Ask Pennie Taylor, treasurer of the Union Square Neighborhood Council, her number-one concern about her city, and she’ll tell you it’s the development process. Somerville, Taylor says, must shift from eager investors “to more democratic development that is community-led.” Her worries about the city’s future are on display at Triple Decker Ecology, an exhibit for which she curated digitally manipulated historical photos, protest-ready flags and other objects at the Somerville Museum through Dec. 9. Here, Taylor gives us an overview, calling the show a mix of “tongue-in-cheek commentary,” advocacy and warnings about pollution, rising sea levels and tree loss.
How did the exhibit come about? It’s a collaboration between me and the artist, David Buckley Borden, and a lot of other people. We’ve worked together in the past on using art to communicate science and to urge direct action. … It’s pretty dense science information or environmental reports or ideas about actions we can take—or what might happen in the future if we don’t take action—and making art about it that’s accessible. And we applied those ideas to Somerville.
When were the exhibit’s old photos taken? A bunch were taken from a survey right before the McGrath Highway was built—and a lot of those houses that still stand right next to the highway get the most particulate matter (pollution). … It’s interesting seeing those photos and thinking about who got displaced when the highway was built.
What do you hope people learn from the exhibit? I’d hope people take away that while Somerville looks and feels like a dense urban area, our landscape is shaped by climate, impacted by change—and has been for centuries—and that they can get involved now to shape the environmental future.
What’s the importance of the flags made for the exhibit? Flags are a big part of the show. … They’re revolutionary or historic flags that have been recast with environmental slogans.