Northern Liberties creative agency Klip Collective has chosen a controversial location for its newest work.
Vacant America: the Bok building opens Friday at South Philly’s Bok, the artist and maker hub located at the former Bok Technical High School, which was shuttered in 2013.
The exhibit intertwines physical objects like school desks and chairs with audiovisual elements like interviews and ambient sound to evoke memories of the building’s previous life.
The nearly 80-year-old, 340,000-square-foot facility has been dubbed a sign of gentrification. It got some backlash after a pop-up beer garden opened on its rooftop. The newly imagined space is the work of real estate developer Lindsay Scannapieco.
As a South Philly homeowner, Klip Collective director Ricardo Rivera says he doesn’t think the development’s intention is to erase history, replacing it with something ill-fitting.
“They’re trying to honor the history of the building by putting it to use,” Rivera said. “That’s why I wanted to do a piece here that honors the past of the school.”
There’s a tinge of anger in Rivera’s voice as he speaks of the previous backlash. Rivera says the reasons some people protested the development are “bullshit.”
“I can’t wait for all those haters to come to the installation,” he said. “It’s an honest tribute to the building and the people who were there. This to me is much better than the building being empty or, worse, turned into condos.”
To further link up the initiative with the surrounding areas, the Collective is looking into setting up a donation stream for the Southwark School, located across the street from Bok.
The expo, which opens this Friday at 6 p.m., will run through the month of June, on Wednesdays (6-9 p.m.), Fridays (6-9 p.m.) and Saturdays (1-4 p.m.). Conrad Benner, from the blog Streets Dept, has some exclusive pics of the exhibit.