Floating Archives

A floating, time-based public art installation by 2018 PPEH Artist-in-Residence Jacob Rivkin that offers animated projections of historic river images


Jacob Rivkin’s Floating Archives house archival photographs. He animates them—stirring up historical sediment and so enlivening the present. A sculptor and animator, Rivkin explores “how we experience and internalize landscape.” He is a former Fulbright Fellow, a current Visual Arts Fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and he teaches courses in Fine Arts at the University of Pennsylvania. He previously worked with PPEH on BioPool for the inaugural Ecotopian Toolkit hosted at Bartram's Garden in spring 2017, a hybrid installation dubbed “a giant Brita filter for the Schuylkill River” by the Philadelphia Inquirer.

According to Rivkin, “Floating Archives offers residents of Philadelphia the opportunity to consider the embedded histories in each landscape. Every sidewalk, landmark, and natural feature contains a narrative that turns each location from a space to a place. As the floating platform moves through the Schuylkill River, animations based on archival material are shown in alignment with the places they reference. The past and present meet for a doubling of both history and landscape.”

Rivkin’s residency engagement has included working with PPEH public research seminar participants and students in Spring 2018, and leading two day-long workshops as part of the PPEH-collaborative Schuylkill River & Urban Waters Research Corps' (@schuylkillcorps) June 2018 "On-Water Intensive" that guided participants in techniques of audio and visual research and the creation of found-object river memorials and monuments. Floating Archives continued on water into the fall, with projections along the river between Bartram’s Garden and the Art Museum in mid-September 2018.  The project now lives on—on land—as a five minute film installation in the Independence Seaport Museum's O.T.W. exhibit, on display from October 2018 to September 2019. This stand alone compilation of the animations from the public performance on the Schuylkill River is organized spatially - taking the viewer from Bartram's Garden to the Fairmount Water Works.

Read some of Rivkin's reflections on the making of Floating Archives in the October 2018 blog of the Journal of the History of Ideas here.