In the city of Utrecht, the Netherlands, something strange is going on. Since a couple of years begging is prohibited there. The beggars were seen as a nuisance, disrupting the picturesque atmosphere of the old city center. Today, however, begging voices are echoing through the streets again. But this time it’s not homeless people, but ghetto blasters that do the begging.

Songs for Thomas Piketty is an art project part of Hacking Habitat, an art manifestation that aims to empower the expression of individuals in public spaces. The public space should be a reflection of society, not a polished, one-sided version of it. Our everyday life is colonized and infiltrated by corporate and governmental systems under the guise of safety and risk aversion. Hacking Habitat poses the question: how can we keep ownership of our lives?

gettoblaster with saucer begging for change

Thomas Piketty makes us realize with his book Capital in the Twenty-First Century how the income-gap between the rich and the poor will only increase in the years to come. Songs for Thomas Piketty confronts us with the reality. The begging voices demand your attention. They make you feel uncomfortable and give a sense of urgency. The ghetto blasters ‘hack’ the system in this way and pose questions such as: do we need to see the poor in order to discuss poverty? And do we feel more empathy for a machine than for the human being it represents?

Source: Europe by People. Image: Dries Verhoeven

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