Historic Site

Historic Site / Lenka Clayton & Phillip Andrew Lewis / 2021 / bronze / 16” x 96” x 0.5”

Historic Site is an 8-foot-tall cast bronze plaque in Pittsburgh, PA. Installed on the façade of a 120-year-old building, the absurdly large plaque is a contemporary companion to a small existing bronze plaque on the building’s exterior, commemorating its first use as an incline train station.

At the beginning of the 2020 pandemic, Clayton and Lewis were awarded a Sabrina Merage Foundation Artist Fellowship with Black Cube Nomadic Art Museum. During the lockdown the artists spent a year researching everything that could be documented as having occurred on the site where their studio sits. The artists scoured all archives available to them, and spoke to many experts including an anthropologist, two architects, several archivists, the author of the book on Pittsburgh inclines, a curator of the anthropocene, the director of the National Aviary, a big cat specialist, a botanist, a cinema historian, a city historian, an entomologist, a geomorphologist, a local historian, a curator of invertebrate paleontology, the official historian of Isaly’s, two librarians, neighbors, among others.

The resulting information was compiled into a lengthy text—over 1,200 words—that begins 600 million years ago and extends indefinitely into the future. Mimicking the original plaque, the text was cast in bronze with the same typeface, format, and material, and was even fabricated by the same local foundry, 34 years later.