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Giant Burning Man Sculpture Installed in Northern Liberties

January 21, 2019

Walking through Northern Liberties this afternoon, I stumbled on a large robot looking sculpture rising above Germantown avenue between Wildey and 2nd streets. Luckily I had my camera, so I took a few photos and Instagrammed about the mysterious installation that’s still fenced off (almost as if it’s not complete or like it was being installed to be unveiled at some block party soon, or something.) Quickly after posting the photos to Instagram this evening, some answers started rolling in!

The 33-foot tall sculpture, I learned from a CBS 3 article posted today by Brandon Longo, is titled BEBOT and it was created by London-based artist Andrea Greenlees. Originally made for last year’s Burning Man, which ended in September, BEBOT was brought to Philadelphia in December and built this last week. 

Andrea describes BEBOT as a participatory art installation, noting on her website that, “The activities of [people] inside it bring it to life – they become the robot’s eyes, its ears, its voice, its soul, its spirit, its collective heartbeat. BEBOT’s body is open and welcoming. As a climbing frame it cannot be resisted and it encourages the immediacy and abandon of pure play. Its various levels provide viewing platforms from which to survey… [Climbers] can face outwards or sit in intimate circles facing inwards. A place to meet and talk, to gather and party and perform, BEBOT encourages shared experience and self-expression.”

I’m not sure how the artist’s original intent for the installation to be climbed and interacted with can or will be managed in its new location across the street from a Wahlburgers. Which, I’m guessing, is why it’s still currently fenced off. But according to CBS 3’s post, there are currently no official plans for how long BEBOT will stay in Philly, or if its location or fence will change or move. Though Andrea is quoted as being a bit more optimistic: “It’s definitely my hope that BEBOT will stay in Philadelphia. I want him to belong to Philadelphia.”

I’m really interested to see how this unfolds. I like Andrea’s sculpture! I do hope, though, that if it stays in Philly that we can loose that damn fence, it really diminishes the piece. I guess we’ll see!

Special thanks to @jgbasile, who first commented on my IG post about Andrea’s installation pointing me to CBS 3’s article, which led me to the bulk of the answers used to build this post.

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