Layers of history and personal experience inform the built environment of Fishers Island. Its structures each telling their own unique story, their histories upheld by a communal oral tradition. Ruins of former barracks and bunkers, empty foundations and vacated structures, are situated amongst the contemporary dwellings that dot the island’s lush vistas. Though the massive kilns that fired brick after brick for future foundations are gone, it’s clay pits are still wet. Fishers Island is simultaneously of the past and present: a place that in honoring the juxtaposition of the built and the decaying is itself a portal providing passage between.
If Portals Could Raise a Ruin, situates itself within this passage. Its highly reflective surface shifts from day-to-day, charting and mirroring its surroundings. Each snapshot recorded on the surface for just a moment. Each perspective offering a different viewpoint, a different experience of the work. The viewer might find themselves on one side or the other – looking through to the island, looking through to the sea and shore beyond – all the while confronted with a shifting faceted view of the sky, the structure and at times themselves. All of it, disappearing for a moment if caught in the right light.
Both ruin and folly, If Portals Could Raise a Ruin, is a nod to the island’s industrial history of brickmaking. A collage of brick and mortar patterning make up the façade culminating in a large open arch. Only, in this case, the rough weight of clay brick or stone typically meant to wall off or obstruct views is removed. Leaving a series of negative spaces intended to further frame and articulate the viewshed both entering and leaving the island. The archway or portal, situated on a site for gathering – where arrivals are welcomed, where departures are bid farewell and movement is timed and charted – has the potential for generating new mythologies. Architecturally an archway serves as a transitional marker into otherwise defined spaces, passage through suggesting another kind of experience is to be had on the other side. It alludes to something special placed therein. It acts as a frame, amplifying the value of its contents.
Article feature photo by Jane Ahrens. Photo above c/o The Lighthouse Works