The Ecotopian toolkit
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 a 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. The first cohort of Toolkit contributions included: a field guide, illustrated maps, water experimentation tools for youth, habitat pods, sculptural provocations, and on-water floating filtration system. Documentation of last year’s tools by the inaugural Toolkit artists and citizen scientists (Cecily Anderson, Joanne Douglas, Caroline Hesse, Gabriel Kaprielian, Mandy Katz, and Jacob Rivkin + Eric Blasco) resides in the living public archive of the Schuylkill River & Urban Waters Research Corps.
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. The 2018 Ecotopian Toolkit participating artists will be announced in mid-April 2018.
Ecotopian Toolkit – Call for Artists 2018
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.
Via an interdisciplinary juried process, PPEH will select 5 artists to participate this year, and artists’ projects will be archived and included in all Toolkit initiatives, highlighted in a public demonstration led by the artist, and documented in PPEH publications in print and online. Each artist/team will be awarded a $1,000 prize. Announcements will be made in mid-April 2018.
Proposals developed by individual or teams, working across the arts and sciences, are reviewed around the following possible tracks:
- Explore past, present and future intersections of environmental knowledge
- Address present paradigms that attempt to integrate cultures of arts and science in labs, workshops, studios, and other exploratory spaces
- Consider how products of integrated knowledge are disseminated, shared, and advanced
- Propose tools that might be adapted and scaled by fellow citizen scientists and citizen humanists
- Suggest how anthropocene tools can reach and engage new audiences in partnership with galleries, libraries, archives, museums, and other public spaces
- Highlight data visualization and interpretation, especially in connection to our ongoing Data Refuge Stories project
- Imagine connections and installations at PPEH partner sites (including Bartram’s Garden and Heinz Wildlife Refuge) and other potential hosts and collaborators in the Philadelphia area.
- Artists may propose toolkit projects that could be built from scratch, refined from an existing prototype or working version, or adapted and advanced in new ways through this collaboration. Tool-making workshops and presentations will be rolled out during the late spring and summer of 2018.
Ecotopian Toolkit 2018 Art Jury:
- Bethany Wiggin – Founding Faculty Director, Penn Program in Environmental Humanities, and Associate Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures, University of Pennsylvania
- Paul Farber – Managing Director, Penn Program in Environmental Humanities, and Lecturer in Fine Arts and Urban Studies, University of Pennsylvania
- Grace Sanders Johnson, Assistant Professor of Africana Studies, University of Pennsylvania
- David Stoughton, Visitor Services Manager, John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum
- Danielle Redden, River Program Manager, Bartram's Garden
- Dan Rothenberg, Artist, Director and Creator of Experimental Performance
- Orkan Telhan, Artist, Associate Professor of Fine Arts , University of Pennsylvania
Click here for the 2017 ecotopian toolkit for the anthropocene COnference Full Site.
2017 Conference Keynotes:
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.