The following text was collectively drafted by collaborators of the City Panorama team in the Philadelphia Assembled project. in.site had the privilege of being part of this team and co-designing the process and outcomes of the mural itself. This piece contextualizes the mural. It was originally published on Philadelphia Assembled's website.
“Maps are everywhere around us, ever present to help us navigate both public and personal geographies, or orient ourselves in communal and universal landscapes. But all maps come with an agenda—as much as maps can reveal about a place or idea, maps also have the power to hide or distort truths.”
-Black Quantum Futurism
This city panorama visualizes the complex network of people, histories, and aesthetics that is PHLA. Each panel suggests a new framework through which to see the shifting landscape of the city, addressing the histories that are often made invisible by dominant systems and linear understandings of time. These range in scale from the personal, to the local, to the global. Through a number of scheduled panorama workshops, we invite collaborators and visitors to contribute to the artwork and continue to fill in what’s missing. What would you add?
The museum phase of Philadelphia Assembled hosts a large-scale indoor city panorama in the atrium space outside the Perelman galleries. This panorama holds layers of soft data (personal narratives), local data (geographical information/policy), and connective metadata that reflects global and geographic systemic issues. Reflecting the urgencies and relationships of collaborators from each of the project’s organizing “atmospheres” - Futures, Sovereignty, Reconstructions, Sanctuary, and Movement - the panorama presents images of resilience from across the city. In addition to providing information, it is also conceived as a platform for ongoing discovery, learning, and relationship building and will continue to evolve over the course of the museum phase of the project. Regularly scheduled workshops will offer the opportunity to continue to “deconstruct global, national, and local events, policies, and actions in relation to people power and acts of resistance/resilience across time, in order to reconstitute our collective histories.” Situated in the physical corridor of Perelman Building, the panorama provides context for the interweaving issues embodied within the project’s atmosphere, serving as a place of passage and learning as visitors enter into the galleries.
In this way, the panorama introduces PHLA visitors and participants to a spatial, non-linear, sense of history and future. These are neither comprehensive nor static images and narratives of our time, but rather serve as a collection of dates derived from collaborators and project discussions, each entry a starting point for a conversation about our city’s history and experiences. While they depict actual events in history, we recognize that the ‘gaps’ between these dates are of equal importance, and such ‘gaps’ should be filled in with your own personal or historical acts of resistance or resilience.
The panorama was conceived by PHLA initiating artist Jeanne van Heeswijk, in collaboration with graphic designers Jason Killinger and Janneke Absil, Movement editor Shari Hersh, illustrators Charlyn Griffith of Wholistic Arts and Bri Barton of Everybody Colors, along with concept design framework, research, and mapping from Larissa Begault, Rania Dalloul, Nora Elmarzouky, and Sara Minard of in•site collaborative.
Each panel is dedicated to reflecting one of the five atmospheres that make up Philadelphia Assembled, with the exception of Sovereignty, which covers two panels to account for histories of Land and Economic Sovereignty. Aligning the City Panorama with the project-wide graphic, font, and colors, the color of each panel is atmosphere-specific: green reflects Futures, purple is Sovereignty, red is Reconstructions, and Yellow is Sanctuary. These panels are grounded in both the concepts of the atmosphere, as well as the geographic section of Philadelphia where public programming in the city-wide phase (spring 2017) took place. The atmosphere concepts are reflected through the multi-scalar timelines, data mapping, collaborator and partner mapping, and illustrations from the artist collaborators of the project.
Timeline + Defining Scales of Time
Each panel has four scales of timelines consisting of key moments in global, national, and local history as related to the atmosphere, and a fourth timeline that charts “acts of resistance + resilience” (also interpreted as “Acts of Life” or “People Power”) flowing along the river. The timelines along the bottom of each panel provide a context that may have influenced, impacted, reacted to or led to the chosen acts of resistance and resilience - both directly and indirectly. Some of these dates are celebrated as positive steps towards inclusion and/or outcomes of the power of resistance. Other dates describe the events, policies, theories, and organizations that are repressive and harmful toward communities, which also presents a context for communities’ resilience. These timelines were largely determined by listening to the conversations of the PHLA project, which required attending meetings, programming, and sifting through the documentation and research that has been gathered since the project’s conception in 2013. Presenting scales (or layers) of time together and alongside the other components that make up each panel demonstrates how space and time are interrelated and connected social constructs and sites of struggle to reconstitute a multi-narrative, collective history.
Each scale of time for this project can be understood as follows:
Global: key dates, events, policies, theories, organizations that exist or occurred outside of the political boundaries of the United States of America as related to the atmosphere.
National: key dates, events, policies, theories, and people that exist or occurred on the federal level or occurred outside of the State of Pennsylvania. This can include acts carried out on a national scale by individuals “sanctioned” by the national government.
Local: key dates, events, policies, theories, and people that exist or occurred by or within the State of Pennsylvania, including those specific to the City of Philadelphia. This can include acts carried out by individuals in the State of Pennsylvania “sanctioned” by federal, state, or city government.
People power: acts of resistance, resilience, and life related to the five PHLA “atmospheres” and their related concepts and collaborators that tells a “story of radical community building and active resistance through personal and collective narratives.” They are moments that cross all scales of time.
Some dates are repeated on more than one panel or described differently according to the atmosphere. When experiencing the Panorama and timelines, you may decide that a date could/should be listed on a different scale or dates could/should be added or taken away, depending on your personal experience and community history. We welcome your engagement and dialogue on decolonizing historical narratives in planned workshops, with other audience members, and online.
Orientation of the Map of Philadelphia
The map of Philadelphia is to scale and is reconfigured according to where public programming took place for each project atmosphere. The river that flows throughout each panel can help orient which direction the map of Philadelphia is facing, as it does not follow the traditional compass. The green Mobile Futures Institute bus route (from the Futures atmosphere) also runs through each panel, as a means to orient the map and continuously reimagine (and re-orient) our futures. The map highlights collaborator-specific organizations, important sites, and publicly accessible data as related to each atmosphere, such as cooperative businesses, schools, prisons, redlining maps, historical watershed, and so much more.
Stories of Illustrations
The illustrations for the panels described below give supremacy to the life-affirming practices of communities involved and uplifted in/by the project. We acknowledge that prior to the colonization of land, peoples, and systems there were symbiotic relationships among indigenous cultures that must be included in all timekeeping. The drawings, like the data, are not exhaustive. We have drawn from the hope, science, and facts in stories from collaborators. The composition of the images give supremacy to narratives that indicate a dream for the future, sovereign systems, the ability reconstruct broken things and outdated ideas along with the safe keeping of life and resources not as reactions to colonialism, but the lives lived prior to its deep impacts.
Futures - A world that is decolonized and embraces, protects and honors the balance of masculinity and femininity in all beings. Gender, race, and class are remembered at useless constructs. The water is our source of life, and we affirm it’s livelihood as well. Our bodies, like the water, are clean of disease, and able to assimilate changes to its molecular structures easily without harm. It is a world where travel is easy and living beings, human and otherwise are safe to move around or stay put and live in harmony.
Sovereignty Land - We recognize that, in earth-based living, there is enough for all of us.
These two sides of this atmosphere are united through the cycle of birth, life, and death. We embrace this cycle, we accept the necessity of the passing of life through and to new forms.
Sovereignty Economics - We have our ways of surviving and thriving; both above and underground there is currency running through us.
Reconstructions - The expectation for any peoples is Mass freedom. We have built a new system for restoring justice to individuals and groups. Individuals and groups that have histories marred by systemic oppression have been vindicated and we have healed, generations to come celebrate the path that these people and groups have cleared for collective movement.
Sanctuary - The world is safe now. The cacophony of voices singing and saying their needs in unison are harmonious, and flow together like the waters. We remember that we are water beings, living on and of the land, listening and communing, feeding sameness and learning other people’s needs, not their differences. We prepare communal spaces for hearing. We are all fed and able to rest well from our meaningful work of living.
As visitors join us for any of the upcoming programs you are invited to add to the images or data presented in this panorama. You can also share your thoughts, comments, and additions digitally by filling out this form.
The Philadelphia Assembled City Panorama was produced with the support of the Philadelphia Assembled collaborators and their communities, Philadelphia Museum of Art and Mural Arts Philadelphia.