PPEH announces 2019 Artist-in-Residence, Roderick Coover

February 5, 2019

PPEH is proud to announce visual artist Roderick Coover as our 2019 PPEH Mellon Artist-in-Residence. Coover’s residency includes collaborative research on the waters of the Delaware Bay and along the shores of the Thames estuary, the North Sea, and English Channel for The Altering Shores, a long-term collaborative transmedia project engaging questions of sea-level rise. Public screenings and showings of his work are planned at Penn and in other locations in Philadelphia, and workshops on environmental storytelling will be offered on sonic and visual research methods, including augmented and virtual reality technologies, for invited Philadelphia-area students. Coover’s internationally-recognized artistic practice spans documentary film and ethnographic visual research, interactive and emergent cinema, virtual reality and digital narrative and poetry. Part of an abiding interest in spatial practice, Coover’s most recent work investigates both actual and imagined implications of climate change, and explores how places are perceived, encountered and consumed. Combining photographic, cinematic and VR experiences of shorelines on either side of the Atlantic, Coover’s work invites encounters with future shorelines and the ways the past continues to shape and reshape them. “Flood waters not only stir up mud,” Coover said about his creative inquiry. “They stir up history. They stir up the past. Floods take us, in a way, to reveal different shorelines - imagined shorelines as well as actual shorelines. The shorelines of memory.”

Memorial Day on the Delaware, print by Roderick Coover
Memorial Day on the Delaware River, print.  Roderick Coover


Coover plans to use the PPEH Mellon residency also to build bridges between different disciplines in the arts, sciences, and history. A professor of Film and Media Arts at Temple University, Coover is well-poised to further PPEH’s commitment to nurture a regional hub of environmental storytellers and researchers in the Delaware watershed. At Temple, Coover is also a founding Director of the Graduate Certificate Program in Documentary Arts and Ethnographic Practice. His work is internationally exhibited in art venues and public spaces such as the Venice Biennale, The Nobel Peace Prize Forum, the Bibliotheque Nationale de France, and Documenta Madrid. He has received Fulbright, Mellon, Whiting, Spire and LEF awards, as well as recognition from the Electronic Literature Organization and the SEA(s) Arts International Art Exhibition, among others.

“Rod has been a participant in PPEH’s public Schuylkill Corps Research Seminar--I greatly admire his work,” says PPEH’s Founding Director, Bethany Wiggin. “His process fascinates with its combination of methods, some possible only with up-to-the-second new tech and others only with time-tested, slower methods of sketching in place and journaling by hand.” His work as a whole she says, makes room for chance and contingency amidst often dark narratives of climate change, “It reveals the choices we humans are making, sometimes more or less consciously, and definitely unevenly and unequally, as we continue to rely on carbon-intensive fuels.” Amidst the gloom, Coover’s work manages to “invite us to see different choices and alternative futures.”  

While in residence with PPEH, Coover will participate in a public three-day workshop from May 9-11, “Teaching and Learning with Waters,” hosted at the Perry World House and Wolf Humanities Center on Penn’s campus, that brings together policy makers, artists and researchers across diverse disciplines to reconsider human relationships to changing coastlines in our moment of accelerating climate change. Coover’s PPEH Mellon residency culminates in November with a feature showing of The Altering Shores as part a three-day environmental storytelling festival at the Annenberg Center for Performing Arts, from November 21-23, an impact seminar sponsored by the University Research Foundation. A companion exhibit of image stills mounted on large format glass plates is also in the works.         

About the PPEH Artist Residency Program                   

​Previous artists-in-residence at PPEH include Jacob Rivkin, whose public art installation Floating Archives, traveled up the Schuylkill River in September 2018; Troy Herion, Mimi Lien, and Dan Rothenberg, whose hybrid musical theater production​ A Period of Animate Existence​ was workshopped during their residency before its world premiere headlining Philadelphia’s 2017 Fringe Festival; and Mary Mattingly, who was PPEH’s inaugural artist-in-residence, and who developed ​WetLand as a floating laboratory for experiments in sustainability on the lower, tidal Schuylkill River, in collaboration with Bartram’s Garden.

PPEH also hosts shorter-term artists’ residencies and offers a grant-making program to Ecotopian Toolmakers. The 2018 Ecotopian Catalogue of Tools is now available, and the Call for 2019 Toolmakers can be accessed here.