On June 11th at 4:00 PM interdisciplinary artist Martha McDonald collaborates with David Brick to take audiences on a journey through the grounds of Andalusia, the historic Biddle family estate on the banks of the Delaware River. Andalusia was built in response to the 1793 Yellow Fever epidemic in Philadelphia, in which 10% of the city’s 50,000 inhabitants died and another 20,000 fled within a two-month period. Yellow Fever refugees were denied entry to neighboring towns as well as the major port cities of New York and Baltimore. When the epidemic passed, people with means built homes away from the center of the city. Nicholas Biddle was wealthy enough to make his new home upstream on beautiful grounds along the Delaware River. Biddle, one of the most significant figures to shape US economic strategies in the early 19th century and President of the Second Bank of the United States, was a one-man Federal Reserve Bank before the institution existed.
Known for her mournful work that summons history to reflect on the present moment, Martha McDonald will join her practice of activating sites through song with David Brick’s participatory, contemplative approach to performance. Together, they will invite the audience to attune their senses to the site and to themselves in it, and conjuring the memory of those who sought refuge there and marking the loss of those who could not. This collaboration further explores the themes of The Quiet Circus, an ongoing public art project taking place at the Washington Avenue Pier in South Philadelphia.
River Charrette #3 takes place just a short distance upstream from the commercial recycling operation that was the site of the previous River Charrette. Andalusia, by contrast, was built as a refuge from future plagues. Its peaceful gardens and graceful architecture embody the paradox of leaders and elites in our liberal democracy: a simultaneous devotion and unease, even fear, toward the masses that are the lifeblood of the country’s wealth. As a place of manicured beauty, inviting contemplation, Andalusia makes us consider to what degree refuge is related to internal and external geographies.
A post performance conversation will address relationships between artistic and contemplative practices from 5:00 to 6:00 PM. Leading the discussion will be special guests Lisa Kraus and Jude Robeson. In advance of the performance, Andalusia is opening the historic mansion for guests from 3:00 to 4:00 PM to explore the Biddle Family’s heritage and their historic home. The River Charrette is free of charge and open to the public.
Major support for The Quiet Circus has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, with additional support from the William Penn Foundation. The Quiet Circus: River Charrette is a collaborative project by Headlong and Philadelphia Contemporary to engage and explore the city’s maritime, industrial, and creative heritage.
Martha McDonald is an interdisciplinary artist whose performances and installations feature handcrafted costumes and objects that she activates through gestures of making and unmaking and singing to transmit narrative. Her work has been shown internationally, at venues including Brotfabrik, Berlin, Germany; Linden Centre for Contemporary Arts, Melbourne, Australia; and the Tamworth Textile Triennial, Australia. Nationally, her work has been presented at The Joyce SoHo and PS 122 in New York; Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC; and in Philadelphia at the Institute of Contemporary Art, RAIR and The Woodlands, among others. McDonald has received fellowships from MacDowell Colony; the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts; and Independence Foundation. She received a MFA from Monash University, Melbourne, Australia. She is currently developing a new project at Black Mountain College Museum + Art Center in Asheville, NC. www.marthalmcdonald.blogspot.c
Andalusia, home to generations of the Biddle family for more than 200 years, is a historic house museum and gardens overlooking the Delaware River, 13 miles upstream from Philadelphia. The 100 acre property features a Greek Revival mansion designed by architect Thomas U. Walter in 1834, and is surrounded by spectacular gardens and native woodlands. Andalusia was placed on the National Register of Historic Landmarks in 1966 and opened to the public in 1980. http://andalusiapa.org/
Philadelphia Contemporary was founded in 2016 to serve as a multi-disciplinary platform for dynamic contemporary visual and performance art. Philadelphia Contemporary is a free-standing and non-collecting nonprofit space. Through partnerships and collaborations, Philadelphia Contemporary seeks to foster innovative cultural production within the city. While exploring sites on which to construct a permanent home, Philadelphia Contemporary is presenting a program of pop-up exhibitions and performances across its home city. Philadelphia Contemporary is a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation. http://philadelphiacontemporar
***PHOTO CREDIT: Ryan Collerd
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