KNOWING AND BECOMING THROUGH ART AND LOCATIVE MEDIA
Esther Polak and Ivar van Bekkum in conversation with Edward Shanken and Yolande Harris.
The conversation was recorded in September 2014 during the development of 250 Miles Crossing Philadelphia, and discusses the different outcomes of the project: an interactive website, the documentary film, the installation version “The Mailman’s Bag” and “The Beagle” .
Ed: There is now a considerable history of art practices using locative media as a key ingredient. You’ve done some of the pioneering work in the field: Amsterdam Real-Time, Milk Project, Nomadic Milk, to name just a few projects. When you began working with GPS as an art medium, the technology wasn’t widely available or used by the general public, so artistic interventions expanded awareness of this emerging technology and its cultural implications. But now that GPS is ubiquitous, what can artists do with it that the public can’t do and for what purpose?
October 25, 2014 – presentation of the 250 Miles Crossing Philadelphia project on Ignite Philly
By Robert Blackson
When Esther Polak and Ivar van Bekkum first approached me about their mapping project “250 Miles Crossing Philadelphia” I was pretty confused about what it was they were actually proposing. They talked with me a lot about their interests in Google Street View, Google Earth and GPS as it had been applied to their earlier works such as “Amsterdam REALTIME” (2002) – but I had little understanding of how these interests in Google Street View and GPS would inform and perhaps even become the material of a participatory artwork based on walking through the streets of Philadelphia.
For us this wrinkly wrapped orange is the rabbit hole that leads into the duplicate world of Google Earth in which the protagonists of our project live. For Simone Evanson, who reaches elegantly for this miniature world, it is in fact the end of the street where she lives. So she is in two ways related to this image now.
The life of a trolley in Philadelphia is that of the most regular commuter in town. It’s tracks don’t allow for much distraction and neither it is easily stopped as its looks gently but firm demands passage. On it’s way it provides place for humans who prefer to sit and move, and puts them on the streets again. The driver of this mastodon of urban traffic hits the gong whenever it needs attention, as a friendly reminder or a firm warning and greets everyone with the brightest smile.
When the night falls, the atmosphere changes dramatically: the Wissahickon park trees seem to crawl closer to the water that is running through the creek and the road seems to disappear.. car sounds diminish…
Richard Ramson aka Ram, rapper and performer, walks through Germantown with the Beagle. Ram and I met in front of Trader Joes and came to talk about art and performing a few times. He sells One Step Away magazines there*. I bought his cd (and the newspaper of course) and he’s commenting Germantown Avenue for us. Wandering through the area Ram gives us a view of what he calls the 3 dimensional life as opposed to the 4 dimensional life related to the things he observes in the street. An interesting thought when you realise we will be listening and looking at his trajectory in the replica world of Goolge Earth. So walk with him* as he reveals his view on living a good life and buys a tuna hoagie. That does sound tasty.
One of the monthly Brown Bag lunches at the Philadelphia based company Azavea, specialists in geographical data, was reserved for our project 250 Miles Crossing Philadelphia and we were quite honored by that.
In the far north east of Philadelphia, and by now I know I really mean the FAR north east, lies the neighborhood with the name that makes you think of horseback riding through the lovely lands of Pennsylvania: Parkwood Manor. Horsebacks are replaced by metal caged horse power, the lovely lands became playgrounds and shopping malls and the manors are family houses along curved roads. The place Kelly grew up and left when she was an adult, but where she found a job again at (the appropriate named!) Parkwood hairstyling. And we found here there again, with the totally open attitude to put on our Beagle and go for a stroll in her old community.