdag Leonard JoelTell us about your home, is it reflective of your work?
I’d say my studio is somewhat reflective of my work – organised chaos and clutter – but my home is very simple.
I need the simplicity to create the complexity.

Do you have a personal favourite piece that you’ve made?
This is a very hard question to answer, ultimately, I have no favourites, each work has a special place in my heart. They each tell a different story and capture a different moment time in my process. I would say I have favourite motifs, which I return to often.

What other artists inspire you?
I always come back to Edward Hopper, not only because of his works but more so because of his processes and subject matter. The slow production and dwelling on details during creation is something I feel akin to. His works are often described as having a sense of silence. I feel that also, but I also get a sense that something has happened, or is anticipated, within his works and it’s something I try to incorporate.

From the use of light, the composition, and the framing of his scenes, all merge to create a very provocative emotive sensation which is both identifiable and foreign at the same time. This is something I wish to capture too.

What are you working on next? 
My next project is a secret at the moment, I can be superstitious like that. I feel when I’m creating, it’s still so unmade in inside my mind, nothing has been determined yet even whilst the idea is there. I can say that it’s very large in size, and it will be going to New York City, to be installed permanently.

Daniel is represented by MARS Gallery in Melbourne and Messums London.
View more of Daniel’s work at and on Instagram at @thepublicoffice.

July 2022