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Trompe-l'oeil of the Day: Inside a Building Destroyed by an Earthquake

Trompe-l'oeil of the Day: Inside a Building Destroyed by an Earthquake
Mike Hewson

At a collapsed building in Christchurch, New Zealand, artist Mike Hewson's eerie installation is a trompe-l'oeil vision of the past.

In "Homage to Lost Spaces," at the half-standing Cranmer Courts, Hewson used plywood to patch up windows and rebuild walls, erecting a shell of the stone building’s former shape. The boards show mixed-media portraits taken from inside the studios of artists—including that of Hewson’s brother, riding the bike in the image below—who worked in the building before it was destroyed in February, 2011. Together, they offer a voyeuristic portrait of life inside the building as it was lived before the earthquake.

Christchurch is in the midst of a rebuilding process after last year's earthquake, and the building, like many others, is scheduled for demolition next month. This is Hewson’s third project in the abandoned spaces of the city. A previous work, the Re:START project at the Cashel Mall, stressed the desire to preserve traces of the disaster in the rebuilding process. At Cranmer Courts, Hewson expressed a similar sentiment: "So many buildings have already come down without giving people the chance to appreciate the memories… I’m glad people got a chance to really appreciate it and its history."

Images courtesy of Mike Hewson

Henry Grabar is a freelance writer and a former fellow at The Atlantic Cities. He lives in New York. All posts »

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