Converging Landscapes: Monument Lab, Historical Memory, and Prototypes for Public Engagement
Studies of landscape are at the center of the intersecting fields of fine arts, environmental research, and historical inquiry. Christopher Tilley defines
"landscape" as "a holistic term" that frames relationships between living beings and locales, "forming both the medium for, and outcome of, movement and memory." For interdisciplinary arts practitioners in Philadelphia, the landscape is far from a static site, as it conjures such relationships at points of convergence: when the physical and symbolic layers of the city lay bare social dynamics, truths, and opportunities for action. Such a range of landmarks - including monuments, rivers, gardens, public parks, rowhomes, statues, municipal infrastructure, waste streams, the skyline - are indicative of the deep histories of the region itself, as well as the human-activity that traffics upon it. To produce work about and from Philadelphia is to inherit long-standing questions of civic belonging, make sense of shifting demographic and ecological conditions, and to balance aims for striving and coexistence.
Paul M. Farber, Artistic Director of Monument Lab and Managing Director of the Penn Program in the Environmental Humanities, reflects on landmarks of convergence, and methods and projects that experiment with and seek ideation through public engagement, environmental and civic advocacy, and historical reckoning.
Response by Pedro Lasch, Director, Social Practice Lab.