“The Future Was Then,” a monumental installation by Daniel Arsham, was created specifically for the SCAED Musem of Art’sPamela Elaine Poetter Gallery for deFINE ART 2016. These select sculptural works and this installation explores the interaction between mankind and architecture, and draw particular attention to man’s capacity for creating, destroying and repurposing manmade and natural materials both historically and contemporaneously.

Central to the exhibition is Arsham’s “Wall Excavation” installation, a large-scale, architecturally responsive installation in which the artist has carved into a repeated series of faux-concrete walls.

As visitors engage directly with their surroundings and walk amongst the immersive excavation, they meet with sculpted openings in which jagged edges morph from abstract forms into the silhouette of a human figure. This transformative experience evokes notions of progress in relation to mankind’s ability to manipulate his surroundings. (Maybe also drawing attention the ability to provoking themselves.)

Arsham’s interests in the analysis of mankind’s place in history sets the tone for the exhibition. “The Future Was Then” simultaneously comments on and condenses the timeline of civilization and creates an experiential moment for visitors to reflect on their own personal place within it.