download link PDF click here
Last week I went to Berlin to meet up with Florian Riviere, a fellow ‘urban playfulness’ designer. Florian was invited by a pop-up art gallery called ‘Offsites’, a football themed exhibition in an old fire station. He was asked to prepare a 2 day workshop involving the surrounding neighborhood, Kreuzberg. From the first time we met we immediately hit it off, I noticed straight away that we’re on the same level on the subject and share the same ideas. No time was wasted dilly-dallying about as I was immediately immersed in Florian’s workflow, which I managed to comprehend in the 4 days of collaboration that would follow. Generally Florian starts to scout the surrounding area for inspiration and potentially interesting locations. When I met him I tumbled into a first idea of his: Candy Kicker’. He wanted to use gumball machines that are common in Berlin’s street image. They seem to be otherwise abandoned and he was thinking of ways to re-think their use.
Florian is driven by the act of ‘upcycling’, using found materials from the street to re-create and re-imagine the uses. I’ve found this method really inspiring as it forms an incentive to be creative with the materials at hand, instead of manufacturing installations from the ground up. This is in line with Florian’s thoughts about not being a designer but more of a conceptual facilitator, a self crowned ‘urban hacktivist’. To further elaborate on this conceptual facilitator idea, in conversation with Florian I discovered his vision as an artist (actually managed to get on of my prepared questions in): What do you find is more important in your work: The interactive experience or the conceptual message? Florian answered ‘It’s definitely the conceptual message that is conveyed that forms the most important part in my work.’ This also explains his (inexhaustible) drive to share his work on his portfolio website and his facebook page. It becomes part of the piece as it is shared around the world and people re-think the use of the public spaces around them.It’s this message that is central in his work. To convey this message he uses several tools and techniques to invite his audiences to participate. An important technique in this respect is the ‘Do It Yourself’ mentality. By using materials that are found in the surrounding area and using these in his ‘Hacktions’, audiences are indirectly invited to participate. By seeing the simple, yet effective, nature of the hacktions, audiences will think to themselves: ‘He, I can do that!’ It’s exactly this mentality that is needed to evoke participation on a larger scale.
On the final workshop day (an in-depth post about the workshop will follow shortly) we formed a ‘graffiti soccer crew’ to make the last large-scale Hacktion. We set out to create ‘the worlds largest soccer field’ that would cover the entire neighborhood that we were working in. We plotted the outline of a soccer field on our little map, and set out the create hacktions that would mark the places on the field.
When seeing one of these hacktions onlookers would probably raise an eyebrow, possibly a smile, but when more and more of these popped up, audiences will realise that it’s part of a greater whole. The different locations will be collected in a Google Map, that people could use to find places to go and play a game of football. The indirect message of this piece should invite people to let go of preconceived ideas about where and when you should play. By creating small interventions on strange places that invite people to play, an awareness of pervasive(anywhere/anytime) playing will arise. It’s this vision of reinstating playfulness as a way of life that I want to convey in my own work.We had allot of fun with the declarative layer in this piece, acting out our ‘graffiti soccer crew’ roles. Despite it’s playful notion, it’s something about spray-cans and face concealing masks that gets the adrenaline pumping.