Tool-making is a signature trait of the human species. What tools can we make, and might we require, in the age of the human, the Anthropocene?
Global warming and other anthropocene challenges, including the ongoing sixth mass extinction event, often lead to apocalyptic visions, or apathy. With the Ecotopian Toolkit initiative, now in its third year, the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities (PPEH) is exploring this present moment via the history and stories of utopia and their hopes for better futures. We are asking: How can a utopian turn help us navigate warmer, rising waters and build new forms of refuge? What tools can STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) educators, artists, and activists in universities, museums, and non-profits design and develop for use by diverse public audiences, on campuses and beyond?
The environmental imaginary has long been fueled by utopian visions; Ecotopian Toolmakers aim to harness those visions to antidote apathy. Contributions to the growing Ecotopian Toolkit have included: a field guide, an open-source tool for generating field guides, illustrated maps, a print rendering of urban bird migration, water experimentation tools for youth, riverine habitat pods for birds and fish, sculptural provocations, a myth-making workshop and digital children’s book, a parkour course for embodied data collection, an on-water floating filtration system, and a proposal for a series of walks following Philadelphia’s wastewaters. The 2018 Ecotopian Catalogue of Tools is freely available on our website.
PPEH is now accepting applications for the 2019 Ecotopian Toolkit. Via a juried process, PPEH will select 5 toolmakers to participate, with an award to each individual/team of $1,500. Each project will be highlighted in a public demonstration led by the toolmaker(s) in conversation with PPEH and will be documented on the PPEH website and in the living public archive of the Schuylkill River and Urban Research Corps.
Proposals will be reviewed along the following lines:
• How the proposed tool addresses paradigms that attempt to integrate cultures of arts and science in labs, workshops, studios, and other exploratory spaces
• Consider how products of integrated knowledge are disseminated, shared, and advanced
• How the tool might be adapted and scaled
Artists may propose tools to be built from scratch, refined from an existing prototype or working version, or adapted and advanced in new ways through this collaboration. Tool-making workshops and presentations will be rolled out during the late summer and fall of 2019. Applications consist of a 500-word statement introducing the tool, its realization, and its public impact. Please also include include a brief bio or c.v. (no more than 2 pp) and links to relevant previous projects.
Submissions are due by April 1, 2019; applicants will be notified by Friday, April 26, 2019 and introduced and celebrated at PPEH’s May 9-11 convening, Learning with Waters.