Time travel, accordions, science, and luchadors: ‘Memory of a Time Twice Lived’

Jarana Beat at Wagner's lecture hall earlier this year. Image courtesy of the Wagner Free Institute of Science.

The Wagner Institute has been providing free science education to the people of Philadelphia for 160 years. For 150 of those years, they’ve been operating from their home at 17th and West Montgomery Avenue, near Temple’s main campus. The building’s main lecture hall doesn’t date back quite that far — it was furnished in the late 19th century — but a trip to the Wagner is a bit like time travel.

That time-travel vibe inspired a team of artists who have made a short film, Memory of a Time Twice Lived, that is set partially at the Wagner — and that will receive its world premiere screening there on Thursday, November 5. Multidisciplinary artists Angel Nevarez and Valerie Tevere, who have worked together for more than a decade, partnered with Kate Kraczon, an associate curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art, and the Wagner’s staff.

Inspired by the classic French science fiction featurette La Jetée, the new film ties together the Wagner’s collection of natural science specimens and luchador (masked wrestler) and Mexican folk icon El Santo — some footage was shot in Mexico City during the multiyear process of creating the film.

Central to the story is the accordion, which Nevarez and Tevere regard as a poetic representation of how music and people move through space. Both artists feel a personal connection to the instrument, which is part of their heritage. Philadelphia is currently experiencing a strong growth in its Hispanic population, making it a hotbed of Mexican Norteño-style music, for which the accordion is an important instrument. Footage of the band Jarana Beat playing before a live audience in the Wagner’s lecture hall will be included in the film.

The event is part of a yearlong celebration of the 150th anniversary of the building. Check their website for other events.

The world premiere of Memory of a Time Twice Lived: A concert film by Angel Nevarez and Valerie Tevere is coming up on Thursday, November 5 at 7pm with a reception to follow; second screening at 8:15pm. The Wagner Free Institute of Science, 1700 West Montgomery Avenue, Philadelphia. Admission is free, but advance registration is required