American Rubble (Lancaster Avenue)
Display cases, collected samples of urban rubble, archive labels, postcards. Part of a Mellon Creative Fellowship Residency at Haverford College, Pennsylvania, Fall 2014. Organized by Paul Farber.
Focusing on an urban area undergoing economic change, this project repurposes small bits of architectural rubble collected at specific sites along Lancaster Avenue, Pennsylvania, to begin to create a narrative about the fluctuating cycles of boom, bust, and gentrification as part of an American capitalist cycle of economic investment and divestment. Displayed as a museological archive, the fragments take on the aura of precious objects and are accompanied by short notations of the site. Postcards with area observations and historical research were produced by two writing classes of undergraduate students, and available as takeaways for exhibition visitors.
Lancaster Avenue is part of a historic roadway that leads to the city of Philadelphia, once referred to as "The Workshop of the World," a city of manufacturing, production, and export. Over a century later, the changes wrought on Philadelphia by globalized manufacturing, outsourcing, and the turn to a service economy is reflected in it's cityscape. Portions of Lancaster have been designated part of "The Promise Zone," a new Federal area of investment. Historically the home of many African American residents, the potential promise of the accompanying gentrification that accompanies such a designation raises questions about the future of the area, as condos are built, public schools are sold off and torn down to make way for wealthy universities.
Featuring work by Stephanie Syjuco; students in the Haverford College courses “Memory, Monuments, and Urban Space” and “Cultural Approaches to Divided Cities” (Paul Farber, Writing Program), and “Walter Benjamin on Lancaster Avenue” (Andrew Friedman, History); and additional collaboration with the Barbara and Edward Netter Center for Community Partnerships at the University of Pennsylvania.
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