The Penn Program in Environmental Humanities (PPEH) fosters interdisciplinary environmental collaboration and scholarship at the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, and beyond. Among our core commitments is arts-driven inquiry into place: our campus, the City of Philadelphia, the Delaware River watershed, and beyond. Since 2015, when the Program began, we have worked with artists, alongside scientists, humanists, and civic organizations, to engage a variety of publics around environmental and climate concerns.
Artists-in-Residence work closely with PPEH faculty, staff, fellows, students, and partner organizations across a semester or longer to contribute to the intellectual community of the program and the wider world. Each resident works towards a final project – which may take the form of an exhibition, installation, performance, data visualization, tool, or other modes of conveyance and display. Along the way, residents are expected to share their work in PPEH-sponsored research seminars, faculty meetings, or our public convenings. They also will share documentation of their process on the PPEH website.
Jacob Rivkin’s Floating Archives house archival photographs. He animates them—stirring up historical sediment and so enlivening the present. A sculptor and animator, Rivkin explores “how we experience and internalize landscape.” He is a former Fulbright Fellow, a current Visual Arts Fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and he teaches courses in Fine Arts at the University of Pennsylvania. He previously worked with PPEH on BioPool for the inaugural Ecotopian Toolkit hosted at Bartram's Garden in spring 2017, a hybrid installation dubbed “a giant Brita filter for the Schuylkill River” by the Philadelphia Inquirer.
According to Rivkin, “Floating Archives offers residents of Philadelphia the opportunity to consider the embedded histories in each landscape. Every sidewalk, landmark, and natural feature contains a narrative that turns each location from a space to a place. As the floating platform moves through the Schuylkill River, animations based on archival material are shown in alignment with the places they reference. The past and present meet for a doubling of both history and landscape.”
Rivkin’s residency engagement includes working with PPEH public research seminar participants and students this Spring, and will culminate during the PPEH-collaborative Schuylkill River & Urban Waters Research Corps' (@schuylkillcorps) June On-Water Intensive. Rivkin’s work will also feature on land this spring in Grid and Flow at the Science History Institute (formerly Chemical Heritage Foundation). With PPEH support, Floating Archives will continue on water into the summer, with projections along the river between Bartram’s Garden and the Art Museum.
Troy herion, Mimi lien, and dan rothenberg
A Period of Animate Existence
Composer Troy Herion, designer Mimi Lien, and director Dan Rothenberg are the 2016-2017 PPEH Artists-in-Residence, who will use this residency to continue the development of A Period of Animate Existence (PAE), a music-theater hybrid for physical actors and two generations of choirs. PAE presents a series of meditations on planetary cycles and life cycles, set in a time of dire ecological predictions and rapid technological change. Children, elders, and machines look at the future in five movements that echo the character and pacing of a 19th century symphony.
Mimi Lien (Designer) is the recipient of the 2015 MacArthur Genius Grant – the first set designer to be recognized with this award. Her bold, immersive designs shape and extend a dramatic text’s narrative and emotional dynamics.
Troy Herion (Composer) is a composer and filmmaker whose works unite contemporary music with visual arts through film, theater, dance, and concert music. Herion composes and directs visual-music films including Baroque Suite and New York: A City Symphony, and his work has been featured on MTV, in The New York Times, and performed with orchestra at Carnegie Hall.
Dan Rothenberg (Director) is a Philadelphia-based director and creator of experimental performance. A founding member and co-artistic director of the Pig Iron Theatre Company, Dan has directed almost all of Pig Iron’s original performance works. Under his direction, Pig Iron has received numerous Barrymore Awards, including four for Twelfth Night.
Our artists-in-residence will work with scholars on the Anthropocene as they develop the music and libretto for A Period of Animate Existence. They will also be a presence at PPEH symposia on the campus of University of Pennsylvania: Timescales in October, 2016, and An Ecotopian Toolkit in April, 2017. They will present never-before-seen excerpts from PAE during the symposia. This summer, its artistic team will further develop the piece at Space at Ryder Farm in Brewster, New York. PAE is slated to premiere in the fall of 2017.
Other collaborators for PAE include playwright Will Eno, lighting designer Tyler Miconeau, and conductor and director Donald Nally. PAE is recently received major funding from the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage. Other funding sources include the Wyncote Foundation, Jerome Foundation, and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.