January 14, 2013 by Robin Plaskoff Horton
You might call Florian Rivière a guerrilla urbanist. Much in the way guerrilla gardeners take possession of underutilized, sometimes offbeat, public spaces to plant gardens, Rivière–a self-proclained “urban hacktivist”– reinvents and diverts public spaces as a means of encouraging citizens to “reclaim their urban environments.” Inspired by hackers, DIY culture, and civic engagement, Rivière’s ”hacktions”– a fusion of public space design, upcycling and militant expression—are usually raw and spontaneous and created exclusively from objects found on the street.
I stumbled across Rivière a while ago, but was reintroduced to him through Bettery Magazine, which I found through one of my favorite sites, Yatzer. In part of a series where Battery hosts a discussion between creative minds about the transformation of cities, they invited Rivière and sustainability pioneer, Professor Dr. Michael Braungart, who asked the urban hacktivist how people could use their “creative eye to make changes that benefit entire communities.”
People can become more attuned to their surrounding urban space, Rivière believes, by viewing and using everyday objects in new ways—by bending, diverting, and playing with “the rules of urban space.” To demonstrate this, he introduces in a video what urban hacktivism can do with just a skateboard, a symbol of the freedom of urban mobility.
A bit like Marcel DuChamp’s iconic urinal that the artist renamed Fountain therefore transforming it into one, Riviere demonstrates his ideas using the skateboard to add or change the functionality of selected public spaces.
When stuck into a bench’s slats, the skateboard is no longer a skateboard, but a desk for an outdoor work space. Turn the skateboard over, and you have a bottle opener and the bench desk now becomes a table for enjoying drinks. At a bus stop, the skateboard now becomes a coat hanger onto which one can hang a bag or jacket. With an attached rope, the skateboard becomes a trolley or wagon for move objects found in the street. Covered with with blackboard paint, it can display a message, that if used while hitchhiking, becomes a vehicle for traveling the world…you get it.
Rivière feels we all need to use our imaginations to “build our own environments.” People, explains Rivière, need to become active citizens, not passive consumers. He uses his urban hacktivism to experiment with how urban communities can solve problems and build things by reusing spaces, furniture, and objects like free resources within the community’s streets, parks, and vacant lots.
In experiencing his urban hacktions, Rivière hopes people will develop new ways of thinking about their environments, reusing or upcycling every available resource for the well-being of the community.