250 Miles Crossing Philadelphia


Visual artists Esther Polak and Ivar van Bekkum lived 7 months in Philadelphia. New to the city, they invited inhabitants, both human and non-human, to explain their city through movement. Wandering by themselves, the protagonists recorded their trajectories, sounds and private readings of the streets, allowing the artists, and visitors of the website with them, to access their experiences only afterwards.

An innovative cartographic approach introduces a landscape of satellite images where one can travel along with the protagonists, while balancing between voyeurism and empathy. The meditative experience questions our contemporary techno-society, where eavesdropping and social connectivity coexist.

The artists developed a unique recording method and visualisation: Traditional film arises from a sound recording synchronised with 24 photos per second. Within “250 Miles Crossing Philadelphia” the synchronisation happens between a sound recording and a GPS track. (one location per second) A wearable-technology bag “The Beagle” was developed to perform the recordings. A special software plugin was developed to realise the synchronisation and to decide on the camera movements and camera positioning in the public/private 3D world of Google Earth.

Discussion 250 Miles Crossing Philadelphia

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  • Thank you for sharing your fascinating project, Esther and Ivar. I am quite fond of how you start your the description of the project with “New to the city…”, which means that what started as an approach to (discover) a (new) context turned into the project itself. I wonder, though, what do you consider the best way of experiencing this project (not necessarily in an exhibition context)? Brings to my mind some of Circumstance’s (Duncan Spearman) work, which makes use of city walks and audio recordings, which people can experience by doing the walks themselves, with a gps device and some headphones (http://www.uniehasseltgenk.be/en/circumstance/). Is it your intention as well that people use the content you gathered and perhaps produce new one? Or is it seen as a ‘finished’ project?

    14.06.2016 — 14:41Yes(0)No(0)Reply

  • Esther Polak

    Hi Pablo

    Thank you so much for your comment and questions. I really like you comparing our work with that of Duncan, we feel the connection as well.
    There is no “best way” to experience the project really. We have edited a 49:50 min. documentary ourselves, that really needs to be experienced in a proper screening. (So if you want to invite the film to a screening we are very open for that)

    The website has been (and will be shown) in exhibition settings, and we experienced that that does work very well. People tend to immerse in a recording of one human, animal or object lengthy… And get a feel of what one of them called an “empathy jump” .

    We have developed a series of participatory performances that we execute in festivals or with students as an addition to a screening of the film or exhibition of the website.

    So the project is finished, but we are not finished with it.

    Best Esther an Ivar

    15.06.2016 — 14:47Yes(0)No(0)Reply