Throughout the year, RAIR (Recycled Artist in Residency) hosts visiting artists to source materials and inspiration from their studio housed within a construction and demolition recycling facility in Tacony, which sees over 450 tons of reusable waste each day. For Monument Lab, RAIR’s lead artists, Lucia Thomé and Billy Dufala, envisioned a sculpture that stages the tension between Philadelphia's identity as a green sustainable city and the current building boom, in which the civic and often natural landscape is altered with development on a massive scale. Plainsight is 20/20 features an excavator holding a large tree—two objects regularly found in construction sites in the city—and elevates their pairing to monumental status. The construction equipment, wrapped in metallic vinyl, is meant to stand out from and reflect the landscape, while the tree, diverted from the waste stream, is exhibited, roots and all. They are presented together, behind an 8-foot-tall construction fence in Penn Treaty Park, as symbolic of the tensions between nature and progress, as well as agency and access, within the messy culture of rapid redevelopment.
Location: Site 06: Penn Treaty Park
Lab Hours: Wednesdays & Thursdays: 3:30pm – 5:30pm; Saturdays & Sundays: 12pm – 5pm
1pm – 4pm
Park Hours: Open 7am – 10pm Daily
Maple tree, excavator, mirrored vinyl, and construction fencing
Plainsight Is 20/20 Collaborators
Doosan, Best Line, Revolution Recovery, Delaware River Corporation, American Treescapes, Rockland, and Image360
City of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, and Friends of Penn Treaty Park
For Monument Lab, the artist team of Lucia Thome and Billy Dufala comprising RAIR (Recycled Artist in Residency) will exhibit a sculpture consisting of two parts: an uprooted tree salvaged from a waste stream and a large excavator wrapped in reflective chrome film. Set along the margin of Penn Treaty Park, the sculpture absorbs the passing activities and surroundings in its reflective surfaces. In effect, it becomes hidden in plain sight.
RAIR sees the two parts of their project as dialectically tethered, with the earth-moving machine representing industry spurred by the economy while the tree signals depletion and displacement. The tree as a part of nature converted to culture can also symbolize growth and prosperity, as well as grassroots histories and community perspectives.
RAIR’s art is centrally concerned with the question of waste and recuperation. Their proposal is a monument to this moment of intense change in Philadelphia due to developmental pressures, demanding an interregnum in terms of a questioning of the assumption that growth is always for the better. They see this work as a microcosm of Philadelphia’s changing green urban landscape.
About the Artist
RAIR is a nonprofit organization that builds awareness about sustainability issues through art and design. Situated inside a construction and demolition waste recycling company in northeast Philadelphia, RAIR offers artists studio space and access to more than 350 tons of materials per day. Since 2010, RAIR has provided a unique platform for artists to work at the intersection of art, industry, and sustainability, while producing content that challenges perceptions of waste culture.
Banner: Plainsight Is 20/20, RAIR (Recycled Artist in Residency). Maple tree, excavator, and mirrored vinyl. Penn Treaty Park. Photo: Lucia Thome.