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TESTING GROUNDS is curated by Austen Camille and Alexandria Nazar
Testing Grounds is an exhibition and series of happenings taking place throughout Cherry Street Pier and Race Street Pier along the Philadelphia Waterfront. The diverse group of 20 Philadelphia-based emerging artists and artist collectives is engaged with “the public” as an unfixed site and community 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. Essentially, 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 the tipping point in systemic police brutality against Black people. 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.
Julia Bryck + Kayla Bobalek + Maddie Hopfield | mollie caffey + Serena Hocharoen | Julia Clift | Jazmyn Crosby/Glitter Vomit | ENAensemble + Will Brobston | Julia Gladstone + Emmanuela Soria Ruiz | Cameron Jarvis | Quinton Maldonado | Ana Mosquera | Katherine Lam | Riley Strom | Surya Swilley | Sarah Treharne | YFFY (Connie Fu + Jungmok Yi)
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