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January 12 through February 21, 2015

Robert L. Ringel Gallery, Stewart Center


In 1971, the newly established EPA created Project DOCUMERICA (1971-1977), an initiative that commissioned outstanding photographers across America to document the state of the environment and its impact on society. The result was an archive of tens of thousands of photographs amassed over nearly a decade. In spite of its historic and cultural significance, this massive artistic project had been largely forgotten until recent digitalization made it more accessible.

Drawing its inspiration from the depression era Farm Security Administration photography project, project photographers created a portrait of America in the early-and-mid-1970s. DOCUMERICA photos include expected images of smog, polluted rivers, and waste dumps. But the photos also capture the decade’s fashions, trends, and lifestyles. From smokestacks to bell bottoms and leisure suits, these images are a fascinating time capsule of 1970s America.

Forty years after its advent, the imagery of Project DOCUMERICA is the inspiration for “ETHEL’s Documerica,” a multimedia performance which taps the archive’s evocative potential and brings its visual and emotional impact into dialogue with the 21st century. The exhibition is presented in collaboration with Purdue Convocations, which is hosting ETHEL’s performance on January 24 along with wraparound discussions by Purdue experts on climatological and environmental issues.

For performance tickets and more information, go to: