We investigated potential of available resources in a city that could be beneficial to people in low income situations. In times of crisis, when money is scarce and jobs that earn you an income as well, having alternatives to monetary currency at hand is a valuable thing. In a city you find many opportunities to help fulfill basic needs of survival.
The framework of these interventions is the residency Creative Politics. Our starting point is that we think applying skills that are common to artistic work, such as experiment, improvisation, imagination etc. to the politics that give shape to a city could be a step towards governing a city in a more open, accessible, approachable way. Pro-active and grassroots. Urban policy is often bureaucratic and not very flexible. We think in many cases it is better to act than to ask. The next step would be to spread these actions, turn them visible, and work towards the alteration of policies and laws, contributing for a more bottom-up city governing.
As all cities, Guimarães is rich in physical resources. In the part of town where the LCD lab is located for example, there are many natural streams of water. Since long, around the streams services are organised. Water is considered a public good. Often the streams are only used as sewage systems. With some care and attention and a little bit of inventivity the streams can be put to better use. They could be used for example to generate electricity to power the light in your house, to charge your computer.
Re-appropriate, re-use, hack
Old materials can be re-used, broken stuff can be taken apart and re-used, abandoned sites can be squatted, outdated infra-structure can be hacked for new uses.
Re-learn old skills
Skills come and go. Sometimes skills that are forgotten are valuable. No money to buy shoes? make your own. Learning a craft can be done through apprenticeship. Try to hang out with people who know how to do things. See below how Filipe learned how to do his laundry the old-skool way.
We started out walking in Guimarães. It seemed important to sniff, look, taste, feel the local circumstances. From there on we developed ideas about the potential of resources we encountered. The ideas listed below can be considered to be a sample book. They are openings to a creative approach to use the city.
Sometimes you have to break an egg to make an omelet. Sometimes you have to climb a wall to explore what is on the other side. Urban infrastructure is your friend. Also you will discover that you are probably not the first person who had the urge to trespass: left-overs from previous climbing actions can be helpful, such as this ladder in the R. Cães de Pedra.
In the listing below you will find some ideas in development. Each idea might be useful for a different target group.
The ideas could serve artists and urban hackers. They can be copied, changed, adapted and executed by everyone for there own use.
The project also speaks to anybody who feels he or she is making urban politics. This project suggest to think differently about socio economic urban policy. We are convinced that cities have more to offer their inhabitants then is acknowledged through official gouverning institutions. Thinking creatively is in itself a skill. City governements should be sensitive to the potential of available human and physical resources.
Collect gossip, rumors and neighbourhood speech and make it available as online resource.
What if you are a journalist and you would want to report on what is going on locally in Guimarães? Or you would like to know inhabitants of the city who are not Twittering or writing on Facebook think about current hot news items ?
The idea came to produce an online text resource that was automatically generated from words that are exchanged in the streets, gossip, neighborhood talk. The resource could be an addition to existing journalistic resources and social media.
Microphones are placed in public places, the audio is fed to a speech-to-text generator, the generated text is saved into a ( timestamped? ) database, that can be consulted by news services.
News agencies, agregating services, poets, politician, marketeers, sound scape artists
Filipe was taught how to do his laundry in a traditional public laundrette. The women working here have techniques that are highly effective. Twist your wrist, fold double, scrape, soap and brush. Note: the fact that he was asking them to teach him, being a man, how to do his laundry was thought to be amusing by these women and they encouraged him to proceed. No guarantees can be given that under different circumstances the same result will be achieved. The experience from that place was not only one that allowed us to learn the skills available within traditional knowledge that we often take for granted but it was also a moment of rupture which provoked people to enter in dialogue about gender, crisis and social issues. This days, a man doing his laundry in a public place inhabited by a well defined local community of women seems to be not only intriguing but an affair with very interesting social and political dimensions that tell so much about the local and global dynamics of contemporary society. In a time of automatized labour and individualistic consumerism one can learn about society and technology by regarding manual and traditional culture transactions. Target public Anybody without access to a washing machine. Anybody looking for a chat and some human contact.
Potential output Video could be screened in different contexts: schools (education) urban hacking exhibitions (art) neighborhood (make fun of the guy)
Suggestions A suggestion was to revive the washing house by placing for example a soap vending machine.
We made up a real estate agency, whose graphic image reminds an already existing one, to publicize abandoned houses around the city. For that we designed flyers and posters with images of few of these houses, accompained with more or less amusing descriptions, and place them in different sites in the city centre or gave directly to people. The images below show some of the sites and reactions to the adverts. The adverts link to the website of the Casa Aberta agency which you can find here: http://www.casaaberta.pt.vu You can send them an email:firstname.lastname@example.org
The posters were set on the walls belonging to stores and other buildings, real estate agencies' information distributors, coffee shops, newspaper press kiosks, ATM machines etc. and the flyers were given to people hanging around in the public space. By using the same techinques adopted by advertising, this infiltration tactic seems to present a flaw because some of our involuntary “specators” simply discarded the flyers or didn't payed attention to the posters set in the public place. This observation confirms the saturated image space we live in, although the flyer distribution attained some curious reactions and kept the attention of our “spectators”. It was hard to receive feedback from the passersby although we could observe from far some people waiting for the bus, standing in the street or seating in public benches. Probably due to the unusual (good) quality of the paper used in the flyers or to the peculiarity of the photographs depicted there, we could successfully grab people's attention for a while. Some were just staring at it for some moments while others would look away from the paper in our direction and around them as if suspecting of any kind of prank. We received at least feedback from one girl who was manifestly intrigued by the proposal. After some time chatting with her we were able to describe the project and our intentions with it in a more detailed way. An improved version from this public action would probably concentrate our efforts in the flyer's distribution and in personal and dialogue engagement with people.
The action intended to call attention to the large number of abandoned houses that exist in Guimarães, and in Portugal in general, and in an amusing way spread the idea that they could have new, temporary, functions and serve low income communities within a legal and organized framework. Sheltering homeless people with the consent of the owners at the expense of simple renovation works in the houses and creating public vegetable patches are two possible functions. The real estate agency would then be a platform devised to map abandoned houses and serve as an interface between owners, future tenants and the council. Renovation programs have been implemented, as the Zona de Couros in Guimarães can attest, but these processes are slow and reach only certain areas. In the meantime, abandoned sites become evermore degradated and a risk to public safety. Starting such a platform would be a way of taking advantage of existing resources, serve immediate needs of communities, while renovation works are not possible.
Pictures of distributing the flyers are here: http://gallery3.constantvzw.org/index.php/CreativePolitics/Paraisos-urbanos
homeless people, social workers, urban art lovers, squatters
More information and current legislation on abandoned property
Food comes to us through supermarkets and shops, we have to pay for it. Are there ways to find, grow, create, obtain food when you don't have money ?
Av. de Londres, on the pavement, left from the parking place: Oranges, lemons and apples fallen from overhanging fruit trees.
After closing time (13:00) of the daily fresh market, traders leave fruits that are about to perish on the pavement.
When you found your fruits, you might want to juice them. Here's a quick hack showing you how to do that using a doorknob.
Keywords urban hacking, fresh fruit for rotten vegetables, multitasking, multi purpose design, cost effective
Hacking mupis displaying the city map by adding a new transparent layer with valuable information for homeless people. These mupies can be found in metro stations exits (and touristic areas in the city centre) and display the city map by area, which allows to introduce more detailed information in the new layer. Possible categories are:
night shelters; charity institutions and government institutions; food distribution locations; meeting areas; available street shelters such as ventilation exists, atm entrances, covered sites, etc, available land for growing vegetable patches, etc.
New information can be added to the map with a pen attached to the mupi. The transparent layer can also be added to folded maps given by tourim offices and left in strategic places to be collected by homeless people. The idea can also grow into a manual for surviving in urban space, namely in Porto’s urban space, resulting from deepen research and collaboration with charity institutions.
In the last few months, the number of homeless people, illegal car parkers and bin diggers grew exponentially in Porto. The map would be a tool for newcomers, while it creates a constrast with the touristic map below.
Use payphones as megaphone or create a call server system to periodically ring the payphones with recorded information