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Fishtown’s New (Temporary) Monument About Gentrification and Displacement is Beyond Timely

October 8, 2017

A temporary monument has popped up in Fishtown’s Penn Treaty Park standing as a mirror to this (and many Philadelphia neighborhood’s) massive scale development and the seen and unforeseen consequences that relate to it. Created by the pair of artists Lucia Thome and Billy Dufala who comprise RAIR (Recycled Artist in Residency), the monument is one of 20 such “prototype monuments” on exhibit right now around Philadelphia through November 19th as apart of Monument Lab.

Monument Lab is a public art and history project, led by curators Paul M. Farber and Ken Lum and produced with Mural Arts Philadelphia, that operates around a central guiding question: What is an appropriate monument for the current city of Philadelphia? (Full disclosure: as I’ve announced, I’m also on the Curatorial Team of Monument Lab.)

Lucia and Billy (aka RAIR) decided to answer Monument Lab’s guiding question with this prototype monument in Fishtown, titled Plainsight Is 20/20. As they write in their artist statement, “[We’re] exhibiting a sculpture consisting of two parts: an uprooted tree salvaged from a waste stream and a large excavator wrapped in reflective chrome film. Set along the margin of Penn Treaty Park, the sculpture absorbs the passing activities and surroundings in its reflective surfaces. In effect, it becomes hidden in plain sight.”

“RAIR sees the two parts of their project as dialectically tethered, with the earth-moving machine representing industry spurred by the economy while the tree signals depletion and displacement. The tree as a part of nature converted to culture can also symbolize growth and prosperity, as well as grassroots histories and community perspectives.”

“RAIR’s art is centrally concerned with the question of waste and recuperation. Their proposal is a monument to this moment of intense change in Philadelphia due to developmental pressures, demanding an interregnum in terms of a questioning of the assumption that growth is always for the better. They see this work as a microcosm of Philadelphia’s changing green urban landscape.”

Learn more about all the Monument Lab prototype monuments around Philadelphia here!

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