January 24 – March 6, 2020

“There is a crack in everything, there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”
–Leonard Cohen

In 1976, America was having its 200th birthday and Philadelphia was chosen to host the party. For over a decade prior, the July 4th weekend stood as a site of possibility. The celebration drew an estimated two million visitors, and in some ways the city was able to catch its breath. Yet things did not go as planned. With a racist mayor, post-Vietnam malaise, and the galvanized resistance of marginalized groups, the Bicentennial in Philadelphia laid bare some of the most pressing questions of America’s national identity. As we revisit this fraught history, Philadelphia’s famous Liberty Bell transcends its index of freedom-ringing and comes to embody the deepest fissures in American life: there’s a crack in the bell.

During summer 2019, five Haverford and Bryn Mawr College students collaborated with poet Thomas Devaney and Greenhouse Media to explore this surreal moment in Philadelphia and national history through an experimental documentary film. The exhibition Bicentennial City continues that project as an interactive installation with multi-channel projections, sculptures, and Bicentennial ephemera, seeking to explore the many roles myth and memory play in the psyche of a city.

Bicentennial City builds on the Summer 2019 DocuLab project “The Bicentennial in Philadelphia,” led by Thomas Devaney and Greenhouse Media (Aaron Igler and Matthew Suib) with Hilary Brashear, Julia Coletti ’21, Jixin Jia ’21, Edward Ogborn ’19, Cole Sansom ’19, and Grace Sue ’20.

Sponsored by the John B. Hurford ’60 Center for the Arts and Humanities and VCAM.