Asylum, Abandoned: Selections from the series, “Beauty is Eternal: A Modern Renaissance”
Michelle Bien (BFA 2007)
This pinhole photography captures the historic Northern Michigan Asylum, a vast network of Victorian Italianate buildings and a monumental example of juxtaposition between humanity's impact on the past, present, and a troublingly uncertain future.
Today known as the Grand Traverse Commons, the repurposed commercial and residential spaces - made possible only through decades of ongoing renovation and historic preservation - lie in stark contrast to the property's several other buildings that remain empty and in severe disrepair. Indelicately reflecting a shadowy version of the asylum's past, their monolithic shells haunt the landscape, forebodingly warning of a doomed fate with the passage of time - and a tragic loss of valuable history with them - if the neglect is allowed to continue. Selected from a larger series of 46 photographs, these images feature four empty spaces - two untouched since their asylum days, as well as two in the early stages of renovation - and the common ground they share, where timelines blur together evoking mixed emotions, values, and identities. Viewers may notice subtle outlines of human figures in these images, but their exact locations and roles are left intentionally vague.
This work is featured as part of the 2016 Alumni Exhibition: “Horror Vacui”, on display from July 19 - August 6, 2016 at the Argus II Building in Ann Arbor. Check the exhibition page for dates, times, and hours.