by Saul Salas
Re-PLACE-ing Philadelphia is building an expanded archive of cultural memory that includes multiple histories, re-place-ing the established with new narratives and understandings. Notes consider place via the street, sound, food, trees, and other portals.
In partnership with educator Joshua Block, students from Philadelphia's Science Leadership Academy are creating and publishing their Philadelphia Field Notes. Saul Salas reflects on the stationary objects that fill Philadelphia's streets.
It’s not special to see black spots on the sidewalk every day. You walk from place to place and whether or not you are paying attention, these dark speckles are on almost every sidewalk you cross. In every neighborhood, unlike litter, they add interesting detail around the city. These dried up gum spots aren’t a problem for society.
Sometimes I walk by, looking down at the ground, just to remind myself that you need to notice details of the city. Personally, I kind of like the idea of these dried up discards that remain stationary.
A lot of neighborhoods also have shoes hanging on telephone wiring. These shoes have a different history. It is unknown why they are up there. Perhaps it was just an activity for people’s enjoyment, similarly to how people rip a “do not rip” tag on a pillow. In the past, these shoes were for criminal activities associated with gangs. One would toss their sneakers over a telephone wire to portray their territory, but how long have the sneakers been there?
Every day, as we walk through our neighborhoods, we pass by shoes and gum. We don’t realize the history of how either of these objects came to be in the first place.