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Our Imaginary Archive

The Think Tank was recently invited to to participate in Imaginary Archive, an ongoing project organized by Gregory Scholette. The project is a collection of real and fictional printed materials documenting a future “whose past never arrived,” according to Scholette.

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This iteration will be presented as a part of an exhibition, “Traces in the Dark,” curated by Liz Park at the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania. The exhibition runs from February 4th to March 22nd. We hope you’ll take the trip to come see our contribution.

For our part, we’ve created a collection of materials about the fictional public art project, psychylustro II, undertaken by the Mural Arts Program. Some background on the collection:

In 2014, Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program installed a public art project called psychylustro along the northeast Amtrak and Septa rail system. With paint sprayed directly on the ground, vegetation, trees and structures along the rail line, the piece was “conceived as a temporary installation, but [one which] changes over time as the elements gradually reclaim the space.” Mural Arts asks the viewers to “think of it as a real-time landscape painting, where the ever-evolving city is the canvas and your window is the frame.”

Fast forward to 2018. The City of Philadelphia and particularly the local school district have (again) come under significant financial stress. As a strategy to create revenue, the city starts selling parcels of land in Fairmount Park. The Wissahickon Creek Trail soon comes under threat and the Mural Arts Program partners with several other city agencies to install psychylustro II in the park. The express goal of the project is to generate additional revenue for the park system through a series of exclusive tours and related touristic packages. The second iteration of the public art project involves spraying water-based paints on the banks of the creek and on some of the historic WPA-era structures that are in disrepair.

This collection is contained in the archives of the University of Pennsylvania and was donated by the Friends of the Wissahickon, an organization which for several decades has been the caretaker of the Wissahickon Creek and its trails. Objects included in the archive have been gathered from the sites of both the original psychylustro and subsequent psychylustro II. The documents include (real) history and correspondence surrounding the Mural Arts Program, from its early history as an anti-graffiti initiative up until the (fictional) 2018 installation of psychylustro II.

Here is some background on the Imaginary Archive project. Past contributions to the archive can be viewed here.

Visualizing the Structures of Support (Prototype)

One of the goals of the Structures of Support work is to give people the opportunity to understand and visualize their own personal support structures — the people and resources they have or do not have. We’ve developed a questionnaire, conducted interviews, created a large-scale community assets map, and had many conversations with this goal in mind. In our installation of the work at the University of Minnesota, we began to explore the utility of providing people with more physical, three-dimensional tools to help understand the nuances of the structures of support. And now, we’ve begun to prototype and test a set of building pieces that allows participants to model their support structures and see where these are strong, but also weak. Check out some documentation of one of the early tests of this tool here.

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Radical Orations for Nuit Blanche Ottawa+Gatineau

The Think Tank was invited by Canadian artist and curator Michael Davidge to contribute a project to “Nova Express,” an exhibition which happened this weekend during Nuit Blanche Ottawa + Gatineau 2013. Our project, Radical Orations on the Structures of Support from Steinbeck, Washington, and Graeber, revisited the format of an earlier work as a way to distribute publicly performed orations of diverse texts that explore aspects of support, community, education, and power. The texts we’ve pulled include excerpts from John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, Booker T. Washington’s autobiography Up from Slavery, and David Graeber’s recent essay on the possibility revolution.

Public oration draws on histories as diverse as street corner soapboxes, acts of public resistance, and the invocations of self-taught religious leaders. Great orators exert a magnetic force with little more than the resonance of their voices and the gestures of their bodies. With this project, we created mass-produced newspaper insert which would invite Ottawans attending the festival to perform an oration, thus adding to both the spectacle and contemplative moments of Nuit Blanche. The orations provided, gathered from sources not meant to be spoken aloud, continue our examination of the structures of support — and begin with this question: How is it that some get by so well, while others barely get by, or not at all?

To read more about this project, check out a brief interview we did with Apt613, an Ottawa arts and culture blog. To download a copy of the publication, click here.

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Structures of Support: Germantown Assets Mapping Workshop

The Think Tank will be facilitating a series of workshops and conversations as a part of Germantown City Hall, and the first of these will be held on Sunday, May 26, 1-3pm in the workshop room at the Town Hall. We are presenting aspects of Structures of Support in GCH and the goal of Sunday’s workshop will be to begin a large-scale physical map of the many wonderful assets and resources that are available in Germantown. Such resources might be community gardens, homegrown schools, artisans, informal co-ops, and on and on. The map will also help us to visualize where we might be lacking resources so that we can collectively fill these needs. We’ve invite a number of community members with deep experience in the neighborhood who we believe will have important knowledge to contribute as we launch the mapping project. The community asset map will be on display for the duration of Germantown City Hall, and we will be inviting all visitors to add to the map throughout.

Update: We had a great turnout for the workshop, and we generated a lot of data for the map. Stay tuned for more…

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Germantown City Hall Opens!

Thursday saw the opening of Germantown City Hall, our collaboration with Jacob Wick and Information Department which is part of the 2013 Hidden City Festival.

In this project, we are transforming a long-shuttered building known as Germantown Town Hall into a multipurpose public space offering a performance and meeting area, a reading room/lending library, an office/copy center, and workshop room. Residents of Germantown will have free access to City Hall and are invited to schedule meetings, performances, and events in the building. It is our hope that the City Hall become, first and foremost, a civic space in which dialogues amongst and between the citizens of Germantown may occur.

As residents of Germantown, we are thrilled to be working on this project and making this space available to our neighbors. The people we have met over the last few months and the relationships we’ve created have been inspiring and humbling. And we look forward to meeting so many more folks during the next six weeks that the project is open.

To get involved, find out more, or share leads, please contact info@gtowncityhall.net or call us at 575-446-3676. Stop by Germantown City Hall and say hello. Visit the website and online calendar to learn more about the various events happening in the space or to schedule your own events.

Cleaning Up for Germantown City Hall

Preparations are well underway at the Germantown Town Hall for the opening of Germantown City Hall, our collaboration with Jacob Wick and Information Department which is part of the 2013 Hidden City Festival. Last week, we had help from some amazing volunteers and Hidden City staff to begin cleaning the space and moving in donated furniture. As we begin to inhabit the space, the power and possibility suggested by the building becomes more and more clear.

From May 23 – June 30, the Germantown Town Hall building will reopen as Germantown City Hall, a multipurpose public space offering a performance and meeting area, a reading room/lending library, an office/copy center, and workshop room. Residents of Germantown will have free access to City Hall and are invited to schedule meetings, performances, and events in the building. It is our hope that the City Hall become, first and foremost, a civic space in which dialogues amongst and between the citizens of Germantown may occur. To get involved, find out more, or share leads, please contact info@gtowncityhall.net or call us at 575-446-3676.

Structures of Support

Structures of Support is an ongoing, multi-phase project begun in late 2012 by Jeremy Beaudry, Katie Hargrave, and Meredith Warner. In this project we want to develop a clearer understanding of how our support structures are created and maintained, and how we might then work to build more resilient and robust support structures in the future.

Some people have a robust, healthy support structure — so healthy that they are almost unaware of it. Others’ support structures are weak, unhealthy, even non-existent, and that lack of support often puts them at risk. We want to develop a clearer understanding of how our support structures are created and maintained, and how we might then work to build more resilient and robust support structures in the future. We also want to break the mythology of bootstrapping that is so prevalent today and so embedded in the dominant narrative of our culture.

Structures of Support Survey

Based on our recent research and thinking, we have developed a survey which explores support structures—both personal and institutional. As a first step, this survey will provide us a baseline of data and stories. We imagine this information laying the groundwork for future workshops, visualizations, and conversations that probe our structures of support. In the survey we ask questions in four categories: Self Support, Space & Place, Others in your Life, and Quality of Life.

→ Click here to complete the Structures of Support survey

Visualizing the Survey Data

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Much of what we have learned so far in our Structures of Support research — including wall drawings, visualizations, and posters — was displayed in an installation as a part of an exhibition at the Katherine A. Nash Gallery at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis from May 28th – June 15th.

Localizing the Structures of Support

For six weeks in the summer of 2013, we had the opportunity to gather stories and host conversations on the structures of support in the Germantown section of Philadelphia during our project Germantown City Hall for the Hidden City Festival. We brought many community members together in order to map past and current support networks and assets that might otherwise be invisible—things like informal civic groups, clubs, leisure groups, cooperatives, play groups, town watches, community gardens, and the like. Also, we continued to collect responses to the Structures of Support Survey via a paper version of the questionnaire.

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→ We also asked neighborhood residents to reflect on the meaning of civic space for the community. Here are the video recordings of a select number of those interviews.

Related Notes

Structures of Support – We need your help!

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No one makes it through life entirely on her own. Holding up each of us is a structure of support that helps us maintain and nourish our quality of life. Some people have a robust, healthy support structure — so healthy that they are almost unaware of it. Others’ support structures are weak, unhealthy, even non-existent, and that lack of support often puts them at risk.

We want to develop a clearer understanding of how our support structures are created and maintained, and how we might then work to build more resilient and robust support structures in the future. We also want to break the mythology of bootstrapping that is so prevalent today and so embedded in the dominant narrative of our culture. In pursuing these questions, we need your help.

Based on our recent research and thinking, we have developed a survey which explores support structures — both personal and institutional. As the first step in a multi-phase project, this survey will provide us a baseline of data and stories. We imagine this information laying the groundwork for future workshops, visualizations, and conversations that probe our structures of support. In the survey we ask questions in four categories: Self Support, Space & Place, Others in your Life, and Quality of Life. Help us by taking fifteen minutes to share your story. All responses are voluntary and will be kept confidential.

To complete the Structures of Support survey, please follow this link.

What makes the Think Tank the Think Tank?

There are a million ways to narrate the past, and the Think Tank, like most collective ventures has a complex and varied history. As we explore the possible futures of our work we grapple with these two questions:

What makes the Think Tank the Think Tank?
and
What is the Think Tank now?

Looking to the past is rarely a way to plan for the future, but we hope these questions and subsequent conversations provide context and a location from which to depart.

Listen here for our responses:

What makes the Think Tank the Think Tank?

 

What is the Think Tank now?

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We Are The Think Tank that has yet to be named

Over the last year, we have spent a considerable amount of time mining our history and discussing the possible futures of our collaboration. This website redesign and a reinvigorated practice are the results of that exploration. We are excited to begin working on new projects that continue to investigate complex sociopolitical issues through research, conversations, and actions.

This new website is also a nod to our past. The Think Tank began in 2006, and though our concerns have remained somewhat constant, the working structure and membership of the Think Tank has varied over our 6+ years. With this redesign we have removed the directorship titles, allowing visibility of our past collaborators in a way that we hope honors the challenging and enlightening perspectives they brought to our practice.

We can’t wait to share our developing projects with you. Take a look around. Join our mailing list. We hope you’ll be in touch.