On Hidden City bus tour, Philly sparkles

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I was trying to wrap my arms and mind around Hidden City, the arts events through June organized by Perigrine Arts, in off-the-radar, fabulous buildings around the city. The events are by a mix of international and Philadelphia artists, and the festival (I think it’s fair to call it one), like any such event, has so much going on, it’s a little hard to digest it all.

The stained glass at Mother Bethel AME Church was spectacular. Also there Sanford Biggers' Constellation, an installation of altered and new quilts referring to slaves escaping using the stars.
The stained glass at Mother Bethel AME Church was spectacular. Also there Sanford Biggers’ Constellation, an installation of altered and new quilts referring to slaves escaping using the stars.

So I took one of the bus tours a couple of  Saturdays ago (the bus tours are sold out!) It served as a reminder of Philadelphia’s spectacular history and buildings. Every building I was in bowled me over. The tour made the whole city seem romantic.

In the attic at Frank Furness' Shiloh Baptist Church was an audio piece by Inigo Manglano-Ovalle, Sonambulo--the highlight of the tour!!!
In the attic at Frank Furness’ Shiloh Baptist Church was an audio piece by Inigo Manglano-Ovalle, Sonambulo–the highlight of the tour!!!

The highlight of the day, in terms of art, was a transcendent audio piece, Sonambulo, by internationally recognized artist Inigo Manglano-Ovalle in the attic of Shiloh Baptist Church. Manglano-Ovalle’s piece is a protest against gun violence. But it turns out to be so much more. The artist transforms a single gun shot into a mesmerizing variety of sounds, stretched and broken up by the computer into its components. The end result sounds like thunder and rain, which becomes a metaphor for all of nature and all of life and even the voice of God amid the rafters of the church. This far exceeds its mission of being a statement against gun violence and is not to be missed.

The building, which was designed by Frank Furness, is still another reason to go to this venue.

Stephen Earl Webber, detail Like Lambs
Steven Earl Weber, detail Like Lambs

Plus there’s another ambitious piece in that church by Steven Earl Weber. I liked the little lambs, but got stuck at the literal qualities of solid-state blood.

Inside the German Society. Picture from Hidden City web site, http://www.hiddencityphila.org/events/German_Society_of_Pennsylvania
Inside the German Society. Picture from Hidden City web site, http://www.hiddencityphila.org/events/German_Society_of_Pennsylvania

The tour took us to the German Society and the atmospheric movie there by Stan Douglas, Der Sandman. I saw only a snippet, but it enticed me in the way it mixes the menace of folk tales with childhood memories. It seemed a nice fit with the atmosphere at the German Society, full of memories and the past. I also liked the way two 16 mm. films intersect and melt together in the center of the screen. I plan to go back for that one.

Steve Roden, detail of installation "nothing but what is therin contained" uses the glass harmonica and sculpture to reference the history of Founders Hall, Girard College
Steve Roden, detail of installation “nothing but what is therin contained” uses the glass harmonica and sculpture to reference the history of Founders Hall, Girard College

Other buildings on our route, included the Met and it’s gigantic space, Girard College’s Founder’s Hall attic with Stephen Roden’s musical piece and sculpture (I couldn’t quite hear the music because so many of us were in the space), and Mother Bethel Baptist Church with some altered and new quilts in an installation by Sanford Biggers. The church’s stained glass windows are what blew me away!

Our tour guide, Bea, who had lots of personal connections to some of the sites we visited.
Our tour guide, Bea, who had lots of personal connections to some of the sites we visited.

Our bus tour leader, named Bea, gave a lively mix of personal history along with facts about the buildings along our tour. Her best bit of personal history–she was in the first class with women to graduate Girard College! Another was that her mother gave tours of the museum downstairs at Mother Bethel!!

If you’re like me and have passed by the wonderful armory at 23rd and Chestnut, wondering what it was like inside, Leah Stein’s dance troupe will be performing Battle Hymns there Saturday, June 13 and 20. This may be your  chance!!!

Tags

hidden city, inigo manglano-ovalle, sanford biggers, stan douglas, steve roden, steven earl weber

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