During my research experience, I worked under professor and curator Ken Lum on Monument Lab, a public art and history project produced by Mural Arts Philadelphia. Curators Ken Lum and Paul Farber posed the question – what is an appropriate monument for the city of Philadelphia – to 20 artists, and they will respond with temporary monuments placed throughout the city this coming fall (September 16-Novermber 19).
Additionally, Monument Lab also posed the guiding question to members of the public at interactive pop-up “laboratories” throughout Philadelphia. My research focused primarily on the civic engagement facet of Monument Lab – I solicited submissions of monument ideas from both visitors of and locals to Philadelphia, and learned much about the way our city is viewed through the eyes of others. Key themes such as food, community, and a focus on Philadelphia’s environment emerged again and again in public submissions, and I really enjoyed researching through interpersonal interactions. Before my CURF experience, I had not considered pursuing research in this way, and I am grateful to have been granted the opportunity to discover something new.
As a part of the Monument Lab team, I also assisted in research of the physical spaces in which the monuments will be placed. Artist Hans Haacke requested information regarding the plot of land where his monument will reside, and I wound up on a mission of sorts in Philadelphia’s City Hall, visiting the both the Mapping and Deeds offices to track down the necessary documents. I’d never before done research outside of using the library or the internet, so I found this task especially exciting! I learned so much about the city of Philadelphia through my interactions with its people and places through my research experience, as well as various aspects of curation of a public art event.