Daniel Arsham titled his FWM exhibition Reach Ruin, which is an anagram of the word “hurricane.” The encrypted word recalls Arsham’s childhood experience of Hurricane Andrew in Miami, Florida, in 1992. After hiding in a reinforced closet as the storm raged overnight, he awoke the next morning and found his home devastated by a ferocious act of nature. To this day Arsham’s conceptions of architecture are warped by many indelible images of Andrew’s destruction: drywall pulverized to sand, dust, and paper; insulation soaked to a pink paste; aluminum studs bent like utensils; and shattered glass. Although we humans build things to outlast ourselves, nothing is immune to natural change. The work Arsham created through his FWM residency is about the construction of destruction.
For example, the multisensory wall installation Storm was both sculptural and performative, immediate and ominous. With Storm, Arsham created a multimedia experience of the hurricane of his childhood to confront and better understand its power. At the far end of the gallery, haunting music, flashing lights, and wind gusts emanated from a cavern lined with shattered glass. Andy Cavatorta, an MIT-educated roboticist, wrote the software to synchronize the score, lighting, and industrial blowers for this work.
If architecture is the process of creating structures built to last a lifetime, performance is its temporal counterpart. A Study for Occupant featured choreography by Jonah Bokaer and scenic elements designed by Arsham. Both Arsham and Bokaer wanted to explore the Greek and Latin origins of the word “chorus”—“a dance in a circle”— in this collaboration. The dancers used film cameras cast from plaster- like pieces of chalk to inscribe marks on the floor of the gallery. These cameras erode through use and distill the process of ruin into a fleeting moment.