The 1910s apartment building at 3583 Dubois St. was stripped of its history when the city of Detroit gave it a new address as 2170 Mack Ave. In 2014, artist Anders Ruhwald bought the vacant building, one of only 10 to 15 left in the few blocks surrounding it. Interested in exploring the transformation of materials and energy, especially through fire, he plans to rehab it as an event and residential space that features an art installation. The work he’s done in the building became a model for his exhibit, Anders Ruhwald Unit 1: 3583 Dubois, which is on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland from Sept. 23 through Jan. 8. The MOCA exhibit, which is a pilot for the permanent version set to open in the Detroit building in May 2017, features five reconstructed rooms made from remains of the vacant apartments and ceramic sculptures. Megan Lykins Reich, deputy director at the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, fires out three key elements of the exhibit.
Open Sesame // Down a small white hallway, visitors can go through a dark door, heavy with the weight of history and soot. The original front door of 3583 Dubois stands as both an authentic entrance and a liminal space of passing, where viewers can transition from the gallery to the exhibit. “When you enter that door, you will enter this entire alternate environment that is completely different than the neutral white space of the gallery,” says Reich.
Ashes to Ashes // The lingering scent of charred wood pervades the re-created rooms modeling the destructive power of fire, while Ruhwald’s ceramics show the constructive power of fire. He’s also using fire to make the exhibit an immersive experience with objects that function as heat lamps. “[It’s] this conceptual idea of sort of reclaiming but also re-creating a kind of life, a kind of experience in a place that’s lost its history or history has been forgotten,” she says.
Water Closet // Ordinary objects from the apartment ruins — including a sink, toilet and bathtub — are displayed in separate areas and transformed with a coat of pet coke, a byproduct from refineries used in the steel industry that’s a nod to the industries of Rust Belt cities. “He’s covering them in this glistening black — it looks almost like coal,” explains Reich. “The objects will be present in the space, but they’ll be nonfunctional.”