(Photo by R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia™)
How does Philadelphia want to be known to the world in 2017? What do we celebrate about our city? What do we hide?
So it follows: “What is an appropriate monument for the current city of Philadelphia?” Mural Arts is asking these questions in its new citywide public art project, Monument Lab.
To answer them, it enlisted 22 artists and groups — some local, some world-renowned — to conceive of their own version of a monument to be displayed this fall across the city that will encourage civic engagement.
“Our city is a museum without walls,” said Kelly Lee, the city’s chief cultural officer and the head of the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, at Mural Arts’ kickoff event at PAFA last Thursday.
Accordingly, the 22 pieces to be produced for transcend medium and place. You might spot a virtual reality installation in Rittenhouse Square Park; you might stumble upon a site-specific sculpture in the City Hall courtyard. All will examine some social issue relevant to Philadelphia.
Here are the Monument Lab artists:
- Ai Weiwei, the Chinese contemporary artist who will be producing an installation for the City Hall courtyard
- Tania Bruguera, a Cuban performance artist whose work focuses on immigrants
- Mel Chin, a conceptual artist who will be creating an interactive sculpture
- Kara Crombie, a local moving image and sound artist who will create a project about Philadelphia’s music history and access to arts education
- Tyree Guyton, a Detroit-based visual artist who will create a monument to opioid addiction and recovery in a Kensington storefront with the help of the city’s Department of Behavioral Health and disAbility Services
- Hans Haacke, a New York-based sculptor whose “Gift Horse” sculpture stands in London’s Trafalgar Square
- David Hartt, a Penn professor who will create a performative sculpture related to civic engagement and public space
- Sharon Hayes, a local multimedia artist who will produce a monument about lack of women represented in Philadelphia public art
- King Britt, the local producer, and Joshua Mays, an Oakland-based visual artist, who will produce a one-night, youth-focused performance
- Klip Collective, the creative agency based out of Bok that will create a monument using projections and other ephemeral materials
- Duane Linklater, a Canadian conceptual artist who will explore Lenape indigenous experiences
- Emeka Ogboh, a Nigerian sound artist
- Karyn Olivier, a Temple professor, sculptor and installation artist
- Kaitlin Pomerantz, a local visual artist whose monument will analyze the city’s architecture alongside gentrification and redevelopment
- Michelle Angela Ortiz, the local muralist whose monument will tell the stories of immigrant women being detained at Berks Family Residential Center
- RAIR, the local art collective, and Abigail Deville, the New York-based conceptual artist, who will create a monument about sustainability and ecology
- Alexander Rosenberg, a UArts professor who will create a virtual reality installation in Rittenhouse Square Park
- Jamel Shabazz, a New York-based documentary photographer who will create a mural to Black veterans and open a community photo studio
- Zoe Strauss, the local photographer whose work will tackle the question of who owns public space in Philadelphia
- Hank Willis Thomas, a Brooklyn-based photographer who will explore issues of African American identity and empowerment
- Shira Walinsky, a local visual artist, and Southeast by Southeast refugee collaborative, who will examine artistic output by community youth
- Marisa Williamson, a New York-based visual artist
After the announcement, Michelle Angela Ortiz shared more details about her project focusing on the Berks detention center, which she described as “a family prison run by the state.” The detention center has drawn ire from a handful of civil rights groups in Philly, including Juntos and GALAEI, which have formed the Shut Down Berks Campaign.
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Ortiz said she’s not sure yet what form her monument will take, but it will address the alleged labor and health abuses undergone by the women and children detained there.
“What I’m trying to do in this particular project is the shed light on the stories of the women — [show] their images, amplify their voices — within the project so that people are informed and that they understand this is happening 40 minutes away from Philadelphia, and that each one of us has the power to demand our state and our city to shut down the center,” Ortiz said.
Monument Lab is funded by the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, the William Penn Foundation, the Tuttleman Family Foundation, the Hummingbird Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.