—Sam tells us about Hidden City Philadelphia, the upcoming festival that unites art and Philadelphia’s hidden architectural gems.–theartblog editors—————
Philadelphia isn’t just a place for idle “ruin porn” gazers anymore. This summer, old, forgotten buildings and historic locations around the city will be brought to life for everybody’s eyes during the Hidden City Philadelphia Festival, the second such event in four years.
Speaking at the Festival’s kick-off press conference, Peter Woodall, outreach director of Hidden City Philadelphia said that his festival, with nine projects in aging architectural landmarks throughout the city, goes much further than ruin porn.
“There is a value in ruins … Many people find them an antidote to everything being new and shiny,” Woodall said. “But ruin porn is sort of an end in and of itself. It’s not meant to be ameliorative,” Woodall said.
The month-long festival, from May 23 to June 30, won’t just be exhibits and performances, but active, social experiences which are already seeking volunteers to participate.
“We want folks to be involved in these little projects, so that they can become, in a sense, team members,” Woodall said. “We’re asking people to volunteer hours, as well as random items.”
Needed – driftwood, cement, other materials and contributions
Each project’s online profile (http://festival.hiddencityphila.org) lists sought-after items for the projects, the needed number of volunteer hours, and requests for financial donations. The festival is using a Kickstarter-inspired fundraising platform that offer rewards to donors who support their favorite projects. The needed “items” vary from project to project and include steel cables, a water cooler, bags of concrete and even driftwood.
Germantown Town Hall comes alive!
One project that will be inviting guests to participate this year is at Germantown Town Hall. The building was originally built in 1854 just after Germantown was consolidated into Philadelphia, as a political concession to the residents of Germantown. It has been out of use since 1997. Now artist Jacob Wick will be bringing it back to life as a community space with room for meetings, a printing and copy center, and a lending library – practically inviting the residents of Germantown to bring the town hall back to life.
That goal falls in line with the last Hidden City festival in 2009, which included projects at the Shiloh Baptist Church in South Philly, Founders Hall at Girard College in Brewerytown, and the Disston Saw Works in Tacony. Those projects–like the ones this year–help shed new light on forgotten architectural treasures of Philadelphia.
“Almost inadvertently, some great things happened to these places,” Woodall said of the locations in the previous festival. “People at Shiloh were like, ‘Yes, dance companies could practice here.’ Or at Founders Hall, it was, ‘Yes, we could screen films here.’”
“It’s the art project that grounds everything we do.”
The 2013 projects were derived from a field of about 150 applicants.
“It’s the art project that grounds everything we do. We don’t choose the project off of how bombed out the place looks. It’s how amazing an idea it is, the kind of use it is, even if it’s absurd,” said Lee Tusman, Hidden City Philadelphia’s creative director.
Woodall and Tusman hinted that there may be a tenth project added to Hidden City Philadelphia, but negotiations are still underway. For the present, the nine projects announced last week are the following:
“Beyond the Pale Door” by Ruth Scott Blackson
Location: The Athenaeum of Philadelphia, 219-221 South 6th St.
Ruth Scott Blackson, a member of local gallery Grizzly Grizzly, will organize an exhibit at the Athenaeum in Old City. Blackson will create three artists’ books exploring the color schemata of the historic Edgar Allan Poe house at Seventh and Spring Garden streets, with a dose of inspiration from Poe’s poetry and prose. The exhibition will also draw on the historic private library’s collection.
“Germantown City Hall,” by Jacob Wick
Location: Germantown Town Hall, 5928-5930 Germantown Ave.
Oakland, CA-based artist Jacob Wick will be taking visitors into an alternate reality where the vacant Germantown Town Hall is an active public space dedicated to helping Germantown residents pursue their goals — potentially including a plot to secede from Philadelphia. Wick will open a performance and meeting area, reading room/lending library, and an office/copy center.
“A/V Archaeology,” by Data Garden
Location: Historical Society of Frankford, 1507 Orthodox St.
Data Garden, a Philadelphia-based record label and arts collective that explores the synthesis of digital and biological technologies, will be setting up shop in the Historical Society of Frankford, using the society’s historic resources for field recordings and samplings. Visitors will be able to “play the room” using pre-recorded sounds inspired by the location, and see an experimental concert by musicians including King Britt, violist Gretchen Lohse, Laura Baird on theremin, and Dino Lionetti of the band Cheap Dinosaurs.
“ADMK Knit Lab,” by Andrew Dahlgren.
Location: Shivtei Yeshuron – Ezras Israel, 2015 South 4th Street
Perhaps inspired by the sweaters beloved by Jewish grandmothers everywhere, Philadelphia textiles designer Andrew Dahlgren, of ADM Knitting, will be inviting visitors to Shivtei Yeshuron – Ezras Israel, a storefront synagogue in South Philly. There they will participate in creating squares of fabric that will eventually be stitched together to make a giant sweater around the front of the building. Drawn from the experience of Jewish immigrants to South Philadelphia, many of whom worked in sweatshops or performed sewing work from home, the project will resurrect the knitting efforts of South Philly’s former residents and give visitors a hands-on chance to use textile machines.
“Radical Jewish Music: a concert series,” by Ars Nova Workshop
Location: Shivtei Yeshuron – Ezras Israel, 2015 South 4th Street
The only site with two projects for the Hidden City Festival, this synagogue will also be the site of experimental music performances by three groups reworking traditional religious Jewish music. All three groups are linked to composer and performer John Zorn, who turns 60 on Sept. 2. The groups include “Mycale,” which forms vocal music out of secular and religious texts; “Volac,” who performs jazz-klezmer fusion; and “Abraxas,” who will perform Sephardic/Moroccan rock Zappaesque freak rock music.
“Ruins at High Battery,” by Ben Neiditz and Zach Webber
Location: Fort Mifflin and Hog Island, near Philadelphia International Airport
Philadelphia artists Ben Neiditz and Zach Webber will be creating improvised structures out of salvaged materials on the shore of the Delaware River, reflecting both the historic huts and shack settlements of past Philadelphians and “imaginary structures after the downfall of modern industrial civilization,” as Woodall put it.
“Oil & Water,” by the Dufala Brothers
Location: Globe Dye Works, 4500 Worth St.
The Dufala brothers, of Philadelphia, will create a “defunct infrastructure” of faux ductwork and other misleading industrial components inside the boiler room area of the Globe Dye Works. Their project will mimic the existing and aged industrial technology inside the Globe Dye Works to lead visitors on a trip through the dark corners pipe and steel-filled corners of the factory.
“Secret Order: The Knights of Pythagoras,” by Rabid Hands Art Collective
Location: Hawthorne Hall
Rabid Hands Art Collective, a group that specializes in activating and utilizing unused, abandoned spaces in urban centers around the country, will be creating a secret society in a former clubhouse on Lancaster Avenue and Hamilton Street in West Philadelphia, which has its own church, theater and bar. Visitors will swear an oath of secrecy and pass through an initiation rite before being accepted into the secret society of Pythagoras and exposed to a full sensory experience, including ritualistic performance, light baths and interactive spiritual sound objects.
The Carpenters Union and the Center for Art in Wood will organize docent tours by wood turners and hold demonstrations of live wood turning on a mobile lathe at the 150-year-old John Grass Woodturning shop in Old City. In collaboration with artist Joe McTeague, a new commissioned structure will be built on-site during the festival.
The 2013 Hidden City Philadelphia Festival runs from from May 23 to June 30. To sign up and volunteer, contribute and purchase tickets (unlike in 2009, visiting the sites will cost this year), visit http://festival.hiddencityphila.org.