479970601_b477c47415_m.jpgYesterday, i attended the Luminous Green symposium, organized by the lovely FoAM people, on the Groenhoven Estate, near Brussels. The event was exactly what it promised to be: a fantastic gathering of people from different fields and who all battle for a more sustainable environment. There were artists, fashion designers, grassroot activists, business leaders, people from the governement, etc. The aim of the event is to get them to talk together. Not in a self-congratulory spirit but to collect successful stories and see if people from different background can define a common ground.

If you're in Brussels on the 4th, i can only recommend you to head to FoAM and see how artists, designers and engineers translate the issues and suggestions that popped up during the conference into sketches and prototypes.

FoAM set up Luminous Green to reflect on the importance of creativity practice into the environmental debate. The aim is to go beyond the discussion about the effects of global warming. The debate is rather to see how we can adapt to life in turbulent and anti-environmental conditions and more precisely: How can designers, artists and other creative people contribute to the discussion? Maja Kuzmanovic, who curated the event, suggested that what designers and artists can bring into the discussion is:

0myrielecoute.jpg - 1. An integrated approach to complex problem solving.
Problems cannot be isolated, they are part of a big picture. We have created unstable systems and they have to be attacked from different approaches and fields. Everything is interconnected and interdependent. This requires a holistic trial and error approach.

- 2. The participatory nature of creative practices.
Today, prescribing universal solutions doesn't work. There are as many approaches as there are problems. We shouldn't look for solutions but for ecologies of solutions

- 3. The ability to design beautiful things that people might want to surround themselves with.
Buckminster Fuller said: "When I am working on a problem I never think about beauty. I only think about how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong."
0barefoootodol.jpg If we design or create beautiful things, people will not only want to have it but will also want to be part of the community that made it. Beauty makes it easier to draw people's attention.

It's time to be proactive and behave like the avant-garde that many claim to be.

The conference was as sustainable as possible which was not easy at all:
- difficult to find furniture created in a truly sustainable way (good recycling conditions, good working conditions, etc.) The only things they could find were prototypes or showroom pieces,
- they wanted to organize the event in an eco-chateau but nothing of the kind exists in Belgium,
- they got two hybrid cars from Lexus but 50 persons cannot fit in a car. Now Brussels uses hybrid buses for public transport, the only problem is that they cannot go out of Brussels. Regulations wouldn't allow that.

However, they produced very little printed documents, offered picnic snack in lovely bags designed and hand-crafted by people from the Barefoot College and managed to convince the speakers to either use no projections or be content with the very poorly lighted ones. And it worked marvellously.

Conclusion: there's still so much work to do, especially for people who don't have large pockets. We need more tangible products and we need to connect them together to achieve the desired impact.

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0justseeeeeen.jpgJust back from the screening of 8 BIT Movie, a documentary about art and video games, directed by Marcin Ramocki. It was presented at the art+game event this afternoon in Brussels and introduced by Isabelle Arvers, a French art curator now based in Switzerland. In 2002, she curated Playtime at La Vilette in Paris. The exhibition featured artefacts from the history of video games, hyper violent contemporary video games and games by artists. She curated two other exhibitions last year. Both showed a more critical and subversive approach: one in Australia and the other one in Norway, called No Fun! In 2004 she also curated Mind Bending in Italy.

Now back to the 8 bit Movie. Its website says: A mélange of a rocumentary, art expose and a culture-critical investigation, 8 BIT ties together seemingly disconnected phenomena like the 80's demo scene, chiptune music and contemporary artists using machinima and modified games.

You don't have to be a specialist in game culture to have a great time watching it, but some basic knowledge about it doesn't hurt either.

The movie kicks off with a history of video games, starting with the role of the Department of Defense and giving a large place to the art of game "cracking"; second chapter of the documentary is focusing on Chiptunes, there's a nice moment there when Cory Arcangel comments the different sounds made by Atari and Nintendo. A few minutes later, the movie goes back to him and have him explain how he hacked the Nintendo cartridge to create works such as the iconic Super Mario Clouds (which removes everything from the games except the clouds), the amusing Totally Fucked, and the adorable Naptime.

Naptime, Cory Arcangel

The chapter dedicated the "Retro" trend was quite short. Christine Paul made an interesting comment when she explained that the craze for retro consoles and gadgets might be a good thing. In her view some of the game forms didn't receive much attention when they appreared for the first time so the fact they they are re-visited gives them a second existence.

0bubblyd.jpgThe part about people making music with Game boys (and girls!) was the core of the documentary, the artists explained how they started, what makes the medium so interesting (its limits are included in the list), where to find old gameboys, etc. I'm not an expert and some of the names that appeared on the screen were rather new to me. From today two of my favourites musicians are Bubblyfish (not because she was one of the very few girls to grace the movie with her smile but because her music made so much sense that i totally forgot it was performed by using gaming objects) and Bodenstandig 2000 (never thought german language and 8bit music would make such a perfect cocktail.)

Some space was also given to Machinima "a piece of pop culture being mixed into another form of pop culture."

Snippets from the movie: "The player doesn't control the game. He's part of it. He's played as much as he plays and doesn't realize it."

"Cheating is very much part of the game." (this one by John Klima.)

The film is a lot of fun, it's branded as rather rock'n roll and indeed it is. But there's some serious research behind it, and there are comments from the likes of Tom Moody, Ed Halter and Christiane Paul that add some more depth. The bits of interview with Eddo Stern were by far my favourite moments. His research on the realism of FPS games, his comments on the game culture and some insights on works he worked on were really inspiring.

I wonder what a similar documentary done by a European director would have be like though...

The 8 BIT movie cast is of course rather impressive: Cory Arcangel, Bit Shifter, Bodenstandig 2000, Bubblyfish, Mary Flanagan, Alex Galloway, Glomag, Paul Johnson, John Klima, Johan Kotlinski, Nullsleep, Joe McKay, Tom Moody, Akiko Sakaizumi, Eddo Stern, TEAMTENDO, Treewave and Carlo Zanni.

I don't know when and where the next screening of the movie will be but if you hear that it's coming to your neighbourhood, don't miss it.

The trailer.

Built for the 1958 Brussels World's Fair and planned originally to last only six months, André Waterkeyn's Atomium has survived to become one of Belgium's most popular tourist attraction. Its silvery globes symbolise nine atoms of iron, while the connecting tubes represent the forces that hold together a crystalline molecule of iron that has been magnified 165 billion times.

It was closed for renovation and reopened to the public on February 18th. The original panels of aluminium on the outside have been replaced by stainless steel ones to give the Atomium its original shine.

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Some of the spheres can be visited. In the party space sphere, Ingo Maurer designed a ceiling lamp with a suspended plate, 14 feet in diameter, and lighted it with a cobalt halo. Eleven plastic human figures hover around the fixture like astronauts around a spacecraft.

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Alicia Framis (whom i knew mainly for her "fashion" collections) has designed the children's sphere using soft polyurethane balls to represent H2O, the formula for water (she was inspired by the rainy weather in Brussels.) Each of the 8 "rain molecules" is big enough for 3 to 8 kids to sleep in. The H2O molecules are suspended on the ceiling during the day and lowered at night for the kids to step in and use it as a hotel.

In the past, Framis had created other spaces, like Kidea but also Remix Buildings-Bloodsushibank now on show at the Musac, in León, Spain. The architectural structure combines the act of eating sushi with that of donating blood. The aseptic space where blood donations are usually performed is transformed into a trendy and cosy spot. The "hospital room" is enclosed by padded walls and seats are covered with white bandages. In the centre, is a white platform where blood is donated. Standing opposite this platform is a sushi bar, which gives the act of donating blood a delicate, fragile connotation, contrasting with the sandwich people normally receive after giving blood. More images.

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Via El Pais, designboom, vrtnieuws, La Libre Belgique.

I've uploaded on Flickr the images i took at the retrospective dedicated to Antwerp-based artist Panamarenko. Funky aeroplanes, air balloons, inflatable vehicles, flying saucers, weird cars and backpacks that Daedalus could have engineered...

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Be quick if you want to check the show, it closes on January 29, Royal Museums of Fine Arts, Brussels. More images in Pixagogo.

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