It’s not lost forever.
A few posts ago, we told you about the Hidden City Summer Festival in Philadelphia. One stop in the Hidden City tour is the Society of Pythagoras, created by the Rabid Hands Collective in Hawthorne Hall, an abandoned clubhouse that used to house actual secret societies like the Knights of Pythias and the Odd Fellows, as well as boxing and dancing.
The Rabid Hands Collective has taken over this space and in a flourish of peeling paint and splintering boards, chipped tiles and charred pages, created one of the most incredible adult playgrounds I’ve ever had the privilege to explore.
Playing with their Pythagorean theme, the artists fill the space with angles–right angled triangles most specifically. But they also bring a hierarchy into play beautifully, in the very levels and floors of the house itself, but also in the way that each room builds from simple to intricate.
The house is full of secret entrances. They’re not marked for your convenience, and you can’t be sure that you’ve caught them all. Through each rickety passage or hidden door, there’s a fresh example of minutely detailed craftmanship–portraits of society’s supposed presidents (in a gold frames, against velvet curtains, a woman with blue lips and a vacuum coming out of her head), melting candles or rusting saws.
The most impressive piece in the whole exhibit is the top floor. There’s a giant table zig-zagging upwards in the half gloom, with a mess of chairs careening towards the ceiling.
This is no formal exhibit, where you have to look at the art without touching. You’re allowed to climb all over this table, just like you can climb anywhere else in the building. You feel as though you were actually exploring some abandoned clubhouse, not a curated, created space.
As you move upwards towards the elevated top of the table, the flatware grows more and more fancy and cluttered, until there are plates and bowls piled up on one another and filled with molding food.
Look down from your perch on the top table and you see a giant hole sliced into the floor, shaped like an arrow and pointing towards the highest seat in the house.
I won’t reveal all the secrets of this hidden world, though you should definitely check out our photo gallery. I can only encourage you to visit the space, because it’s truly incredible.