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Underground videos – a Design Philly hit, now gone


Now you see em, now you don’t.  The Philadelphia Underground video festival in the underground walkway surrounding Dilworth Plaza was great, and is now a thing of memory — and photo documentation.  We were there at the opening last Saturday and have some pictures to share.  It was a lovely cool evening, perfect counterpart for some of the odd underground films by a group of local artists.

David Kessler’s piece, The Voice of the Oracle of Neptune, our pick for best of show. That’s milk spilling out of the Academy of Music Ballroom chandelier and flooding the room

We have to say that Marianne Bernstein, who curated the brief festival, is a wizard. When she arrived to install on Friday, it was filthy–it was the day of the week that the Center City District doesn’t clean there. Bernstein rounded up some of the homelss people who live there and for a small amount of money they cleaned it up. It looked, and smelled ok when we were there!

Katya Gorker, Starts

She also paid them a little something to help her with breaking down the equipment at the end of each night’s show. Bernstein, who had orchestrated the Welcome House in LOVE Park last year for Design Philadelphia, also had befriended that park’s denizens. “One guy [from LOVE Park] said when he saw the lights and the dancing and music, I knew you were there.”

We wondered about alcohol served in the public plaza. Bernstein said Margot Berg, the city’s public art director, smoothed the way for everything. All Bernstein had to do was get insurance.

Danielle Lessovitz’s inverted reflection of the streetscape above.

Here’s the list of artists and below is the map in case you want to match what you saw where you saw it with a name.

1&2 Ricardo Rivera, Phoenix Redux (
3 David Dunn, Underground Video
4 Katya Gorker Starts
5 Danielle Lessovitz
6 Adam Carrigan, Conspexi, with Matthew Lyons music by Michael Barker
7 Peter Parker Brodhead, Sub-Mudane
8 Diedra Krieger, MoVid
9 David S. Kessler, The Voice of the Oracle of Neptune

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

The films were mostly about public transportation with a few about the city in general. And didn’t it all look great! The trains, the buses, the commuter lines, the hustle and bustle of getting where you need to go. Several of the films captured the romance of the city. David Kessler’s poetic milk-fountain chandeliers flooding the ballroom of the Academy of Music was a dreamy poem. The water beading up and dissolving Katya Gorker’s subway scene had the highest score for graphic impact as well as for its beauty–the watery dissolve was amazing to watch. Projecting against the tiles proved more daunting for most of the other artists. Danielle Lessovitz’ video caught the street-level world inverted in the subterranean netherworld, where rules of physics break down and magic rules. Adam Carrigan’s tease of a striptease in a back alley, although it didn’t go anywhere, did capture the secret dreaminess and historic aura of the city’s back alleys–something essentially Philadelphia.

Adam Carrigan, Conspexi, video, with Matthew Lyons music by Michael Barker

Kudos to Marianne, and to all the artists. We need more temporary public art to freshen the city and introduce the public to unusual contemporary art usually not seen by most folks because it lurks in galleries where most folks don’t go.