12 meter hammer storms the United Nations Climate Conference in Cancún (Mexico 2010)

“Art is not a mirror to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.”  -Bertolt Brecht/ Vladimir Mayakovski/ Karl Marx

In 2010 an inconspicuous looking suitcase was sent from Berlin to Mexico City containing a 12 meter tall inflatable silver hammer. Thus began El Martillos odyssey to protest the policies of the United Nations Climate Conference in Cancún. El Martillo’s short, but glorious life, climaxed when protesters from Marea Creciente (Rising Tide) stormed the conference complex fences, gigantic hammer above their heads.

In full view of the press Mexican police tore the inflatable to pieces. Within an hour global the media corporations declared El Martillo a symbol of the climate changes protests as its image traveled across the world.

Watch the video below:

The action is also archived and preserved in The El Martillo Project, published by Minor Compositions. The book documents the whole process from its conception and construction to the media flurry it sparked off. Included are numerous full color images and documentation of the project; texts and analysis by David Graeber, Alex Dunst, and Cristian Guerrero; an interview with John Jordan from the Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination; and a fold out technical manual and plan for creating giant inflatable hammers.

Initially inspired by the quote “Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it,” The El Martillo Project aims to inspire creative action and joyful disobedience.

You can order the book here.


“In the world of contemporary art people often publish beautiful critical documentation of projects that are neither very beautiful nor critical. These glossy catalogues give surface value to projects that are often vacuous and obtuse. Nothing could be more different with The hammer – the project itself beautifully merged the aesthetic and the activist, the world of art and that of social movements, whilst being a critique of old forms of protest and a celebration of collective creativity. The  catalogue amplifies this fantastic project and tells the story of this courageous experiment in art activism via texts, press cuttings and images that inspire us and remind us of the power of beauty when it is thrown into the streets.”  – John Jordan, Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination

“I often think that grassroots activist communities don’t document enough. There’s so many battles to fight and oppressive systems to counter that we are always on the move. The power of archiving our creative resistance means than future movements don’t have to start from square one. It’s always a delicate balance of taking action, reflecting on it, archiving it for others and making our actions stronger for the next time. This organising praxis can be profound and help us shake power in the achilles heel if we get it right! The brilliant El Martillo Project most certainly struck that beautiful balance… so enjoy!” - Dan Glass, The Glass is Half Full

Bio: The eclectic electric collective (e.e.c.) is an international art collective operating at the borders of art and activism. It is founded in 2008 by Artúr van Balen and Jakub Simcik.

Make your own inflatable Hammer!

The 12 meter inflatable hammer was sewn during a 10 day participatory workshop from the eclectic electric collective. The hammer can be inflated in 9 minutes by a small high-tech ventilator (DV 6224) using two car batteries (24 V) as its energy source. See the video for instructions:

The motive for the hammer was inspired by the quote: “Art is not a mirror for reality, but a hammer with which to shape it”, expressing clearly the distinction between “representational political art” and “interventional art politics”. The sewing pattern was developed during the workshop by Sarah Drain and many others.

Digital Sketch made by Paul Pistorius 2011.

Inflatable cobblestones (Berlin 2012)


Sous les pavés, la plage.(Under the pavement, the beach.)
Streetgraffiti from the french ’68 movement

On the 25th revolutionary 1st of May demonstration in Berlin-Kreuzberg, protesters were throwing huge inflatable cobblestones, made of silver-reflective foil and tape.The creative intervention was initiated by the artivist collective “eclectic electric collective” (e.e.c.) and was meant as a celebration of an object which is both a symbol and a material weapon of anti-authoritarian struggle everywhere. It also aimed to bring new strategies of tactical frivolity into the demonstration.

A member of the collective explains:

Through 25 years of riots, the cobblestone has become an icon for protests at the May 1 in Berlin Kreuzberg. The use of cobblestones in social uprisings is however much older: from ancient Rome, to the Paris Commune in 1871 to the ´68 movement, cobblestones have been used for barricades and as a weapon of defense. Taking stones out of the pavement is a favoured act of those who refuse to consent to an oppressive social order.

Cobblestones used as a barricade in the uprising of the Paris Commune 1871.

The May 1st demonstration in Berlin has long been a testing-ground for police tactics of crowd control and restrictions on protest. This year, 7000 highly-armed and aggressively shielded cops matched some 15 000 protesters, who were warned that a new water cannon, with a 10 000 L water-capacity, would be ready to be used against them.

The inflatables are a collective creative intervention against this growing repression of protest and dissent, in ways that are both concrete and as well as symbolic. The experiences of the inflatables on May 1 proved their many uses in situations of protest, which can be summarized by the term “tactical frivolity”. Inflatables bring celebration and play to a demonstration while at the same time having strategic functions in situations of conflict…

Watch Video below:

Inflatable Cobblestones Berlin Part 1 from Artur on Vimeo.

Inflatable Cobblestones Berlin Part 2 from Artur on Vimeo.