Urban hacker is TEDx artist-in-residence 

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Drift, divert and DIY: That's urban hacker's Florian Riviere's modus operandi, in three simple steps that only get difficult if you bring all your baggage to the table.

Drift, as in drift along, open to possibilities. When I was running late to our meeting in Fountain Square, he drifted over to a bike rack. And when I finally showed up, he had come up with a new use for the rack: an exercise apparatus perfect for abdominals.

And that's the divert part — re-imagining new uses for familiar things. Like, say, traffic barrels. Cut a couple holes in the front, jump inside and you've got yourself a near-invisible (or at least totally absurd way) to move across the urban landscape.

That cutting of holes into the barrel: It's also the DIY part. Someone else can't re-envision the city for you. You're going to have to do it yourself.

Riviere was invited to Indy for a three-month residency as the first TedX Indianapolis Artist-in-Residence. He was born in France and spent his early 20s in business school, but for past two years, he's been flaneur-ing about the globe, from Moscow to Berlin, Zurich to Dublin.

It's a "discipline without discipline," being an urban hacker. He's not even sure about the hacker title — it gets toward the sense of being a lifehacker, or someone who gets things done cleverly. But he wants to be a "master" and not a "slave," and "technology makes you into a slave," so maybe hacker, which still conjures images of dudes breaking into a website, isn't quite right.

To get all Dennis Miller on you, I'd like to call him a mix between a Club Med instructor, cognitive-behavioral therapist and Guy Debord.

First off, he's interested in designing games — open-ended games that might, for instance, use a die to direct your next step through the city (roll 'south' and you head south). Games without spectators or goals that encourage playfulness and break down barriers.

But it's not just about leisure for leisure's sake: This is about rewiring our brains. About understanding those noble truths — I think therefore I am; I am what I eat. About acknowledging the ways in which we're conditioned by the state. And then embarking on a program to restructure ourselves and our world as we see fit.

Debord and his Situationist buddies had a word for that: "détournement," or rerouting, hijacking, overturning. They used the word to describe a parody that's antagonistic to the original being parodied (check out Threepenny Opera this weekend, kids!) But Riviere is working less with works of media and more with the elements of our everyday life.

How can we rethink the way we use a trash can (he thinks of the trashcans with vertical metal planking as trash can jails)? How can we re-route objects that have only "use value" — including humans that we use only as tools — so that we might arrive at a more spontaneous, individualized, honest way of living?


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Scott Shoger

Scott Shoger

Scott Shoger staggered up to NUVO's door one summer afternoon, a little drunk, poor and crazy-haired, muttering about future Mayor Ballard. He was taken in, hosed down, given NUVO-emblazoned clothes to wear and allowed to work in exchange for food and bylines. Refusing to leave the premises, he was hired on as... more

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