Librepensante/Free thinker

Posted: October 10, 2011 by Fei An in Uncategorized

Touching Colombian ground again after my thesis felt like coming home again. The air, the people, the vendors, everything felt, sounded and tasted familiar. And of course, the good thing about coming back is to see old friends again. After a few days of acclimatizing I felt like I had never left.
And soon enough also I rolled into the familiar field of activists and artists again. On this Wednesday, contemporary artist and designer Hamilton Mestizo invited me to a conference in the Javeriana University. I got to know Hamilton during my thesis as a friend of a friend where he already told me about the project “Librepensante” several times, but it was only after this conference that I really understood what he was doing. Librepensante was a small collective aiming to establish a network between ‘things’: human and non-human, digital and non-digital. As we entered a little late to the meeting, Hamilton was already explaining about some of the projects they had done earlier. Although many of the projects were very technical in its execution and a little too far- fetched to understand for a non-technician , most of them had a strong conceptual idea behind it as well.
The first example was a doll that would run on solar energy. The task for kids was to take care of it and reply to the demands of the doll. Thinking about Tamagotchi a little bit, I guess you could consider this the organic, child labour free and environment friendly version.

Another project that I liked very much was related to urban gardening, the growing of plants and flowers in urban settings with a touch of technology to it. For those who are familiar with the city of Bogota, know that air pollution is very prominent in most of the busy areas of the cities. Therefore, the group Librepensante thought of a way to purify the air. Walking around with a cart of herbs and CO2 consuming plants, one of the participants of the project would walk around in town breathing in the only bit of fresh air available in its surroundings (see picture). The other aim of the project was to explore alternative uses of ordinary products and utensils. Fruit, connected to electrodes was used to generate energy and a Playstation joystick used as a bike bell.

This new way of “product hacking” made me realize something about the society we live in. Do we actually know the things we are using? Or have we just become passive and uncritical consumers? If a lemon can create the same effect as a battery, what more is my smartphone capable of that I have no idea of?

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