Día de Muertos Urban Picnic
From 2010 until 2012 I was an active member of SER URBANO, a Venezuelan urban collective based in Caracas that mixes art, play and protest to promote The Good Public Life. SER URBANO organises disruptive temporary ludic interventions to defy the neglect of public space, challenge the sensation of urban insecurity, the control over public space use by local authorities (police especially), and most importantly, offer a space for consumption-free leisure time to share with strangers.
Created in 2008 it is one of most active urban collectives in Latin America.
The Holy Pedestrian
José Gregorio Hernández,
I made up a Venezuelan Cyclist Republic “ID card”.
Marital status? Pedestrian,
My contributions to SER URBANO were to instigate the first PARKing Day event in Caracas (which took two hours of negotiation with the municipal police to be able to keep our “illegal” intervention in the street). I was part of the initiative to celebrate nocturnal urban picnics every Tuesday evening in public spaces all over Caracas to defy the fear of insecurity, and helped organize the first pop-up Urban Wedding. All the activities take place in public spaces, SER URBANO never asks for any permits, public space belongs to us all.
SER URBANO is also preoccupied with making explicit the negative effects on the limited access to good quality public spaces in a car-obsessed culture (Venezuela, an oil producing country, still has the cheapest gasoline in the world!).
To transform the ways we interact with our urban space and our fellow urbanites, we need to challenge how official authorities manage our cities and tend to restrict spontaneous playful interactions as well as the access to free, clean, safe and open public spaces for everyone.
First Urban Picnic, Sabana Grande Boulevard, Caracas. January 2011.
The photo was taken at 8:50 pm
Picnic Urbano La Buena Vida Pública (The Good Public Life Urban Picnic), Caracas, 2011.
The Good Public Life Urban Picnic, 2011
Stop, this is a picnic!
These picnics take place once a week, on public spaces all over Caracas. They are open to everyone, meant to defy fear of insecurity and reclaim the right to use public space freely, gathering around sharing homemade food, poetry and music to encourage creating and positive interactions with strangers.
These picnics have taken place every week, uninterruptedly, since January 2011.
First PARKing Day Poster
PARKing Day Caracas
Ser Urbano organised the first PARKing Day in Venezuela, choosing the municipality of Chacao to test out our playful pacific protest to create awareness about Caracas' lack of parks and green spaces, in a country where gasoline is almost free and cars have more rights than people, literally taking over every inch of available city space.
PARK(ing) Day is a annual open-source global event where citizens, artists and activists collaborate to temporarily transform metered parking spaces into “PARK(ing)” spaces: temporary public places. The project began in 2005 when Rebar, a San Francisco art and design studio, converted a single metered parking space into a temporary public park in downtown San Francisco. Since 2005, PARK(ing) Day has evolved into a global movement, with organizations and individuals (operating independently of Rebar but following an established set of guidelines) creating new forms of temporary public space in urban contexts around the world.
The mission of PARK(ing) Day is to call attention to the need for more urban open space, to generate critical debate around how public space is created and allocated, and to improve the quality of urban human habitat.
Me and little Alejandro, setting the scene for the first PARKing Day intervention in Caracas, 2010.
After two hours of a grinding but successful negotiation with Chacao Municipal Police, we had over sixty people join us in our protest for more open, green space and less cars and parking lots!
We occupied parking spots with a urban library, a meditation garden and a beach.
The banners say:
I want Caracas to have more squares
More bicycles, less cars
Don’t park, make a park
First PARKing Day Caracas in full swing!
PARKing Day Caracas 2010
boda urbana, 2011
(first urban wedding)
Since 2011, Ser Urbano has celebrated yearly Urban Weddings as well as Urban Christenings in public spaces in Caracas.
Preparing the scene, among an unsuspecting audience (and police)
And two hours later… Voilá! The first Boda Urbana (Urban Wedding), Caracas, 2011.
You can watch the video here:
And after the ceremony came an equally subversive fancy “reception”
pelea de almohadas
SER URBANO first open activity in Caracas was a pillow fight in Plaza Chacaito. Every year SER URBANO organises a fun and friendly pillow fight in different public spaces in Caracas.
Ser urbano in the Venezuelan national press!
Plaza O’Leary, 2011
Plaza Caracas, 2012