Paul Farber, " 'As Long as the Creeks and Rivers Flow': Monument Lab, Historical Memory, and Civic Landscapes in Philadelphia"
Join curator and historian Paul Farber, PhD, Managing Director, Penn Program in Environmental Humanities and Artistic Director of Monument Lab, to learn about his concept of "river monumentality" as it applies to the city of Philadelphia.
What is an appropriate monument for the current city of Philadelphia? To reflect on this line of inquiry, Monument Lab – a team of scholars, artists, students, and researchers – staged a two-month citywide exhibition in Philadelphia this fall with Mural Arts Philadelphia. Situated in the midst of a massive public reckoning with monuments sweeping the U.S., Monument Lab’s curatorial team sought to "change the ways we write the history of our city together." Over 200,000 Philadelphians and visitors engaged with the project at twenty prototype monuments imagined by leading contemporary artists; ten adjacent learning labs in public squares and neighborhood parks throughout the city; and interactions with students at the labs, including those whose participation as researchers were a part of a Fine Arts "civic studio" course at Penn which merged work at the labs with engaged humanities methods and public art practices.
Monument Lab Artistic Director and PPEH Managing Director Paul Farber routes the exhibition's curatorial motivations and implications through the concept of "river monumentality," revisiting the ways Philadelphia’s foundational historical identity is mapped, managed, and reflexively revisited over time around living memory at and of its waterways. In his talk, Farber will examine several prototype monuments from the recent exhibition (including those by artists Tania Bruguera, Duane Linklater, Michelle Angela Ortiz, Klip Collective, and RAIR – Recycled Artist in Residency) and highlight river-minded examples of the public research proposals, to explore how they each respond and extend the existing monumental landscapes of the city.
Paul M. Farber is a historian and curator from Philadelphia. He is the Artistic Director and Co-Founder of Monument Lab, a public art and history initiative. Currently, he is the Managing Director of the Penn Program in the Environmental Humanities (PPEH) at the University of Pennsylvania, where he also teaches courses in Fine Arts and Urban Studies. His book project – A Wall of Our Own: An American History of the Berlin Wall (Forthcoming, University of North Carolina Press) – examines representations of the Berlin Wall in American art, literature, and popular culture from 1961 to the present. Farber has contributed essays to several edited collections and advised the production of visual culture books including Leonard Freed's This is the Day: The March on Washington (Getty Publications, 2013), Nathan Benn's Kodachrome Memory: American Pictures 1972-1990 (powerHouse, 2013), and Jamel Shabazz's Pieces of a Man (ArtVoices, 2016). He is the editor of a new critical edition of Made in Germany (Steidl Verlag, 2013), and is the co-editor of a special issue of the journal Criticism on HBO's series, The Wire (2011). His work on culture has also previously appeared in the Guardian, Museums & Social Issues, Diplmoatic History, Art & the Public Sphere, Vibe, and on NPR.