TESTING GROUNDS is an exhibition and series of happenings taking place throughout Cherry Street Pier and Race Street Pier along the Philadelphia Waterfront. This diverse group of Philadelphia-based emerging artists is engaged with "the public" as an unfixed site that can and should be constantly re-imagined and reconfigured.
This exhibition offers a way to see and experience art while maintaining physical distancing. As this exhibition is being held while the risk of Covid is still high, most of the performances will not be advertised in order to prevent large gatherings. Encounters will primarily be a matter of chance. Note, masks are required for those entering Cherry Street Pier and Race Street Pier; please be mindful of others and the artists, and practice physical distancing.
We acknowledge that the land on which we gather and make work are the ancestral lands of the Lenni Lenape people, whose presence and resilience in Pennsylvania continues to this day. We take this opportunity to honor the original caretakers of this land and recognize the histories of land theft, violence, erasure, and oppression that has brought our exhibition here.
Care for your public.
TESTING GROUNDS is curated by Austen Camille and Alexandria Nazar
Testing Grounds brings a diverse group of 20 emerging Philadelphia artists and collectives into conversation with the public spaces of Cherry Street Pier and Race Street Pier. The artists are engaged with 'the public' as an unfixed site that holds infinite realities. It is a place that can and should be constantly re-imagined and reconfigured.
Each of the artists is tackling the large and unwieldy subject of 'the public' in remarkable, thoughtful ways. They raise questions about historical use of public space, concerns about the current intersection of identity and public, and they posit dreams and visions of a new public. They aim to interject surprise or discomfort or wonder into these spaces. Each artist is asking: how do we share space with those we do not know, and how do we want to shape these spaces? The artists were given minimal direction and maximum opportunity to imagine their practice in a larger context, both spatially and in terms of audience. The result is a wide array of site-specific happenings and installations alongside works of art placed throughout the adjacent piers.
The original opening date of Testing Grounds was in mid-March 2020, with performances and interactive artworks planned to bring passerby into direct relationships with artists. The world has changed since then, and the notion of a public space has changed since then. We are enduring a pandemic whose consequences are overwhelming. The murder of George Floyd feels to be a tipping point in systemic police brutality against the Black community. Underlying injustices are being openly confronted, all of the cracks in all of the systems have been exposed, and that which was ignored can no longer be overlooked. The state of our public spaces feels uncertain - perhaps they have never felt certain. Who have they been for, who are they for, who will they be for? How many of us can occupy them safely? Indeed, can we occupy them safely? How about with joy or thoughtfulness?
With this in mind, Testing Grounds was and still is about artists and 'the public' asking our shared spaces to support experimentation, consideration and curiosity. Ultimately, this project aims to provide a platform for emerging artists to realize ideas that belong in a public space.
Please join us for a month of encounters.
ABOUT THE CURATORS:
Austen Camille (she/her) is an artist, curator, carpenter and arts organizer currently based between Alvin, TX, and Philadelphia, PA. Camille received her MFA in painting at the Tyler School of Art and Architecture, Temple University, in 2020. Her practice attempts to reconcile her own itinerant state as it relates to land ecology, and is informed by and intertwined with her work as a carpenter and land steward. The intersection between construction, land(scape), utility, and people’s desire to both care for and control their spaces is the result of growing up in her family’s hardware store and garden center. She is invested in creating diverse, transdisciplinary spaces for dialogue in all facets of her practice. To see her work, visit: www.austencamille.com
Alexandria Nazar (she/her) is a painter and maker from San Francisco, CA who currently resides in Philadelphia, PA. Her work explores how cooking and food preparation can act as a space of self-definition and connection. Using the role of a caretaker and an observer of traditions, Nazar contemplates the gendered expectations inherited while being in these domestic spaces and repurposes them as tools for understanding. Residencies include MASS MOCA in North Adams, MA and the Chautauqua School of Art in Chautauqua, NY. Nazar received her BA in Fine Arts and History from UC Davis in Davis, CA and her MFA from Tyler School of Art and Architecture, Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. To see her work, visit: www.alexandrianazar.com
Please visit the artist pages for more information about works in the exhibition: