Center for the Arts and Humanities

American Rubble

Cultural Production and Historical Memory After 1989
Friday, December 5, 2014, Haverford College

Organized by Paul Farber, Postdoctoral Writing Fellow, Haverford College
Featuring Mellon Creative Resident Stephanie Syjuco, Assistant Professor of Art, University of California, Berkeley

American Rubble

All Events Free and Open to the Public

American Rubble addresses the physical and social transformation occurring in our cities. Encompassing an artist residency, exhibition, and day-long symposium, the project engages issues from the dismantling of the Berlin Wall in 1989 to contemporary urban redevelopment projects in Philadelphia's post-industrial neighborhoods.

Invited artists, scholars, and students will consider both how cultural producers document urban change and economic upheaval, and how they might imagine possibilities for collectivity through urgent forms of public memory. Such a framework aims to measure changes due to historic "events" but also the less tangible undercurrents of gentrification. Throughout the day, we will explore how artistic projects and cultural interventions at sites of memory—including those that draw on rubble, ruins, traces, echoes, memes, and remixes—critically empower a history of the present.

Watch American Rubble

We will conclude the program with an opening of the temporary exhibition American Rubble: Micromonuments, featuring works by Mellon Creative Resident Stephanie Syjuco and students from Haverford College.

Sponsored by the John B. Hurford '60 Center for the Arts and Humanities and the Mellon Creative Residencies Program, in collaboration with professors Paul Farber (Haverford College), Andrew Friedman (Haverford College), and Sharon Ullman (Bryn Mawr College).


Tuesday, December 2nd

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4:30 p.m.

American Rubble: An Introduction
Artist Talk by Mellon Creative Resident Stephanie Syjuco, Assistant Professor of Art, University of California, Berkeley
Chase Auditorium

Friday, December 5th

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9:30 a.m.

Stokes 102

10:00 a.m.

Introductory Remarks
Paul Farber, Postdoctoral Writing Fellow, Haverford College
Stokes 102

10:15 a.m.

Panel 1: Rubble and Ruins
Stokes 102

Susanne Slavick, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Art, Carnegie Mellon University

RUINS: Tracking Time: Documenting American Ruins
Camilo José Vergara, Author, American Ruins

Moderator: Sharon Ullman, Professor of History, Bryn Mawr College
Introductions: Amanda Robiolio '17 and Zacharia Alden '17

12:00 p.m.

Multicultural Center, Stokes 106

1:15 p.m.

Panel 2 : Release and Remix
Stokes 102

RELEASE: Teenpop: The Rubble Consensus
Joshua Clover, Professor of English, University of California, Davis

REMIX: 'Her Voice Wasn't Was (What Is?)': Nina Simone, Nostalgia and the Post-9/11 Politics of Freedom
Salamishah Tillet, Associate Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania

Moderator: Andrew Friedman, Assistant Professor of History, Haverford College
Introductions: Jacob Sweeney '17 and Amira Abujbara '17

3:00 p.m.

Coffee Break

3:15 p.m.

Stokes 102

Moderator: Paul Farber, Postdoctoral Writing Fellow, Haverford College

5:00 p.m.

First Friday @ Haverford: American Rubble: Micromonuments

A Temporary Exhibition Organized by Mellon Creative Resident Stephanie Syjuco
The Old Gym

Featuring work by Mellon Creative Resident Stephanie Syjuco; students in the Haverford College courses “Memory, Monuments, and Urban Space” and “Cultural Approaches to Divided Cities” (Paul Farber, Writing Program), and “Walter Benjamin on Lancaster Avenue” (Andrew Friedman, History); and additional collaboration with the Barbara and Edward Netter Center for Community Partnerships at the University of Pennsylvania.

Temporary Exhibition

For one evening only, Guggenheim Fellowship Award-winning sculptor Stephanie Syjuco will take over Haverford’s Old Gym to present American Rubble: Micromonuments, to construct an archive of urban memory that repurposes rubble and debris from Lancaster Avenue and tells the story of our current moment of economic change.

Joining her in the project are students from the Haverford College courses “Memory, Monuments, and Urban Space” and “Cultural Approaches to Divided Cities” (Paul Farber, Writing Program) and “Walter Benjamin on Lancaster Avenue” (Andrew Friedman, History), and additional collaborators from the Barbara and Edward Netter Center for Community Partnerships at the University of Pennsylvania.

Learn more about the work of Stephanie Syjuco:
The Counterfeit Crochet Project The Counterfeit Crochet Project Shadowshop Shadowshop Shadowshop COPYSTAND COPYSTAND FREE TEXTS RAIDERS The International Orange Commemorative Store The International Orange Commemorative Store Particulate Matter Particulate Matter Empire Other Empire Other Ornament and Crime Villa Savoye Cargo Cults Dazzle Camouflage Cargo Cults Dazzle Camouflage


Joshua Clover

Joshua Clover is the author of two books of poetry and two of cultural history and theory: The Matrix (British Film Institute 2005) and 1989: Bob Dylan Didn't Have This to Sing About (University of California 2009). His new book of poetry, Red Epic, is forthcoming from Commune Editions (spring 2015) and a book on the political economy of struggle, Of Riot, will be published by Verso in spring 2016. His column "Pop & Circumstance" appears monthly in The Nation, and he has recently completed collaborative work with Jasper Bernes, Aaron Benanav, Juliana Spahr, Chris Chen, Annie McClanahan, and Chris Nealon. He is a professor of English Literature at the University of California Davis; in Spring, he will convene a Residential Research Group on culture and finance capital at the University of California Humanities Research Institute.

Susanne Slavick

Susanne Slavick is an artist, curator and the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Art at Carnegie Mellon University. She edited Out of Rubble (Charta, 2011) featuring over 40 international artists who respond to the aftermath of war. Subsequently, she has curated several exhibits on related topics including No Glory at Form + Content in Minneapolis, Cutting Losses at UNC Chapel Hill’s Alcott Gallery, OUT OF RUBBLE that is traveling across the country to eight venues through 2015, and Unloaded that premieres at SPACE in Pittsburgh in 2015. She was co-founder of 10 Years + Counting, an online resource developed to exposing the costs of a decade of senseless war and promoting a shift in national priorities toward peace through the arts. Slavick exhibits internationally, with recent solo shows at the Chicago Cultural Center, McDonough Museum in Youngstown, Accola Griefen Gallery in New York, and Bernstein Gallery at Princeton University. Slavick studied at Yale University, Jagiellonian University in Krakow, and Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Rome and Philadelphia. Her work has been recognized through fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. She has published articles in: Cairo: Images of Transition (transcript Verlag 2013); Cultural Heritage and Arts Review; Cultural Politics; Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies; Guernica: A Magazine of Art & Politics; and AlterNet.

Stephanie Syjuco

Stephanie Syjuco creates large-scale spectacles of collected cultural objects, cumulative archives, and temporary vending installations, often with an active public component that invites viewers to participate directly as producers or distributors. Working primarily in sculpture and installation, her projects leverage open-source systems, shareware logic, and flows of capital in order to investigate issues of economies and empire. This has included starting a global collaborative project with crochet crafters to counterfeit high-end consumer goods; presenting a parasitic art counterfeiting event, "COPYSTAND: An Autonomous Manufacturing Zone" for Frieze Projects, London (2009); and “Shadowshop,” an alternative vending outlet embedded at The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art exploring the ways in which artists are navigating the production, consumption, and dissemination of their work (2010-11). She is currently collaborating with the FLACC workplace for visual artists in Genk, Belgium on a new body of works utilizing 3-D scanning of Belgian and Congolese antiquities to produce hybrid ceramic objects addressing the legacy of colonialism, empire, and trade routes.

Born in the Philippines, she received her MFA from Stanford University and BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. She is the recipient of a 2014 Guggenheim Fellowship Award and a 2009 Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters and Sculptors Grant. Her work has been shown nationally and internationally and has been included in exhibitions at MoMA PS1; the Whitney Museum of American Art; SFMOMA; ZKM Center for Art and Media, Germany; Z33 House of Contemporary Art, Belgium; Universal Studios Gallery Beijing; the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston; and the California Biennial at the Orange County Museum of Art, among others. In 2007 she led counterfeiting workshops in Istanbul and in 2009 contributed proxy sculptures for MOMA P.S. 1's joint exhibition 1969. Recently, she has expanded into the curatorial field with the exhibition Lossy at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts and has essays included in the forthcoming Journal of Design Strategies published by Parsons The New School for Design and within a book on alternative art education to be published by Phaidon Press.

A long-time educator, she has taught at Stanford University, California College of the Arts, the San Francisco Art Institute, Mills College, Carnegie Mellon University, and she has most recently joined the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley, in January 2014 as an Assistant Professor in Sculpture. At Berkeley she is working to expand a conceptual and materials-based pedagogy, combining methods of the handcrafted with digital technologies and social engagement in order to speak of the frictions within late-capitalist society. She currently serves on the Board of Directors at the Headlands Center for the Arts and lives and works in San Francisco.

Salamishah Tillet

As a feminist scholar and writer, Dr. Salamishah Tillet has spent her career championing the rights and voices of our most vulnerable citizens. Nominated by Glamour magazine as a “Women of the Year” and named as one of the “Top 50 Global Leaders Ending Violence Against Children” by the Together for Girls’ Safe magazine and America’s “Top Leaders Under 30” by Ebony, she has appeared on the BBC, CNN, MSNBC, and NPR, written for The Chicago Tribune, The Guardian, and The Root and regularly blogs for The Nation. Currently, she is an associate professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania and has faculty appointments in the Africana Studies and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies.

In 2003, Salamishah and her sister, Scheherazade Tillet, co-founded A Long Walk Home, Inc., a non-profit that uses art therapy and the visual and performing arts to end violence against all girls and women – which Gloria Steinem describes as “a gift” that “beautifully blends art, policy, and grassroots organizing to empower our most vulnerable and voiceless Americans.” Salamishah was also an associate producer of Aishah Shahidah Simmons’s groundbreaking “NO! The Rape Documentary” and featured in the award-winning “Rape Is. . .” by Cambridge Documentary Films.

She is the author of Sites of Slavery: Citizenship and Racial Democracy in the Post-Civil Rights Imagination (Duke University Press, 2012), a book that Henry Louis Gates, Jr. calls “an original contribution” and “a dazzling analysis of the many ways slavery lives in the contemporary imagination and colors our past, present, and future.” In 2011, she wrote the liner notes for the three-time Grammy-award winning album, Wake Up!, by John Legend and The Roots. In 2011, she co-presented at TedxWomen with Gloria Steinem and in 2013, she published “Gloria Steinem: The Kindle Singles Interview” with Amazon. She is currently working on a book on the Civil Rights icon, Nina Simone.

She earned her Ph.D. in the History of American Civilization and A.M. in English and American Literature from Harvard University and her Masters in the Art of Teaching from Brown University. She has her B.A. in English and African American Studies from the University of Pennsylvania, from which she graduated Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa.

In 2010, she was awarded the Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Award for Distinguished Teaching by an Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania. In 2010-11, she was the recipient of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation Fellow for Career Enhancement and served as a visiting fellow at the Center of African American Studies at Princeton University. In 2013-14, she was an inaugural member of the Project of the Advancement of Our Common Humanity think tank at New York University and was a Scholar-in-Residence at the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

Camilo José Vergara

For more than four decades I have devoted myself to photographing and documenting the poorest and most segregated communities in urban America. I feel that a people’s past, including their accomplishments, aspirations and failures, are reflected less in the faces of those who live in these neighborhoods than in the material, built environment in which they move and modify over time. Photography for me is a tool for continuously asking questions, for understanding the spirit of a place, and, as I have discovered over time, for loving and appreciating cities.

My focus is on established East Coast cities such as New York, Newark and Camden; rust belt cities of the Midwest such as Detroit and Chicago; and Los Angeles and Richmond, California. I have photographed urban America systematically, frequently returning to re-photograph these cities over time. Along the way I became a historically conscious documentarian, an archivist of decline, a photographer of walls, buildings, and city blocks. Bricks, signs, trees, and sidewalks have spoken to me the most truthfully and eloquently about urban reality.

I did not want to limit the scope of my documentation to places and scenes that captured my interest merely because they immediately resonated with my personality. In my struggle to make as complete and objective a portrait of American inner cities as I could, I developed a method to document entire neighborhoods and then return year after year to re-photograph the same places over time and from different heights, blanketing entire communities with images. Studying my growing archive, I discover fragments of stories and urban themes in need of definition and further exploration. Wishing to keep the documentation open, I include places such as empty lots, which as segments of a sequence become revealing. I observe photographic sequences to discover how places evolve, and to formulate questions. I write down observations, interview residents and scholars, and make comparisons with similar photographs I had taken in other cities. Photographs taken from different levels and angles, with perspective-corrected lenses, form a dense web of images, a visual record of these neighborhoods over time.

My photographic archive of poor, minority communities across the country evolved over decades. The stages can be divided according to the film and type of camera used. In the early 1970s, as a street photographer who focused on people, I used High Speed Ektachrome. Then, as I concentrated on time-lapse photography of the urban fabric, I turned to Kodachrome 64, a stable color film that came out in the mid-1970s. In combination with a small 35 mm camera, it provided me with the medium speed and fine grain emulsion appropriate for creating a lasting archive of buildings and city blocks. After it was discontinued in 2010, Fujichrome Provia 100 became my film of choice. I have used it concurrently with digital photography since 2005. For quick access to my collection I have made a selection of 2,500 digital images and archived them using Adobe LightRoom, which provides a system for organizing my digital collection according to place, time and subjects. It is also invaluable for gathering images to update, as well as to prepare articles, books and exhibitions.

After 2000 my documentation entered a new phase. I began to do web searches of words, themes, and addresses. With a simple search on Google for a particular location, I was able to find newspaper and magazine articles, religious pamphlets, student papers, announcements for conferences, and political meetings that enriched the context of my research and prompted me to ask fresh questions and take new photographs. I discovered information about people who lived in the locations I photographed, read about events such as crimes, fires, and stores and institutions coming in or abandoning the area, and learned about historical events that had taken place nearby. After the appearance of Google Maps (2005) and Google Street View (2007), these became important research tools, allowing me to revisit the locations of my photographs and to go beyond the frames of the images to explore the streets around them. Whenever in doubt about the location of an image, I search for the correct address with Google Satellite or Street View.

I am a builder of virtual cities. I think of my images as bricks that, when placed next to each other, reveal shapes and meanings of neglected urban communities.


Paul Farber

Paul Farber is a scholar of American and Urban Studies. He is currently a Postdoctoral Writing Fellow at Haverford College. Farber has a PhD in American Culture from the University of Michigan. Farber's research focuses on American cultural histories of the Berlin Wall and urban memory projects in Philadelphia. His current book project is a study of representations of the Berlin Wall in American art, literature, and popular culture from 1961 to the present. He is also curating the exhibition, The Wall in Our Heads: American Artists and the Berlin Wall for the Goethe-Institut Washington DC in Fall 2014, and is co-curator of the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage-funded public history project, Monument Lab: Creative Speculations for Philadelphia in Spring 2015.

He has contributed essays and helped produce several photography books including This Is the Day: The March on Washington (Getty Publications, 2013), a new critical edition of Made in Germany (Steidl Verlag, 2013), and Kodachrome Memory: American Pictures 1972–1990 (powerHouse, 2013). He is the co-editor of a special issue of the journal Criticism on HBO's series, The Wire (2010).