Weekly Update 2 – Videos in the subway concourse at Design Philadelphia

Roberta writes about a public art video project curated by Marianne Bernstein that takes place in the subway concourse under Dilworth Plaza.

DesignPhiladelphia (Oct. 7-17, arrives with about 150 exhibits, talks, panels and events sprinkled around town in a 10-day celebration of the sleek, the efficient and the sustainable— a festival marking the city’s status as a leader in design.

Dilworth Mapweb
Map of Underground Video festival in Dilworth Plaza, part of Design Philadelphia

The 6-year-old festival, co-founded by Hilary Jay and administered by the University of the Arts, has had its ups and downs—losing its affiliation with Philadelphia University only to find a new home at UArts, known for its industrial-design programs focusing on sustainability. Last year, DesignPhiladelphia had 135 exhibitors, and this recession year Jay expected half that turnout—only to have the number of exhibitors go up, with the added bonus of finding a sponsor in Philadelphia’s new art czar, Gary Steuer, and his Office of Arts and Culture.

Here’s a look at one of the Design Philly standouts: the nocturnal public-art venture Philadelphia Underground Video Installation (Oct. 8-11). This temporary program of moving images projected on the bare walls of the pedestrian concourse under Dilworth Plaza near City Hall is a refreshing new way to paint a mural on the city’s walls.

Cellphone video submissions by subway riders organized by Diedra Krieger will be projected large in Dilworth Plaza concourse as part of Philadelphia Underground video festival.  

The underground installation was organized by Marianne Bernstein, who during last year’s DesignPhiladelphia festival curated the Welcome House (a 10-by-10 glass-walled structure erected in Love Park for a couple of weeks in which various artists, passers-by and park denizens made art), and she’s clearly a woman with a vision and an ability to get things done—even getting the city to approve their underground opening party (Oct. 9, 7-10pm) under City Hall, which will be hosted and emceed by Dave P, founder of Making Time.

As for the video pieces themselves, Diedra Krieger’s citizen-participation piece MoVid gathers cell-phone videos made by SEPTA commuters documenting the city’s underground caverns, screechy-braked subway cars and people of all shapes and sizes. Low-resolution cell-phone videos take on a pointillistic cast when blown up on the wall—dots of light and color up close resolving into an image at a distance — moving Seurat pictures if you will.  One clip captures a man eating a bag of sunflower seeds and spitting out the casings around him—anyone who rides the train regularly is familiar with the aftermath, but it’s fun to see one of the culprits on candid camera.

Still frame from David Kessler’s video imagining a milky fountain in the Academy of Music ballroom

David Kessler’s video near the waterfall fountain superimposes footage of the industrial concourse space itself with scenes of the opulent interior of the Academy of Music ballroom, with a waterfall of milk showering down from its crystal chandeliers, a contrast to the blue water in the City Hall fountain.

Other participants showing videos or image projections include Ricardo Rivera, David Dunn, Katya Gorker, Danielle Lessovitz, Adam Carrigan, Peter Parker Brodhead and Group Exhibit.

The Underground Video Installation is just one of dozens and dozens of mostly free exhibitions, events and installations that are part of DesignPhiladephia. Don’t miss the exhibit of Philly-made design objects on display at PhillyWorks at Penn’s School of Design for the whole festival, and think about taking advantage of the more serious parts of the festival. There’s opportunities to visit architecture and design studios and go to lectures about design—and the town hall meeting (Oct. 12) on moving from talk about sustainability to actually doing something about it could actually be not only interesting, but important for the city’s future.

(This article was published first in Philadelphia Weekly.)