A tale of two cities – Innovative Citizen 2018 recap

05.12.2018 by Ricarda Schwede

Keywords: Dortmunder U, Etopia Center for Art and Technology, Innovative Citizen, recap

Since the start of the second industrial revolution, people have known more comfort and freedom than ever before. But with the technological advance, there is anxiety – am I losing touch, am I being left behind? How dependent am I of technology? Am I at the mercy of corporations who care about nothing but profit? How will the world look in a few years if they keep coming up with new technologies while discarding all earlier models?

For everyone who is asking themselves these questions, we have created the Innovative Citizen Festival. First implemented in 2014 in Dortmund, it has taken place every year as a way to get to know new technologies as well as old techniques, to get in touch with each other and celebrate the Maker culture.

This year, the festival has taken place from the 24th to the 28th of September at Etopia Center for Art and Technology in Zaragoza, Spain, as well as from the 26th to the 28th of October at the Dortmunder U in Dortmund, Germany. The two cities have collaborated for the second time as part of the smARTplaces project. Each city had their own local approach to the festival but the core idea was the same: that every visitor, no matter age, gender, or background, can learn new skills to live a more autonomous, free, and sustainable life.

Upcycling and Circular City

Upcycling has played a big role in both cities: in Zaragoza, there was a ‘Denim upcycling’ workshop where you could bring your old jeans and transform them into something new. La Modateca, a sustainable and collaborative clothes library used the workshop to present their project, and to show the possibilities of creative re-using.

A relatively unknown approach was used in Germany with the workshop ‘Upcycling jewellery – Give new life to grandma’s jewellery’. Philipp Heldt, workshop leader: “It takes about 5 tons of material to make one golden ring. That is why we should be conscious of our unused jewellery, even if we don’t have much of it.” He taught participants how to repurpose their old and unworn trinkets and even make new pieces for themselves.

On a different, more high-tech, note, participants could create their own little ‘impossible dice’: by 3D-printing a small ball inside of a cube, they were able to use the technology for something that would otherwise not have been possible. Workshop conductor Ilhan Karahman took them through the advantages and disadvantages of 3D printing as well as the theoretical and practical realization.

Reducing Food Waste – Going Zero Waste  

Food plays a big part in all of our lives, and so it did during the festivals. Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tons — gets lost or wasted. That’s why in Zaragoza, festival visitors were able to see a show cooking where there was no food waste – every scrap was used up or repurposed.

If you don’t want to waste food, it should be as long lasting as possible. One way to extend the life of your food is to ferment it, which is a technique that has been used for hundreds of years (e.g. with Sauerkraut or kimchi) but which has been forgotten by most people in recent years. During a fermentation workshop, Hildegard Mihm has taught participants how to make kimchi, pickled cabbage and mixed pickles at home. At Etopia, Fermentación Natural also conducted a workshop on fermentation.

But food is not only a topic of conversation, it can also bring people together: on Saturday, there was a Maker breakfast in Dortmund where workshop conductors, visitors and team members could exchange views and know how – all while eating tasty waffles.

Public Space Intervention

In addition to the workshops, there were activities that people could participate in: in Zaragoza, there was a Public Space Intervention in which artists transformed the look of a public space with spray paint and reused textiles with the help of sustainable design studio Recreando.

Festival participants could also decorate the space with self-knitted fabrics in a procedure called Urban Knitting, an initiative promoted by Zaragoza y punto group. They put the preknitted fabric on bicycle stands and sewed or knitted it together, creating a unique and cozy look in the city.

In Dortmund, there was an activity called ‘A Europe of regions’ where people could come together and explore the idea of a European Union which was not composed of national states, but of sovereign regions. During the festival, it was open for everyone to hop in and participate at any point.

Other activities included a mushroom picking tour with Uwe Heuer (who had also conducted two workshops on growing mushrooms yourself) and ‘Do Not Open This Suitcase’: an exit game loosely based on ‘Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes’ where you have to follow steps in order to stop a bomb from exploding (nobody was harmed during this activity). It was created and programmed by Joshua Rackstraw who came to Dortmund from Zaragoza for the festival.

The Future of the Festival

Both of the festivals were well received by participants of the workshops and activities and were considered a success. The festival teams are optimistic about the future and are even planning to expand the Innovative Citizen brand to conduct workshops not only during the festival period, but also around the year. Isabel Cebrián, project leader of the festival in Zaragoza: “We want to focus a lot more on relationship building and bringing people together. Our own role will be that of a mediator.”

In Dortmund, the festival is going to take place again next year in November. For updates, please follow @InnovativeCiti on Twitter or Innovative Citizen on Facebook.