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Tyree Guyton Creates a Monument to Hope and Empowerment in the Heart of Philadelphia’s Opioid Epidemic

October 17, 2017

At the heart of Philadelphia’s opioid epidemic in Kensington lives a new monument to hope and empowerment created by legendary Detroit artist Tyree Guyton of the famed Heidelberg Project. Tyree’s project, titled THE TIMES, is in fact a “prototype monument” and one of 20 such artist-created installations around Philly right now apart of Monument Lab. As a member of the Monument Lab Curatorial Team, I was lucky to sit down with Tyree in Kensington last week, talk with him about his new project, and record a short video interview that you can watch at the end of this post.

“What time is it? It’s now. It’s now to live. It’s now to find yourself. It’s now!” Tyree proclaimed when we met. Adding, “I think that this is the time to tap into your reality and to realize your greatness.”

And that’s what his prototype monument is all about. THE TIMES is a collaborative installation envisioned by Tyree Guyton along with the Mural Arts’ Porch Light program, Impact Services, and other locally invested civic partners. Together, they have updated the traditional clock tower with a massive mural of caricature-style timepieces on a former factory at A street and Indiana avenue in the Kensington neighborhood. It’s a powerful testament to recovery and resilience in the face of adversity.

The following is from Tyree’s Artist Statement: “Throughout my career, I have explored the concept of time from a visual perspective by playing with clocks. Caricature in style, these clocks often have no hands, or the numbers are traveling backwards, or are mixed up, or the clocks have no numbers at all. My goal is to help people explore how time factors into our lives and how it sometimes hinders our ability to progress, or accelerates our anxiety of not being productive at all. Both are centered on the illusion of time, to do and not do. Plato said, Time is the moving image of reality. What this means to me is that everything we do revolves around time and yet…the only time that we ever really have is the very moment we are in. My challenge with this project is to help people to appreciate the present time. A time to act, think, be and do, HERE and NOW. Yesterday lives only in our mind and tomorrow is not promised. I believe that we must make the most of time and the time to do that is NOW.”

Monument Lab is a citywide public art and history exhibition, produced in partnership with Mural Arts Philadelphia, that’s asking the question, “What is an appropriate monument for the current city of Philadelphia?” Everyone in, or visiting, Philly is invited to add their response to that question at any one of 10 Monument Lab laboratories around the city. And the 20 artists invited to create work for Monument Lab are answering that question with their prototype monuments. While this question of the role of monuments and public art may seem new to some, many have questioned it before including Monument Lab’s lead curators Paul M. Farber and Ken Lum, who have been building Monument Lab for the last five years.

Unlike most of Monument Lab 2017 exhibition prototype monuments, Tyree’s is one of a handful that is now, due to their overwhelming popularity, sparking calls for it to be left permanently. Or, I suppose in the case of Tyree’s specifically, left as long as the building it’s on is still unused. Time will tell if his or any of the Monument Lab monuments are kept indefinitely. The rest will be deinstalled when the exhibition comes to an end on November 19th.

Lastly, here’s that quick video I shot with Tyree for Monument Lab’s social media:

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