anonymity // transparency // safety // freedom // control // (self-)surveillance // mobile technology // bastard crowding // selfie // urban games // appropriation // public space

In the frames of Urbanize! International Festival for Urban Explorations, we participated in a workshop, lead by video and media artist Conny Zenk and performer and choreographer Daniel Aschwanden. During the workshop, we learned to overcome our self-awareness and not to be afraid of attracting attention or being watched in public – drawing on the power of our being together in a group, using our technological tools as shields or feeling set free by the conventions imposed by the urban games we played. Having our senses and our gadgets merged into one reminded us of how much information and impressions we let go by past us, how little attention we pay to each other. Being connected through technology, transporting ourselves into other, private realities, feeling safe in our technological bubble, changes our perception of time, our behavior, experience and memory of our surroundings. Inherent instincts of navigating the public space are suppressed, the step-and-slide pedestrian choreography is visibly disturbed, eye contact is rarely made. Rushing through our days, we get disconnected from and inattentive of the others around us, which ultimately changes the way authentic human interactions unfold on the street, in the public space.

Photos by Conny Zenk and Daniel Aschwanden

In the workshop with Leonidas Martin we discussed the political charge of design and how it can be channelled for the purposes of social commentary, shifting of power positions and democratic expression. We explored specific urban environments for elements that are either segregative and limiting or permissive and inclusive.

In the workshop Strategies for Games in Urban Contexts, lead by artist and researcher Margarete Jahrmann, Madeleine Salinger, Andrea Navarrete Rigo and I invented an urban game for two: a player in the city is controlled by a navigator over the phone. The navigator is neither aware of the exact position of the player, nor of the obstacles and situations the player encounters. Action is determined by the rolling of a dice, where each number is assigned a specific movement (walk straight/backwards, turn left/right, walk fast, stand still). The player had to follow the directions regardless if they lead her into a crowd, push her against a wall or make her marsh into a store. A certain mode of negotiation naturally unwound during the game, as the navigator developed empathy for the player and tried to roll the dice faster to help her out of dangerous situations.