ef·flu·vi·um \ n, plvia \ often sing in constr orvi·ums [L effluvium act of flowing out, fr. effluere] 1 : an invisible emanation; esp : an offensive exhalation or smell 2 : a by-product esp. in the form of waste



photo: Frank Margeson


TANN, HORNS, & DEAD DOGS: Tales of Civic Effluvia

In the middle of a grassy swath of Independence Park between Carpenters’ Hall and the First Bank of the United States there is a small depression in the land, a memorial marking the course of Dock Creek, which was arched over and buried at the end of the 1700’s, after it had become irredeemably fouled by the domestic and industrial waste being dumped into it for over a century by European colonists. The creek still flows beneath us, as the oldest exit for Philadelphia’s civic effluvia.

It is easy to forget what roils through the pipes below, which is, after all, why it was put down there. But breathing deeply at the sewer grate, performance artist Brett Keyser peels back the layers of this man-made landscape in an evocative “exhumation” of the little tidal creek, an elegy of ebb and flow, of growth and decay, of life, and love, and loss along “The Dock”.


Commissioned by the American Philosophical Society Museum, Keyser’s TANN, HORNS, & DEAD DOGS was conceived as a companion piece to Drawing Dock Creek, a sculptural installation on the same site by Winifred Lutz. Both Lutz and Keyser were artists in residence for the 2007-08 APS Museum exhibition “UNDAUNTED: Five American Explorers, 1760-2007”, through December 2008.


For further reading see the previous posts:

American Weekly Mercury, August 16, 1739



%d bloggers like this: