The Ecotopian toolkit

 Photograph by Jacques-Jean Tiziou. Dress rehearsal images for the world premiere of Pig Iron Theatre Company's "A Period of Animate Existence", presented by FringeArts at the Annenberg Center during the 2017 Philadelphia Fringe Festival.

Photograph by Jacques-Jean Tiziou. Dress rehearsal images for the world premiere of Pig Iron Theatre Company's "A Period of Animate Existence", presented by FringeArts at the Annenberg Center during the 2017 Philadelphia Fringe Festival.

About the Ecotopian Toolkit

“WHAT IS THE NATURAL WORLD? AND AM I, BEING A ROBOT, UNNATURAL?” -Bartram's Robot

Tool making is a signature trait of the human species. What tools can we make, and might we require, in the age of the human, the anthropocene: a name for the present geological epoch when humans are the most potent force shaping earth’s systems? Global warming and other anthropocene challenges, including the ongoing sixth mass extinction event, often lead to apocalyptic visions, or apathy. Through the Ecotopian Toolkit initiative, we explore a longer history of the anthropocene to help represent—and respond to—our contemporary moment. Might a utopian turn help us navigate warmer, rising waters and build new forms of refuge? What tools can STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) educators in universities, museums, and non-profits design and develop via the history of utopia and its hope for better futures?

In 2017, PPEH hosted our first design competition and a series of workshops to build ecotopian tools for WetLand, the art boat-meets-science lab conceived by then-PPEH Artist-in-Residence Mary Mattingly, in cooperation with Bartram’s Garden and PPEH. Above, you can listen to Bartram's Robot, our ecotopian mascot, created by guest artist Mason Rosenthal for Between a Boat and a Green Place, a series of 2016 theatrical interventions on WetLand curated and hosted by Anisa George and Gillian Osborne. The robot helped inspire our first design competition and was also the cheerleader of the 2017 Ecotopian conference (full details below).    

Now, in 2018, PPEH is supporting the creation of another cohort of [human] toolmakers who will retain an engagement with floating on/ sinking in/ and otherwise living with urban waters; and will similarly explore what it might mean to face contemporary ecological challenges with critically attuned and creatively oriented tools.

We are delighted to announce the 2018 Ecotopian Toolkit cohort:

Stay tuned for upcoming posts about these artists and their projects with PPEH launching in summer and fall 2018.

 Mandy Katz, Pocket Guide to Plants of the Lower Schuylkill, Ecotopian Toolkit 2017

Mandy Katz, Pocket Guide to Plants of the Lower Schuylkill, Ecotopian Toolkit 2017

 Cecily Anderson, Tidal Schuylkill, Ecotopian Toolkit 2017

Cecily Anderson, Tidal Schuylkill, Ecotopian Toolkit 2017


Click here for the 2017 ecotopian toolkit for the anthropocene COnference Full Site. 

2017 Conference Keynotes:

 REBECCA SOLNIT (Writer, historian, environmental and human rights activist)  "ART, DISASTER, UTOPIA" 

REBECCA SOLNIT (Writer, historian, environmental and human rights activist)

"ART, DISASTER, UTOPIA" 

 JAMES HANSEN ( Director at   Earth Institute  ; former head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies)     "CAN SCIENTISTS BE ACTIVISTS?"

JAMES HANSEN (Director at Earth Institute; former head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies) 

"CAN SCIENTISTS BE ACTIVISTS?"

  A PERIOD OF ANIMATE EXISTENCE  (Dan Rothenberg, Mimi Lien, Troy Herion; PPEH artists-in-residence)

A PERIOD OF ANIMATE EXISTENCE (Dan Rothenberg, Mimi Lien, Troy Herion; PPEH artists-in-residence)

2017 Conference co-sponsored by Penn Humanities Forum, Fels Institute of Government, Institute for Contemporary Art, Kislak Center of the Penn Libraries, and Bartram’s Garden.