Drexel University Academy of Natural Sciences Announces Watershed-Focused Art Exhibit and Experience

Opening August 3, 2022 at Drexel University’s Academy of Natural Sciences (the Academy), Watershed Moment is a multi-faceted project featuring art and sound installations and an outdoor adventure walk revealing the critical importance of watersheds in our lives. The Academy engaged Philadelphia-based New Paradise Laboratories to shape the creative approach. Featuring four experiences created by two teams of collaborating artists in response to the natural sciences and physical properties of water as it moves through the Philadelphia cityscape, Watershed Moment enables a deeper understanding of the Lower River watershed. Schuylkill and an appreciation of watersheds in general.

The project – the first public art commission presented by the Academy – is the flagship event of the institution’s annual 2022 Year of Water celebration, designed to connect people with their local waterways so to inspire care and action to protect them. Watershed Moment was supported by the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

Watershed Moment’s four art installations are:

Attunement, a monumental outdoor sound sculpture designed by David Gordon and made by Jordan Griska;

How to Get to the River, a 1.5-mile urban art adventure walk that takes participants from the main Academy Square where Attunement is located, down the Cherry Street Micro Shed to the Schuylkill River, culminating in Inside the Watershed;

Inside the Watershed, a sound installation located inside a wooden arbor located along the Schuylkill River Trail developed in collaboration with New Paradise Laboratories;

The River Feeds Back, an immersive sound installation created by Annea Lockwood and Liz Phillips currently on view at the Academy’s Dietrich Gallery.

Marina McDougall, vice president of the Academy of Experience and Engagement, said: “We should think of watersheds as our addresses, as defining the places we call home. Watersheds are the areas of the landscape that channel water as it falls from the atmosphere as snow or rain, flows through streams and streams and through varied terrain always seeking the lowest point as it moves out to sea Contemplating watersheds sets in motion a wondrous set of connections that bind us to the places we live—bioregions with unique ecologies defined by the relative presence or absence of water.Here in Philadelphia, we inhabit the riparian landscapes of the large watershed of the Delaware River and the smaller watersheds that nest within the basin Watershed Moment is a series of life-changing experiences based on watershed thinking ve rsants.

Harmonization

Installed in front of the Academy Museum on the benjamin franklin Parkway, Attunement (2022) is a large-scale sound sculpture by theater designer David Gordon in collaboration with Philadelphia-based experimental theater New Paradise Laboratories. At 35 feet tall, the work is inspired by the traditional Japanese garden ornament and suikinkitsu musical device. Crafted by Jordan Griska and constructed largely from recycled materials, including an oversized funnel, agricultural cistern and sousaphone bells and utilizing irrigation technologies, Attunement captures the action of collecting water droplets and illustrates how water from the atmosphere is transferred to larger bodies of water. It is a sonic translation of this process, providing both a visual representation of watershed science and a naturally amplified sonic experience.

How to get to the river

How to Get to the River (2022) is an outdoor art adventure walk that invites participants to investigate elements of the Schuylkill River Micro Shed, a section of the Delaware River watershed. Commissioned by the Academy, the creative team of Pete Angevine, Laia and Whit MacLaughlin from New Paradise Laboratories worked with scientists from the Academy’s Patrick Center for Environmental Research to develop urban walking. The research-based experience consists of a series of art installations and interventions – featuring sidewalk art, musical interludes, immersive sound experiences, creative signage, 2D art, sculpture, maps, lenticular imagery, playful interactions, etc. – which together lead the participants, physically and conceptually, to the river.

Sidewalk art for Minnow Run Reprise. Illustrator: Tiffanie Young

The walk starts at the Academy and takes participants on a 1.5 mile walk along Cherry Street to the Schuylkill River, then brings participants back. Participants will be guided by visual cues, marked trails, sound installations, maps indicating you are here, and imaginative cues to experience the urban watershed as a work of art in itself. Participants will activate sound elements with a digital keychain as they become aware of evidence of water flow as imprinted on the cityscape, noticing how water is channeled from the atmosphere into the ground, through pitched roofs, through gutters and into underground storm drains. A serpentine fugue for clarinet performed by British composer Shabaka Hutchings will accompany the journey triggered by RFID (radio frequency identification).

Visitors are encouraged to return to How to Get to the River several times throughout the exhibition presentation, as the experience is intended to change and evolve as sunlight, weather and seasons change. change.

How to Get to River Credits

Creative Team: Pete Angevine, Laia and Whit MacLaughlin

Research: Rohan Hejmadi and Salvador Plascencia

Composers and interactive sound artists: Annea Lockwood and Liz Phillips

Musician: Shabaka Hutchings

Media and sound: Greenhouse Media

Scenic and sculptural design: David Gordon

Manufacture: Jordan Griska

Illustrator: Tiffanie Young

Inside the watershed

Inside the Watershed (2022) is a sound installation located on the Schuylkill River Trail. The installation combines live sound and composition created by Annea Lockwood, known for her explorations of the rich world of sounds and natural acoustic environments, and Liz Phillips, who combines audio and visual forms with new technologies to create experiences interactive.

The project was developed by the artists in collaboration with New Paradise Laboratories. It delivers the live “voice” of the Schuylkill River through an array of underwater microphones, a motion-sensitive floating buoy, overhead speakers, and vibrations conducted into listeners’ bodies through specially designed benches housed in a wooden arbor. It will be live from sunrise to sunset, seven days a week. Inside the Watershed is designed as the culminating experience of How to Get to the River.

Rendering of the interior of the watershed (2022). Produced by New Paradise Laboratories

The river feeds

Another Lockwood and Phillips collaboration is The River Feeds Back (2022), a sensory experience and interactive exhibit bringing to the surface the deep sonic environment of the Schuylkill River watershed. They recorded at sites in Pennsylvania along 135 miles of the river, from its sources to its mouth, as well as its tributaries, including Tulpehocken Creek, French Creek and Wissahickon Creek. The result is a layered sound map that captures glimpses of the river system above and below its surface, including underwater life of aquatic insects, eels, fish, and swirling currents.

The River Feeds Back – on view in the Academy’s Dietrich Gallery since June 1 – is experienced through a variety of listening portals. Benches, hollowed-out tree trunks and chunks of slate encrusted with transducers (devices that translate electronic signals into sound waves of varying frequencies, some below the range of human hearing) provide a visceral experience of river and transport listeners to the underwater worlds of the Schuylkill. A table in the gallery features a map of the Schuylkill that identifies artists’ recording sites along the riverbank in tactile form.

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