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University City Science Center's Artist Residency Culminates with Release of PolakVanBekkum's “250 Miles Crossing Philadelphia” NavDoc

On April 16, the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority's Percent for Art Program and the University City Science Center will host a screening of an innovative navigational documentary, 250 Miles Crossing Philadelphia, followed by a Q&A with the artist duo, PolakVanBekkum.

Esther Polak and Ivar van Bekkum arrived from the Netherlands to work on 250 Miles Crossing Philadelphia in May 2014.Their goal was to explore the intersection of art, science and technology through satellite imagery, GPS and sound recording. The resulting work includes a website documenting their journey,, with an interactive map; a scrim mural at 780 S. 52nd St.; and a 50-minute location-based documentary film.

“The 250 Miles Crossing Philadelphia documentary film engages viewers in a voyage through the city through the eyes of the distant satellites and close listening to the sounds of humans, animals and objects that move around in it,” says van Bekkum.

Philadelphia residents played a large role in creating this new city narrative. Polak and van Bekkum divided the city into a grid and asked volunteers to make recordings from each sector. These routes were visualized in the documentary film using Google Earth satellite images, overlaid with synchronized on-the-ground recordings, to create an audible map of the city.

The evening will formally conclude PolakVanBekkum’s residency within the University City Science Center’s novel public art program, Art Along the Avenue of Technology (AAAT). The Science Center partnered with the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority to create AAAT under the Percent for Art program, which requires that at least one percent of the budget for new construction is used for commissioning original works of art.

As the first artists chosen to participate in AAAT, PolakVanBekkum achieved and surpassed the program’s objective to engage artists with the Science Center community.

“For this project, we zoomed very far out,” said Julia Guerrero, Director of the Percent for Art Program. “Instead of responding to a façade, the artists are responding to the city as a whole.”

“Art Along the Avenue of Technology allowed the Science Center to take the same type of innovative approach to the Percent for Art Program as we do with the work that occurs on our campus every day,” says Stephen S. Tang, Ph.D., MBA, President & CEO of the Science Center. “We were delighted that Esther and Ivar’s work had a broader impact beyond the boundaries of our campus, as AAAT extended into the community.”

250 Miles Crossing Philadelphia Screening & Reception will take place on Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 6:30 p.m. atThe Rotunda, 4014 Walnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19104.

About PolakVanBekkum
The Dutch artist couple Esther Polak and Ivar van Bekkum, operating under the name PolakVanBekkum, have a crunch for landscape and mobility (or motion or movement) and the experience of space. There are more ways to describe their work, but one that comes close to the essence is: Esther and Ivar make art that is about the poetry of mediation. Although most of their projects are built around mobility patterns of other people or objects, every now and then they appear in their projects themselves. Still, they are always involved in their tests and studies.

About the Science Center:
The University City Science Center is a dynamic hub for innovation, and entrepreneurship and technology development in the Greater Philadelphia region. It provides business incubation, programming, lab and office facilities, and support services for entrepreneurs, start-ups, and growing and established companies. The Science Center was the first, and remains the largest, urban research park in the United States. Since it was founded in 1963, graduate organizations and current residents of the University City Science Center’s Port business incubators have created more than 15,000 jobs that remain in the Greater Philadelphia region today and contribute more than $9 billion to the regional economy annually. For more information about the Science Center, go to

About Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority’s (PRA) Percent for Art Program:
The Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority pioneered the Percent for Art Program in March 1959, becoming the first city in the United States to create a program requiring developers to commission art as part of the development process. PRA’s Percent for Art Program obligates developers who are building on land acquired and assembled by PRA to dedicate at least one percent of the total building construction costs toward the commissioning of original, site-specific works of art. Since the inception of the program, nearly 400 works of public art have been installed in all areas of Philadelphia. Works of public art can be found in such diverse developments as high-rise commercial and residential towers, housing for families and the elderly, shopping plazas, parks, hotels, universities, schools and libraries.

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