Platohedro: Artistic Experimentation and Free Learning as a Driving Force for Collaborative and Safe Environments

Since 2004, Platohedro has established itself as a creative and collaborative platform based in Medellín, dedicated to promoting artistic experimentation, content creation, and the exploration of free culture and alternative pedagogies.

Free culture, alternative pedagogies, and open, participatory knowledge form part of Platohedro’s ecosystem. Since 2004, this creative platform, located in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Medellín, Colombia, offers a space for meeting and training for children, youth, and household-leading mothers through learning methodologies based on creation, communication, artistic experimentation, and collaborative work. It’s aimed to contribute to social transformation and collective well-being of people and their relationship with the natural environment.

Since 2016, cultural manager, researcher, and teacher Luciana Fleischman has led the Art and Thought program at the Platohedro laboratory, promoting training activities and exchanges between local and international artists with the local community through artistic residencies. We talked with her about building collectivities, the benefits of free exploration as part of creative processes, and the main challenges regarding cultural management and community work in a context marked by violence, social inequality, and political and environmental conflicts.

Fundación Mar Adentro (FMA): How has the identity of Platohedro been built?
Luciana Fleischman (LF): It has been shaped by the various people who have inhabited the project and is closely related to developing skills associated with “learning by doing.” It is a dynamic influenced by the philosophy of ‘do it yourself’ and ‘do it together,’ that comes from the hacker world, free communication, and anarchism. Platohedro is a place which is permeable to others’ ideas, so these influences come to us naturally. Thus, we are motivated by the idea of sharing knowledge and spreading this desire to others, which ceases to be individual and becomes collective. In this sense, we work on collectivity terms by strengthening people’s internal capacities and their individual skills.

FMA: How are your action lines and the diversity of actors converging in your project articulated?
LF: Our line of action has an artistic and social focus, involving work with communities, many of which are in vulnerable situations. In restrictive environments, whether due to the Colombian conflict or economic precariousness, creativity can be very limited. In this sense, our goal is to encourage the people involved in this project to explore new possibilities through artistic and experimental tools. As an organization, we have learned to trust creative processes from the perspective of free exploration. Particularly, this has taught me a lot about how collectivities work.
Moreover, our continuous presence in the territory has allowed greater community involvement. For example, our pedagogical coordinator started participating in workshops as a child and then became increasingly involved in the process.

FMA: In some way, the driving force behind collective work is enhanced by mutual trust…
LF: Exactly, it is about expanding worlds as possibilities for action, especially in artistic terms and in constructing each participant’s life projects. In a context permeated by violence, developing soft skills and self-expression capacity is fundamental in creating less violent societies. All these elements articulate with each other to foster and stimulate a creative environment and safe spaces.

FMA: Questioning traditional educational models is also part of your principles. How have you sought to build a participatory teaching methodology?
LF: I believe it has a lot to do with the trauma people have experienced with educational institutions. Both public and private institutions are not always equipped to address diversity, and structured and standardized knowledge overlooks particular needs. This raises the question of how to do things differently. In Colombia, there is a great tradition of community-based approaches, alternative pedagogies, and liberation pedagogy—essential learning methods for communities with limited access to technology and resources. These approaches have been widely worked on at a popular level and are linked to the experience of developing projects and forming collectives. Thus, approaches like Reggio Emilia and Freire’s liberation pedagogy emerged, which were later integrated into educational and community centers.

FMA: Medellín is a territory with social and political complexities. How has social reality been reconfigured within the framework of globalization?
LF: Medellín is known for having transformed a dynamic of violence experienced in the 90s and 2000s related to drug trafficking. Since then, governments have supported social transformation by investing in infrastructure and sports, art, culture, and education programs. These public policies focused on childhood to offer better opportunities and prevent people from falling into criminal networks.
Today, we have free public education from the initial to secondary level, as well as numerous cultural spaces with free activities for young people and children. Investments have been made in community artistic projects, and public policies and calls have been encouraged to endorse these initiatives. This transformation is due to political will and macro-structural support. At the local level, projects like ours have received support, which facilitates its sustainability. Although it started as a self-managed project, it now operates with international cooperation and funds from various organizations.

FMA: How has Platohedro been linked to this social transformation in this context?
LF: Medellín has a severe problem with child sexual exploitation that affects the entire city. Our contribution is to provide tools and knowledge about rights and the strengthening of actions against violence. Despite our achievements, the structural reality surpasses us.
Regarding the social situation matter, during Iván Duque’s government, cultural policy focused on the “orange economy,” mainly benefiting merchants and reducing support for experimental and community art projects. Now, with Gustavo Petro’s government, these policies are being reversed. Current cultural calls focus on good living, work in rural areas, and reclaiming traditional knowledge. Although we have achieved transformations at the micro level, macro-structural problems are overwhelming. However, during the national strike, inspired by protests in Chile in 2019, Platohedro was a meeting space to young people because it resonated with the social-political events. The pandemic led us to question what a cultural organization could offer in difficult times, and we reinforced our network to converse with people from other countries, especially in the Global South.

FMA: How has the experience been with communities in environmental terms?
LF: The Manga Libre project (2013) is an example of community involvement in the territory. It was an abandoned space in front of the Platohedro house. Later, it was transformed into a community park through joint efforts with neighbors. It took years of collaborative work, including rubble cleaning, soil improvement, and various activities, such as the exploration of children needs, artist participation in designing experimental furniture, and organizing “mingas” (community actions), where native species were planted, creating a mini-forest with expert advice. This process has improved the land and space, now hosting 50 natural species, with the support of the mayor’s office that helps to maintain the lawn.

FMA: How have you linked your experience to the national socio-environmental scenario?
LF: Climate change has become a visible reality for population due to extreme phenomena like intense rains, droughts, fires, and water crisis. In response, we have worked with collectives like Movimiento en las Laderas, formed by people from the mountains around Medellín, who suffer the most severe consequences of climate change.
We have started artistic residencies focused on this issue. In 2023, we held residencies titled Artistic Practices for a Planet in Emergency, Another End of the World, where we explored the fungal world and circular fashion, considering Medellín’s strong textile industry. This year, we are focusing on the water issue, working with artistic proposals to raise awareness and offer artistic and scientific solutions to improve water access in mountain communities. Technical advice for these residencies comes from the people in the hills of Medellín, who have lots of experience and are already developing alternative initiatives for water access. For us, environmental work is deeply linked to the territory, and we seek to generate specific adaptations to each context, understanding that there are no single solutions for climate change.

FMA: You were in Chile during December 2023 and then at the beginning of 2024, initially as a participant in Galafest #2 in Araucanía, which brought together various initiatives contributing to environmental sustainability through creative practices, and then in a residency at Museo Taller. What learnings or reflections do you take from your visits to these places?

LF: Galafest gave me the opportunity to learn about proposals from different parts of the world that address the environment in depth, providing useful tools for the future. One of the most important reflections was on constructing safe spaces and managing conflicts within projects, especially those with an environmental focus and interaction with different people or groups in the communities. This reflection was very interesting because it highlights the relevance of building agreements and interpersonal relationships in project management. Creating safe spaces requires new tools to foster more constructive communication. However, a safe space for one person may not be safe for another one, so this idea turns into a difficult utopia to achieve. Despite this, building agreements and creating careful infrastructures in our work and with those we collaborate with is essential.

Later, I went to Santiago, where Museo Taller invited me to think and elaborate exchange dynamics with the community in Yungay neighborhood. I proposed mapping community actors to understand who makes up the community and how to interact with them. I discovered the neighborhood has a rich history and an impressive number of cultural facilities, plus a network of over 100 local artists. In the residency, we organized meetings to link the Museum with public space and neighborhood networks. There, in collaboration with the neighbors, we carried out activities for children, and the idea of planting and reforesting the area emerged, along with organizing a “minga” to plant native species. I feel something beautiful happened regarding trust and enthusiasm among the people.

About the Interviewee:

Luciana Fleischman is an Argentine cultural manager, researcher, and teacher residing in Colombia. Since 2016, she has led the Art and Thought program at the Platohedro laboratory in Medellín, and since 2021, she has been part of the coordination team for the international network Arts Collaboratory. Her work combines collaborative cultural management, research processes, artistic experimentation, and a community perspective. She has served as a juror in art and culture calls, conducted workshops and laboratories, and has acted as project consultant in various organizations and institutions across Latin America.

Referens:

  1.  El Enfoque Reggio Emilia es una filosofía educativa basada en la imagen de un niño con fuertes potencialidades de desarrollo y sujeto de derechos.
  2.  La pedagogía de la liberación, es un movimiento educativo cuyo principal representante es el pedagogo brasileño Paulo Freire (1921-1997).
  3. Concepto de los pueblos andinos que hablan Quechua sobre una forma de vida que satisface las necesidades humanas mientras preserva un balance justo con la naturaleza y entre los miembros de la sociedad.

 

(Español) Rocío Olmos de Aguilera

 Rocío Olmos de Aguilera, communications coordinator at Fundación Mar Adentro. Journalist with a degree in Social Communication from the Playa Ancha University of Valparaíso, with a specialization in art and culture.