Honoring the forgotten: Melbourne-based artist Robbie Rowlands makes Detroit’s abandoned houses come to life

Architecture Art Midwest Preservation
(Courtesy Robbie Rowlands)

‘In Between’ (Courtesy Robbie Rowlands)

The deteriorating floorboards and walls of abandoned homes appear to defiantly reassert their existence in artist Robbie Rowlands’ exhibition, Intervention. While on residency in Detroit, Michigan, the Melbourne-based artist drew attention to abandoned houses by ripping out certain sections and creating track-like extensions of their fixtures—so that the otherwise nondescript wall seems to implore, “pay attention to me.”

(Courtesy Robbie Rowlands)

‘Sorry for the Intrusion’ (Courtesy Robbie Rowlands)

The idea is to take a rundown structure and bring it back to life, even if only in the metaphorical sense, saving inanimate objects from forgetfulness by giving them an unprecedented reincarnation. Rowlands thus navel-gazes on the nature of decay to convey the truism that we only pay attention to these ever-present objects when they begin to break down. Most of Rowlands’ pieces resemble rollercoaster tracks gone haywire as sections of the pockmarked wall curl outward and sweep the floor.

(Courtesy Robbie Rowlands)

‘Drawn’ (Courtesy Robbie Rowlands)

Intervention consists of pieces sporting forlorn, personifying titles like Singled out, Sorry for the Intrusion, and Feeling exposed. To Die with No Fear features the boards of a gutted shed curled on a dusty floor, illuminated by a single shaft of light through a chink in the disintegrated woodwork.

'To Die with no Fear' (Courtesy Robbie Rowlands)

‘To Die with no Fear’ (Courtesy Robbie Rowlands)

Rowlands’ previous work involved cut-up pianos, an overturned basketball hoop cut into sections, spiraling cartoonishly over the ground as if made from rubber. Rowlands also eviscerated a desk, cutting it, too, into sections to make it look vaguely like it was raising its wings in a “notice me” overture.

(Courtesy Robbie Rowlands)

(Courtesy Robbie Rowlands)

“If the former object is largely unrecognizable in the new sculpture, the process is not one of violence. Rather, there is a sense of redemption, as if the object has been liberated from obsolescence, from forgetfulness,” writer Simon Cooper wrote in an essay accompanying Rowlands’ Disintegration exhibition in 2008.

'If This Light Can Hold '(Courtesy Robbie Rowlands)

‘If This Light Can Hold ‘(Courtesy Robbie Rowlands)

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