Make Ecologies Strange:
to trouble “commonsense” ecologies in order to expose exclusions, settler histories, violences, politics.
“Make Ecologies Strange” is a multimedia exhibit highlighting twelve breaching experiments and art installations intended to provoke and trouble “commonsense” ecologies in and around the University of Pennsylvania campus in Philadelphia.
Breaching experiments were pioneered by sociologist Harold Garfinkel, who had his students perform experiments to make evident certain social assumptions that usually go unnoticed. But what happens, we ask, when we include the more-than-human in the social?
In the Spring of 2023 we gathered as a class called “Ecologies of Belonging” at the University of Pennsylvania to trouble commonsense ecologies, the everyday places that we inhabit without question.
In this group photo Dr. Rachel Cypher and students posed with one week’s worth of trash that we collected to experience what it would be like if we did not have waste management facilities that we take for granted.
From left to right top row: Adrien Wilson-Thompson, Trevor Arellano, Nora Wang, Jewan Goo, Madeline Ahola, Christin Clyburn, Amanda Sweeney
Left to right bottom row: Rachel Cypher, Anna Hochman, Clara Secaira, Victoria Antoinette Megens, Maira Asif, Lia Enriquez
We approached this question with socio-environmental justice in mind.
Students sought to describe the way the living world interacts with us, as in Ahola’s “Trees See Too,” and to make evident the displacement of native plants with nonnative plants as a project of Indigenous displacement, as in Enriquez’s “William Hamilton Killed Lenapehoking.” Sweeney describes UPenn’s complicit and violent removal of Black Bottom residents, while Megens highlights the nature of survival through a lone Red Pine near the railroad tracks.
We encourage you to explore and click through on each installation and experiment and to be inspired to never take the ecologies around you for granted.
Lia Enriquez — “Seed (Bombs) of Change: How William Hamilton Killed Lenapehoking and Imagining a Botanical Resistance”
Originally from Quito, Ecuador, Lia Enriquez is an undergraduate student at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in Environmental Studies and minoring in Political Science and Latin American Studies. She is passionate about climate change impacts in Latin American...
Christin Clyburn — “Philadelphia’s Green Spaces Appear Natural Up-Close, but Artificial from Afar”
Christin Clyburn is a rising senior majoring in Economics and minoring in Sustainability & Environmental Management. She is from Washington, D.C. Person A Person B Person C For her breaching experiment, she guided park visitors through an observational exercise...
Maira Asif — “Pakistan’s Sugar Mill Mafia is a Legacy of Colonial Rule”
Maira Asif is a rising senior majoring in medical anthropology. She is from Northeast Philadelphia. For her art installation, she chose to work with cardboard, wood, fake blood and different forms of sugar, starting with small packets commonly found in dining...
Clara Secaira — “Sugar Maple Trees Tell Stories of Belonging in Philadelphia”
Clara Secaira is a first year PhD student in Anthropology. She is from Guatemala. For her art-based project, she chose to do a video showing a compilation of photographs that were taken by herself between August 2022 and May 2023. By documenting the seasonal changes...
Trevor Arellano — “The River is Alive Within Us”
Trevor is a rising senior at the University of Pennsylvania double majoring in Anthropology and Health and Societies. Trevor is from Lawrence, Kansas Meditation Begin by finding a comfortable and quiet place where you can sit or lie down preferably next to a...
Adrien Wilson-Thompson — “Urban Students Deserve to Breathe”
Adrien Wilson-Thompson is a rising senior majoring in Anthropology. She is from Maryland. For her art installation, she chose to work with natural earth mineral paint and found rocks. She constructed the installation at the James G. Kaskey Memorial Park (Bio...
Amanda Sweeney — “Universities Create Community by Displacing Communities”
Amanda Sweeney is a Junior at the University of Pennsylvania from Philadelphia, PA. She studies Political Science with minors in Environmental Studies and Survey Research & Data Analytics. The “High Rise Field Before Penn” art installation draws the...
Anna Hochman — “The Dead Don’t Stay Buried”
Anna Hochman is a sophomore Urban Studies major from San Francisco. For her art installation, she worked with cotton ribbon and biodegradable twine. The installation is located on one of the Woodlands’ oak trees in order to call attention to the extraordinary merging...
Madeline Aloha — “Trees See Too”
Trees in front of Van Pelt library, 35mm film photo by author “[Landscapes] are linked to multiple histories and rhythms that can help us escape from thinking of nature or history as singular” (5) Many urban college campuses are designed with...
Nora Wang — “Rivers Defy Design”
Nora Wang is from Nashville, Tennessee. She’s currently a rising junior studying anthropology in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania. The river flows from the Appalachian Mountains to the Delaware, curving and twisting like a blue...
Victoria Antoinette Megens — “Recognizing Resilience with Red Pine No. 2012-8349*A”
Photographs and Text by Victoria, 1st Year MFA Candidate, The Weitzman School of Design at the University of Pennsylvania Pace and Emerging Worlds Each day on my way to the University of Pennsylvania, I cross the Walnut Street Bridge from the East side of Philadelphia...
Jewan Goo — “The Yoshino Cherry Tree Is A Political Weapon for Imposing Imperial Identity”
Jewan Goo is a 2nd year MFA candidate. He is from Seoul, South Korea. For his art-based engagement, the artist reconstructs Korean histories that have only existed in written form, spanning from the Japanese colonial period to the present day, by creating dioramas...
The following land acknowledgement is written by Madeline Ahola:
It is important to acknowledge the life that resides on stolen land and the long history that has brought it here.
The first written emergence story of the Lenape begins with a Turtle and the earth that formed on its back. The first tree grew on this earth, and then came its first sprouts. The sprouts then became the first Man and Woman, from which the People came to be. The Lenape coexisted with the land, taking advantage of its tillable land and fishing access. They used natural resources to build homes and often situated themselves along rivers and creeks. In 1682, William Penn settled on Lenape lands because it was guaranteed to him by the King of England, Charles II. Although William Penn established relationships of goodwill with the Lenape, after his death, his son, Thomas Penn, created the Walking Purchase of 1737, a deceitful plan to trick the Lenape into selling most of their land.
As of 2010, around 13,000 residents of Philadelphia identify as Native American. Today, Lenape, Cherokee, Navajo, Cree, Seminole, and Creek tribe descendants remain in Philadelphia.
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