"RiverRoad," 2019: located on a 130 foot industrial barge, moved by tugboat. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 130’ x 30’ x 17’
Carolyn Healy: sculpture and lighting
John JH Phillips: audio and video.
James Osby Gwathney, Jr.: performance

Whitman at 200: Art and Democracy, a region-wide initiative, is organized by the University of Pennsylvania Libraries, with major support from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

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John JH Phillips and Carolyn Healy collaborated with performer James Osby Gwathney Jr. to create a multimedia work based on Whitman’s “Poem of The Road.” The piece took place on a large industrial barge on the Delaware River and featured video, sculpture, lighting, and electronic sound in an environment in which Gwathney performed the entire text of Whitman’s poem. While a tugboat guided the barge from Penn’s Landing, where the audience boarded, to a point downriver and back, the audience freely followed Gwathney as he recited the poem, traveling with him along the 130 feet of the barge deck through the structures of the set. The artists hope the experience of being afloat on an unusual vessel in the middle of the wide river under night clouds and stars created both a sense of unease and exhilaration that resonates with the poem. Whitman frequently made the crossing from Camden to Philadelphia, especially to hear opera, one of his favorite art forms. The artists wished to create a unique tribute to Whitman that could be experienced both from the waterfront and by the audience on board the barge.

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