Creating a floating monument to the Schuylkill River and the refinery on its banks became an act of service by gathering as much trash as possible. In the process of building the monument, we removed litter from the riverbanks. From discarded bottles, boxes, pens, and plastic, we built a replica of the segment of river that runs between Bartram’s and the refinery. The refinery’s pipelines and towers has become irreversibly incorporated into the riverine landscape. While lacking the foreboding of the refinery’s vast infrastructure, Bartram’s garden also deliberately shapes the riverbanks, if in a less visibly manufactured way. Though we barely made a dent in the plastic and styrofoam along the river, the ritual or performance of picking up trash allowed us to meaningfully interact with the river.
After finding a dead goose on the banks of the Schuylkill we decided to build a monument to the life of birds in the area. We wanted to envision the future possibility of bird, specifically heron, evolution in response to pollution, litter etc. along the Schuylkill River bank. We chose the heron because it was one of the birds that we had seen in our time on the river and we depict the impact of change in this bird’s environment. Using the images of birds that had swallowed plastic and glass pieces as inspiration, we used a clear plastic bottle filled with glass. All the materials were found in Bartram’s Garden and were a mix between man-made and natural objects.
This video explores the transformations that the Schuylkill River catalyzes as observed by our group during our time on and around the water. The River continually shifts the shoreline with rising tides, covering and uncovering the banks. These processes occur in a plastic bottle on objects found on the banks, chosen and placed into the bottle by members of our group. Sediment deposited into our bottle obscures the found states of the objects. After repeatedly dipping the bottle into the river, water filtered through holes we cut into the bottle to reveal the altered state of its contents.
Lost and Found is an ode to the shifting tides of the Schuylkill and the objects we may not pay close attention to that reside upon its banks— individual leaves, washed up glass, broken twigs. These objects, lost to our eyes, are found by our fingers, lost again in the sediment and found again by the Schuylkill waters.
After individual brainstorming, we combined all of our ideas: a hanging mobile, a message in a bottle, an extension of infrastructure. Inspired by the banks of the Schuylkill, our ideas continued to change: we wrote letters to the river, dyed string with mulberry juice, tied and hung branches, stones and bottles to create a kind of windchime. Our creation seeks to express itself across multiple senses – from the sound of the knocking parts, to its swaying in the wind, and the smell of various leaves dragged across its structure. The result is an irreverent documentation of a highly precarious construction.