Cultural Commons: How do we put it into practice in Medellin?

Open Discussion Series Tuesday 9th April, at 18.30, School of Architecture NTUA, Tositsa Building, Amphitheatre, Department 3, 4th floor [...]



Penny Travlou will present her on-going ethnographic project in Medellin, Colombia where she looks at emerging intangible cultural heritage and the making of cultural commons. Her research looks at a network of cultural producers and grassroots art spaces in Medellin focusing on their collaborative practices with local communities (comunas), disaffected youth and other art initiatives as well as their efforts to communicate their work to public art institutions. By merging traditional Colombian cultural values (buen vivir, buen conocer), participatory pedagogies and new media art values (Do-It-With-Others, free libre knowledge, open source, peer-to-peer learning), these grassroots art collectives and communities are instrumental in the making of new cultural heritage in Medellin. 

Due to the still complex post-conflict era in Colombia, cultural heritage is mostly linked to historical artefacts, monuments and architecture representing national (post-colonial) history while the value of artistic practices and cultural manifestations by local communities and bottoms-up art collectives is not fully recognised. The latter makes art collectives and cultural producers to work in the periphery of cultural production, something that indeed creates barriers to dialogue and/or synergy with public art institutions in the city.

Following a collaborative ethnography framework, this project invites grassroots art collectives to actively participate in the co-design of a methodological toolkit that can reflect, map and evaluate their work. 

The talk will be in English.

Penny Travlou 


Penny Travlou is a Lecturer in Cultural Geography and Theory (Edinburgh School of Architecture & Landscape Architecture, University of Edinburgh). Her research focuses on politics of public space, social justice, the commons, collaborative practices, cultural landscapes and ethnography. She has been involved in international research projects funded by the EU and UK Research Councils. Since 2011, she has been doing ethnographic research on collaborative practices in emerging networks (e.g. digital art practitioners, collaborative economy initiatives, translocal migrants); her most recent research is on cultural commons in Colombia. Alongside her academic work, Penny is an activist on social justice and the commons. 

The Open Discussions wish to create a meeting space for people and initiatives with different backgrounds, paths and worldviews in an attempt to address the commons from different perspectives, experiences and practices. The programme comes out from the Laboratory’s members desire for a deeper understanding of our vision and way of working.