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Nicolas Maigret, Drone.2000, 2014. Photo Luce Moreau for GAMERZ


Nicolas Maigret, DRONE.2000, 2014

GAMERZ in Aix-en-Provence is probably the only festival in Europe that doesn't bat an eyelid when an artist proposes to organize a performance in which drones modified to be fairly dumb roam freely and menacingly over a room of spectators. This might not sound scary until you realize that a dumb drone is even more dangerous than a smart drone.

The two UAVs of the DRONE.2000 performance are guided by the simple algorithms of a Roomba robot. Clearly, that's not enough intelligence for them as they bump against the walls, fly far too close to the audience, dart green arrows over the heads and emit a noise that has been amplified to the point of discomfort. This could have ended in tears and bruises (but it didn't.)

The only direct experience most of us have of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) is fairly benign. We know them through hacking, art, cinema or video games. One day, these flying machines will also deliver our parcels, help coordinate firefighting efforts or keep a 'benevolent' eye over sports games. How far should their autonomy and power go? Do we trust them? Do we trust the ones who manufacture and control them?

Drone.2000 is part of a series of works by Nicolas Maigret that reminds us of the military origins and use of technologies that have reached the mainstream. Here, trusting the autonomy of the machine is not only a discursive concept, Maigret writes, but a true experience shared with the audience, triggering off their reactions, tensions and commitment of their bodies in situation of real danger..

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Nicolas Maigret, Drone-2000, 2014. Photo Luce Moreau for GAMERZ

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Nicolas Maigret, Drone.2000, 2014. Photo Luce Moreau for GAMERZ

I was in Aix-en-Provence for the opening of the GAMERZ festival but had to leave before the start of the performance so i asked Nicolas Maigret to give us the lowdown on his work:

Bonjour Nicolas! Which model of drone were you using in this performance?

These are Parrot AR.Drone 2.0. The advantage of this model is that it is widely used and very hack-able. A large community is working on hijacking it for different uses. (see: nodecopter = hackathon, ardupilot.com = auto-pilot, copterface = facial recognition ...)
It is not cheap and it is really is somewhere between the toys, the connected object, and the semi-pro equipment.

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Nicolas Maigret, Drone.2000, 2014 (Preparation before the performance.) Photo Luce Moreau for GAMERZ

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Nicolas Maigret, Drone.2000, 2014 (Preparation before the performance.) Photo Luce Moreau for GAMERZ

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Nicolas Maigret, Drone.2000, 2014 (Preparation before the performance.) Photo Luce Moreau for GAMERZ

Can you explain how you modified the drone?

The challenge was really to confuse the public, to have it face the autonomy of the machines (in this case flying ones). And add to that a confrontation with instability, fragility, and the potential danger of algorithms that govern the autonomous behavior of these machine.

To do this we have reproduced the primary behaviors of a robot / vacuum cleaner like iRobot Roomba. Which means that the Drone is absolutely not aware of his surroundings, it only knows its height and rotates randomly from time to time when it bumps against an obstacle (walls, etc). We blocked the cameras normally used to stabilize the position, the Drone is literally un-intelligent. He does not know the position of the other drones either.

These changes entail an underlying sense of danger, a sort of sword of Damocles that is quite striking. Especially since these same drones falls down rather frequently (whether there is a public or not).

Each drone is also equipped with vibration sensors under the propellers. These sounds were gradually amplified during the performance, until the beating blades gets a real physical presence. This activates a martial connotation in the brutality of the contemporary sounds - this aspect recalls the sound approaches of the Futurists (or their reactivations such as Jean-Marc Vivenza's Aérobruitisme Dynamique). However, the Futurists harboured a progressive and inclusive form of hope, whereas I believe that we now have a very different rapport, we feel a growing distrust towards the widespread propaganda of technological innovations that have very little in common with yesteryear's myth of progress.

How did the public react? Were they aware of the danger?

Public reactions alternated between discomfort, nervousness, and humor.

The awkward movements of the Drones quickly made the danger tangible. Initially, most of the audience intuitively chose to stand near the walls, on the sides of the room. I think this was the time when anxiety was at its peak. Then people gradually got closer or they sat down around the space. Some even tried to interfere with the flight of these Zombie Drones. Ironically, the walls of the room, which were the places where most people gathered, were also the places where the drones usually fell.

It should be noted that the Drones also intermittently emit a laser target in the shape of a cross towards the public, openly evoking the military and oppressive parallel of this same technology that has quickly been gamified for the general public, in particular with drones plug and play like AR.Drones. (see the project blurb.)

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Nicolas Maigret, Drone.2000, 2014. Photo Luce Moreau for GAMERZ

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Nicolas Maigret, Drone.2000, 2014. Photo Luce Moreau for GAMERZ

Drone.2000. i love that name but the 2000 is ironic, right? it makes me think of all those shops called 'Fashion 2000' "Car dealer 2000" in the 1980s and 1990s.

The title is clearly ironic. At least it summons an imaginary future as it existed in the past, especially one related to the autonomous flying objects that we encountered in sci-fi and anticipation literature, film, comics, tv series.

I think there is something of the self-fulfilling prophecy in these generational fantasies inspired by sci-fi, the entertainment industry, and more generally the effect of the zeitgeist. Indeed, entire generations grow up with a common imaginary, whether they are dystopian, critical or not. Later, as they are adults, some mechanically attempt to achieve a more or less faithful realization of that imaginary. (This is also a key point of Jean-Baptiste Bayle's Terminator Studies, or of Nicolas Nova's latest book). I think that's part of what we've been seeing over the last 20 years through a series of gadgets and "innovations", emerging notably from the Californian ideology and more generally from the new ruling class of the engineers.

The title, Drone.2000, conjures the vision of a future that is already gone, that seeks to disrupt the mask of fascination associated with innovation, and that also tends to generate a tension between our aspirations to consume science-fiction artifacts and the ideology they carry.

The term drone crystallizes fairly well this tension between, on the one hand, a fun and fascinating artifact coming from the world of model-making and on the other hand, a new paradigm in the relationship to the "clean and surgical" war (Grégoire Chamayou, Drone Theory) or a probable near future characterized by widespread surveillance and control.

It is for these reasons among others that I wanted to make the Drones completely autonomous and disturbing, a symbolic intersection between these three references.

Merci Nicolas!

Drone.2000 was produced by M2F Créations - Lab GAMERZ, Grégoire Lauvin and Nicolas Maigret.

Also by Nicolas Maigret: The Pirate Cinema, A Cinematic Collage Generated by P2P Users.

Sponsored by:





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Elisa Fantozzi, Les Marchands du Temple, 2001. Photo Luce Moreau

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Photo Luce Moreau

2014 already and a happy one to you! I thought i'd celebrate the new year with a write up about one of the events i enjoyed the most last year. Once again, my applause goes to the Gamerz festival. I'm embarrassed to admit that it took me months to publish this post since i'm going to repeat the same praises i heaped up on the previous editions of GAMERZ: this festival is imaginative, offbeat, laid-back and its energy never wavers. It's also a great place for me to discover young artist and it takes place in Aix-en-Provence which is never unpleasant.

I already talked to some of the participating artists: Thomas Cimolaï told me about The trophies from the 6th continent and Luce Moreau explained Constance, an installation in weightlessness. But there were plenty of other installations and performances that deserve some blog space.

Let's start with Bookfighting!

In 2005, the French made the news all over the world when they installed book-vending machines in the streets of Paris. A few years later, they are literally throwing books at each other's heads.

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Yves Durathon/Labomedia, Bookfighting, 2009. Photo Luce Moreau

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Yves Durathon/Labomedia, Bookfighting, 2009. Photo Luce Moreau

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Yves Durathon/Labomedia, Bookfighting, 2009. Photo Luce Moreau

One of the performances i was really annoyed to miss was Yves Durathon's bookfighting. The concept, rules and spirit are embedded into the title. Wearing protective gear and following strict rules, the fighters pick up pocket books from a heap and use them as projectiles for combats. Bookfighting started as a performance and has grown into a practice mixing combat sports and culture.

With this sport, Durathon wanted to celebrate the passage from paper culture to digital culture. Books, as we know them, are already objects from the past and the new combat sport is probably the only remaining mode to enjoy them in a lively, joyful way.

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Labomedia, WikkiIRC, 2012. Photo Luce Moreau

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Labomedia, WikkiIRC, 2012. Photo Luce Moreau

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Labomedia, WikkiIRC, 2012. Photo Luce Moreau

Labomedia's WikikIRC, the sound of Wikipedia is a piano 'played' by wikipedia.fr. The flow of the modifications made by the editors of the French version of Wikipedia are transformed in real time into sounds.

A robot posts each modification made on Wikipedia.fr on a chat (the "IRC" channel). The texts are then converted into an electric pulse which turns on a servo motor that activates a hammer rail (extracted from a piano). This hammer activates after that a piano key, which uses its hammer to hit on a string (triple string or "trichord") to produce an audible sound. Played one after the other, these sounds, besides create a little bit of harmony in this world, describe the activity that grows daily on this collaborative encyclopedia.

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Djeff Regottaz, Call Box Emergency, 2013. Photo Luce Moreau

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Djeff Regottaz, Call Box Emergency, 2013. Photo Luce Moreau

Just like the books, phone booths are dying a slow death. Nowadays, the only times i see them is on TV when the villain calls a public street phone to communicate instructions on where to leave the ransom money. Djeff Regottaz modified an old phone so that anyone can leave a message there anonymously and it's the next person who picks up the receiver who will hear the message. Very simple but incredibly intimate, charming and mysterious. Unless you happened to listen to the dumb message i left, of course.

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Mathias Isouard, SynesTV, 2011. Photo Luce Moreau

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Mathias Isouard, SynesTV, 2011. Photo Luce Moreau

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Mathias Isouard, SynesTV, 2011. Photo Luce Moreau

I don't remember the last time i switched on a TV so, to me at least, this is yet another dead technology. Mathias Isouard gives the telecommunication device a new function by playing with synesthesia. Viewers do their most ordinary job: they sit down on a couch and switch channels to get bombed by audiovisual stimuli. Only this time, the device will invert the senses, to visualize auditive variations and hear visual variations from the televisual live stream. SynesTV offers a purely stimulatory interpretation of the TV stream, devoid of informative content. You can get a vague idea of the images generated in the few minutes of this video interview with the artist. I just learnt from this interview that the remote control is called 'la zappette' in french. How i grew up speaking french without ever hearing that hilarious word is a mystery.

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Colson Wood. Photo Luce Moreau

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Colson Wood. Photo Luce Moreau

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Colson Wood. Photo Luce Moreau

Because the region Marseille-Provence was the European Capital of Culture in 2013, Colson Wood, a carpenter experimenting with art and architecture, decided to symbolically move the icon of the French capital South of the country and erect a wooden Eiffel Tower in the garden of the Art School of Aix-en-Provence. The result was quite magnificent even though the tower has been built on a 1:24 scale, aka the Playmobil scale.

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Antonin Fourneau, Water Light Graffiti, 2012. Photo Luce Moreau

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Antonin Fourneau, Water Light Graffiti, 2012. Photo Luce Moreau

I interviewed Antonin Fourneau a few days ago about Eniarof. He was showing Water Light Graffiti at Gamerz. You might have heard of it, it's a wall covered with thousands of LEDs that light up when touched by water.

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Jankenpopp. Photo Luce Moreau

Jankenpopp's electronic one man shows are very popular in France. I think. In any case i find him hilarious and talented. Jankenpopp works with video, sound, hacks video game devices to make music. Here's a video of his work, but it doesn't do justice to his ability to make people dance and laugh:

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Photo Luce Moreau

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Marie Poláková, Micro Pets, installation, 2013. Photo Luce Moreau

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Marie Poláková, Micro Pets, 2013. Photo Luce Moreau

Marie Poláková will never convince me to adopt microscopic organisms as pets i could care for and even grow to love but i like that she is thinking of designing 'lifestyle accessories' for them.

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Peter William Holden, Vicious Circle, 2012. Photo Luce Moreau

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Peter William Holden, Vicious Circle, 2012. Photo Luce Moreau

Peter William Holden, Vicious Circle, 2012

Peter William Holden's Vicious Circle has a very clunky, antiquated built. However, as soon as the robotic installation gets into motion, the sculpture gets much lighter and elegant. Vicious Circle is inspired by the the Industrial Revolution and the subsequent changes in human development. "The motion of the machine reminds me of the relentless movement of progress as the machine moves to its predetermined program, ignorant of its environment and unwilling to stop if anything gets in its way," writes the artist. "Though paradoxically it is possible to see beauty within its movements as the life size cast hands rise and fall forming a swarm that flocks together like birds in a choreographed dance to Prokofiev's "Dance of the knights". Thus reminding me that technology is a double edged sword and we / humanity have the possibility to decide which direction it will take."

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Peter William Holden, AutoGene, 2005. Photo Luce Moreau

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Peter William Holden, AutoGene, 2005. Photo Luce Moreau

The artist also splendidly choreographed umbrellas. I blogged about the installation a hundred years ago so instead of writing down something, i'm going to encourage you to have a look at the interview Gamerz did with the artist:


Interview with Peter William Holden at Gamerz

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Ewen Chardronnet, ZERO-G ENTREPRISE (still from video), 2013

Artist Ewen Chardronnet was showing the HD3D video of his experience on the first parabolic weightless flight, zero gravity flight for tourists, Air Zero G provided by AVICO company, the first French air broker.

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Tatiana Vilela, Oort, 2013. Photo Luce Moreau

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Tatiana Vilela, Oort, 2013. Photo Luce Moreau

I also got the one below in the photo pack from the festival. I do believe i've missed this performance.

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Photo by Luce Moreau

More images from the festival on M2F Creations flickr stream. I've got some more over here.

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Thomas Cimolaï, Trophies from the Sixth Continent, 2010. Photo Patrick Galais

Another focus on one of the artworks i discovered at the GAMERZ festival in Aix-en-Provence in October...

The Trophies from the 6th Continent are lifeless, plastic 'skins' of computer generated models found in 3D environments. Deflated of any volume nor life, they were hanging in the gallery of the Ecole d'Art of Aix-en-Provence like bloodless carcasses. Cimolaï tracked down these hunting preys on the 'sixth continent', the land of our 3D digital entertainment made of video games, special effects, post-production works, etc.

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Thomas Cimolaï, Trophies from the Sixth Continent, 2010. Installation view at the GAMERZ festival. Photo Luce Moreau

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Thomas Cimolaï, Trophies from the Sixth Continent, 2010. Installation view at the GAMERZ festival. Photo Luce Moreau

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Thomas Cimolaï, Trophies from the Sixth Continent, 2010. Photo Luce Moreau

The concept and result are quite simple. Yet, they are brilliant. The empty plastic parts of vehicles are pitiful and you can't help feeling sorry for these former glories of the screen.

Scroll down if you want to read the original french version of Thomas Cimolaï's answers.

Hi Thomas! I read that the objects you brought into the gallery were originally protected by copyrights. Where did you find these objects? And why do you call them trophies?

The Trophies from the Sixth Continent constitute a fiction collection. The whole process is based on "an adventure story" developed from gestures made with a computer - vision, research, tracking, targeting, intrusion into forbidden territories and capture. The Sixth Continent is the land accessible through screens and through data transmission technology (in this case, internet). The collection includes the debris of computer generated objects found on the web and originally intended for video games and special effects.

Why was it important for you to engage with shapes protected by copy rights?

The attack on copyright is part of the game.


And once you've extracted these objects from their original universe, what remains of their copyright?

I think there's nothing left, just like their shape and their initial state. They are out of order :).

What was the creation process that led from 3D virtual forms to these deflated, miserable bits of flying engines? How did you make them?

I was surfing on the net looking for a hat for a project inspired by the novel The Invisible Man when some objects attracted my attention. Engines belonging to memories of television such as the Iraq war, games or mythical fictions (Airwolf , Platoon, etc.) and that were all destined to simulation in video games and movie post- production. There began a fiction where the challenge was to be the main mode of relationship to my subject. Once the objects had been acquired, I looked for the technical way to understand their construction so that, gradually, I could disassemble their mechanism, as if it were a dissection, an anatomy. Once they had been re-appropriated, I decided to push the craziness further. The objects were pulled out of the screens, their original environment, and I brought them back to the "real" sometimes on a one-to-one scale. By doing so, I could appreciate the availability of their heads, of their wheels and other means of traveling or of their antennas and other detection tools. They were stripped of their power.

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Thomas Cimolaï, Trophies from the Sixth Continent, 2010. Photo Patrick Galais

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Thomas Cimolaï, Trophies from the Sixth Continent, 2010. Photo Patrick Galais

I fell really sorry for these objects. Am i slightly deranged or were you expecting these trophies to trigger some emotions in people?



There was absolutely no premeditation to cause emotions. I work with what I have in me, which is a certain way to look at issues related to freedom, to the industrial cultural object and to our relations with digital interfaces. This project embraces the concepts of play and power and also the desire to own. Everything is voluntarily orchestrated with symbolism and a mock-heroic tone.

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Thomas Cimolaï, Trophies from the Sixth Continent, 2010. Photo Patrick Galais

How do people used to see these objects 'alive' in video games react to the work?

They come not only from video games but also from special effects. The most recognized one is the big black head of the stealth aircraft called F-117 Nighthawk which first appeared in conflicts broadcast on TV and soon after in games Night Storm, Empire Earth or Zero Hour which I have not played. Then, because the collection is partitioned into categories relating to motor, sensory devices.... few people can remember which wheel, radar or reactor belongs to which vehicle. The younger generations tell me that "it's cool" or "that's interesting" and will see the logic of simulation and of video games pushed to their limits.

Merci Thomas!

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Version française de l'entretien:

I read that the objects you brought into the gallery were originally protected by copyrights. Where did you find these objects? And why do you call them trophies?

Les trophées du sixième continent constituent une collection fiction. Toute la démarche est basée sur « un récit d'aventure » élaboré à partir des gestes effectués avec un ordinateur - vision, recherche, traque, ciblage, intrusion en territoires défendus et capture. Le sixième continent est le territoire accessible par les écrans et par les technologies de transmissions de données (ici, internet). La collection regroupe des dépouilles d'objets de synthèses trouvés sur la toile et destinés à l'origine aux jeux vidéos et aux effets spéciaux. 



Why was it important for you to engage with shapes protected by copyrights?

L'attaque du copyright fait partie du jeu.



And once you've extracted these objects from their original universe, what remains of their copyright?


Je crois qu'il n'en reste rien, comme de leur forme et de leur état initial. Ils sont hors service :).



What was the creation process that led from 3D virtual forms to these deflated, pitiful bits of flying engines? How did you make them?



J'étais sur le net à la recherche d'un chapeau pour un projet inspiré du roman de l'homme invisible quand certains objets ont attirés mon attention. Des engins appartenant à des souvenirs de télévision comme la guerre d'Irak, de jeux ou encore à des fictions mythiques (Supercopter, Platoon...) et qui avaient tous comme destinés la simulation dans des jeux vidéo ou la post-production cinématographique.
Une fiction où le défi serait le principal mode de relation à mon sujet commençait. Une fois les objets acquis, j'ai cherché le moyen technique d'en comprendre la construction pour petit à petit en démonter la mécanique, comme une dissection, une anatomie. Une fois réappropriés, je décidais d'aller plus loin dans le délire.
Les objets ont été extirpés de leur milieu initial, c'est-à-dire les écrans, et je les ai ramené dans le « réel » parfois à l'échelle un. Ainsi je pouvais apprécier la mise à disposition de leurs têtes, de leurs roues et autres moyens de déplacements ou encore de leurs antennes et autres outils de détection. Ils étaient défaits de leur pouvoir.

I fell really sorry for these objects. Am i slightly deranged or were you expecting these trophies to trigger some emotions in people?



Absolument pas d'émotions à provoquer de manière préméditée. J'ai fonctionné avec ce qui me constitue, c'est à dire un certain regard sur les questions liées à la liberté, à l'objet culturel industriel et à nos relations avec les interfaces numériques. Ce projet embrasse des notions de jeu et de puissance et aussi de désir de possession. Le tout mis volontairement en scène avec du symbolisme et sur un ton heroï-comique.



How do people used to see these objects 'alive' in video games react to the work?

Ils n'appartiennent pas seulement aux jeux vidéos mais aussi aux effets spéciaux. Celui qui est le plus reconnu est la grande tête noire de l'avion furtif dénommé Faucon de nuit - Nightfalcon f117 qui est d'abord apparu dans les conflits retransmis à la télévision puis a rapidement été le sujet des jeux Night Storm, Empire Earth ou encore Heure H auxquels je n'ai pas joué. Ensuite, comme la collection est compartimentée en catégories relatives à la motricité, aux appareils sensitifs..., peu de personnes peuvent se rappeler à quel véhicule appartient telle roue, telle réacteur ou encore tel radar. Les générations plus jeunes me disent que « c'est cool » ou encore « c'est intéressant » et y voient la logique de la simulation et des jeux vidéos poussés à leurs paroxysmes.

Merci Thomas!

Previously:
Constance, an installation in weightlessness.

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Constance, 2013. Photo by Luce Moreau

I've finally gone through all the images and texts i made and received from the GAMERZ festival in Aix-en-Provence. There's a ridiculously high amount of new artists and works i'd like to blog about but let's start with what i think were the smartest and most elegant works in the festival. Both play with perception, both are by Luce Moreau, a member of the collective Otto-prod.

The first one is Constance, an installation set on the roof of one of the buildings of the School of Fine Arts in Aix-en-Provence and visible at night from a distance of several kilometers. Constance's 3 powerful laser axis were shining orthogonally from a box attached to a motorized equatorial frame (motorization by Patrick Reybaud). An equatorial frame is an instrument that astronomers attach to telescopes and cameras so that they can stay fixed on any object in the sky. The equatorial mount moves imperceptibly but steadily, thus canceling its own driving force by earth movement. The origin of the three axes remains with it in one point in space, as if in weightlesness.


Luce Moreau, Pulsar, 2012

The second work she was showing is Pulsar which also makes use of the equatorial mount. This time the artist filmed a perfectly immobile sun. She used an old camera which -see explanations below- is protecting itself from the powerful light of the sun by opening and closing its diaphragm.

Luce has otherwise a pretty spectacular portfolio. Have a look at Landmarks. She interrupted otherwise mundane landscapes with a system of mirrors that reflect sun rays in the direction of the camera lens.

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Jazbine, from the series Landmarks, 2010

But back to Constance and Pulsar. I asked Luce if she could give us more details about the works. The Q&A is below and if you scroll down you can also read her answers in french. Here we go...

Hi Luce! The lasers of Constance are visible from afar. How far away exactly? Why is it important that the rays can be seen from such a distance?

This is the first version of the Constance installation, it's a beta version for which I worked with a Slovakian workshop which specializes in renting lasers. We worked on making this special box containing three lasers oriented orthogonally to each other. We opted for the most powerful model they had (10 to 12 W), so that the lasers can reach as far as possible. Currently the laser rays can be seen from a distance of a few kilometers, but I can not measure exactly the distance at which we "lose sight" of them. The installation aims to disrupt our daily and familiar landscapes, punctuate our environment with this colorful landmark so that we start considering our relationship to time and space. It acts as a kind of clock at the scale of the landscape, it's a mechanism that we must decipher.

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Constance, 2013. Photo by Luce Moreau

And how do people who know nothing about this art installation interpret them when they see them in the sky?

I think that it depends on the context. During GAMERZ, Constance was central, located in the heart of the festival, in the city center. In this case, the global three rays were only visible from the outside of the city, and from a certain height. Festival goers and residents of the city center might have been intrigued and even perhaps attracted by these strings of light which 'hung' above their heads and led to the festival. It became more interesting when the public was in close proximity of work (less than 10 m.) The curious could walk around the installation and see the rays at their maximum strength. The proximity doesn't really allow you to understand the lasers movement, on the other hand, it offers an excellent visibility of the 3D effect.

When Constance is presented in Pau (13, 15 and 16 November at the festival Accès-s Cultures Électroniques), it will be in a completely different context. Installed on top of a hill outside the city, the work should offer the residents of Pau and its environs a more mysterious, distant vision. The imperceptible movement of lasers will be more apprehensible for visitors and locals. They see more clearly the path traveled over a few hours, but it will be less easy for them to observe the work from up close.

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Constance, 2013. Photo by Luce Moreau

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Constance, 2013. Photo by Luce Moreau

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Constance, 2013. Photo by Luce Moreau

Can exhibition visitors ever perceive what is happening?

I think visitors are first impressed by the power and finesse of the rays, the colors vibrate in a very particular way, and represent many threads stretched between them and the universe. Then they understand the immobility of the green ray, and see that its extremity points to a star, Polaris. From that moment, and with the help of some explanations if needed, everything falls into place and the installation awakens what lies dormant in a corner of the brain: our understanding of the world, our planet in its system, its infinity, and all the vertigo that it implies! Two visitors gave me their diametrically opposed impressions. The first experienced a sense of vertiginous emptiness, the installation embodying the oblique axis of our position on earth. The second person talked about being reassured by having a beacon, a landmark in this enormous universe.

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Constance, 2013. Photo by Luce Moreau

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Installation of Constance for the GAMERZ festival. Photo by Luce Moreau

The installation uses a motorized equatorial mount. Could you explain how it works and where/how you discovered about it?

I've discovered this system while I was working at the Observatory of Provence (OHP-CNRS) in the Summer of 2011.

I had the idea of ​​photographing or filming a landscape, freed from the movement of the Earth and I was curious to see how that would turn up. So I started thinking about a traveling rail system, calculating the speed of the rotation of the earth, obsessing over many practical details... Then one day while chatting with an amateur astronomer (Olivier Labrevoir), I found out about the equatorial mount, a very simple tool that sky watchers have used for decades to follow sidereal objects (stars, planets, etc. ) and that would allow me to get the effect i was looking for. The principle of this tripod is to rotate the visualization object (telescope, or photo and video cameras in my case) around a central axis, the axis being parallel to the axis of rotation of the Earth. To do this, the axis must point to the Pole Star, which happens to be very close to the geographic north of our planet and is therefore the only one that stand still when the earth rotates on its axis. This movement is motorized, the motors follow the exact same speed as the earth, but in the opposite direction. The camera is thus 'immobile'. It floats in weightlessness! And so is our point of view...

You used the equatorial mount in several of your work. Why do you find this point of view on our surrounding so fascinating?

I find this tool fascinating as for me, it represents a shift in meaning, the power to be in a state of weightlessness without leaving the ground ... a unique perspective that I had never experienced before, which is one of perfectly precise static condition. In order to explain the process, I often compare it to a jump that stays frozen in the air and that allows you to observe the planet that continues revolving. But without us. This is a levitation, a slow and gradual flying process, an experience and perspective I wanted to share.

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Pulsar, 2012 (view at the GAMERZ festival 2013)

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Pulsar, 2012 (view at the GAMERZ festival 2013)

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Shooting Pulsar

Do you have drawings or other image that would show visually the process used to make Pulsar? (mostly because i cannot understand very well how it was made)

Unfortunately I don't :) but i can explain:

Pulsar is filmed using the same tripod but this time the sole purpose is to focus on the sun and keep it stationary in the frame. The camera is an old, obsolete and fragile camera which "prints" momentarily the bright lights onto its sensor. In an effort to draw an analogy between the human eye and the camera sensor, I wanted to take advantage of this flaw and obtain a set of persistence of vision. The intermittent closure of the diaphragm is an automatic protection of the camera, which closes its "lid" when it feels assaulted by too much light. If you were standing next to the camera, you would see the diaphragm ring oscillating from 16 (minimum aperture) to C (total closure.) The camera is protecting itself from the offensive and destructive sun.

Merci Luce!

Constance is a co-production M2FCréations, Accès-s Cultures Électroniques and Otto-Prod. Check out Luce's work at the Soleils Numériques festival ACCES(S), from 10 to 23 November in Pau and around, France.

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And now for the version in french:

The lasers of Constance are visible from afar. How far away exactly? Why is it important that the rays can be seen from such a distance?

L'installation Constance en est à sa première version, une version bêta pour laquelle j'ai travaillé avec un atelier slovaque de location lasers. On a collaboré sur la fabrication de ce boîtier spécial renfermant trois lasers orientés de façon orthogonale les uns par rapport aux autres ; nous avons choisi ce qu'ils avaient de plus puissants (de 10 à 12 W), afin que les lasers se voient du plus loin possible. Actuellement nous pouvons voir les rayons lasers jusqu'à quelques kilomètres, mais je ne peux pas savoir exactement à quelle distance nous les "perdons de vue". L'installation a pour but de perturber nos paysages familiers et quotidiens, d'annoter notre environnement de ce repère coloré afin d'être amené à considérer notre rapport au temps et à l'espace. Une sorte d'horloge à l'échelle du paysage, un mécanisme qu'il nous faut déchiffrer.

And how do people who know nothing about this art installation interpret them when they see them in the sky?

Je pense que cela dépend du contexte ; lors du Fetsival GAMERZ, Constance était centrale, installée au coeur du festival, dans le centre ville. Dans ce cas précis, les trois rayons n'étaient visibles ensemble que de l'extérieur de la ville, d'un point de vue en hauteur ; les festivaliers et habitants du centre ont pu être ntrigués, peut-être attirés par ces fils de lumière au-dessus de leurs têtes, qui menaient au festival. L'intérêt que j'y ai trouvé était la proximité du public face à l'oeuvre : les plus curieux pouvaient graviter autour de l'installation à moins de 20 mètres et voir les faisceux dans leur puissance maximum. La proximité permet moins de comprendre le mouvement iopéré par les lasers, mais offre une visibilité privilégiée de l'effet de 3D.

Lorsque que Constance sera présentée à Pau (les 13, 15 et 16 novembre au festival Accès-s Cultures Électroniques), ce sera dans un tout autre contexte ; installée sur les hauteurs d'une colline, à l'extérieur de la ville, elle devrait offrir aux habitants de Pau et de ses environs une vision plus mystérieuse, lointaine. Le mouvement imperceptible des lasers sera ainsi plus compréhensible par les visiteurs et les habitants. Ils verront mieux la trajectoire opérée en quelques heures, mais pourront moins facilement l'observer de près.

How about the exhibition visitors. Can they ever perceive what is happening?

Les visiteurs sont je pense tout d'abord impressionnés par la puissance et la finesse des rayons, dont les couleurs vibrent de façon très particulière, et qui représentent autant de fils tendu entre eux et l'univers. Puis ils comprennent l'immobilité du rayon vert, et voient que son extrémité pointe une étoile, la Polaris ; à partir de ce moment-là; et avec l'aide de quelques explications si besoin, tout se met en place et cette installation excite ce qui vit dans un coin de chaque cerveau : notre appréhension du monde, de notre planète dans son système, son infinité, et tout le vertige que ça sous-entend! Deux visiteurs m'ont ainsi donné leurs impressions contraires : la première avait un sentiment de vide vertigineux, l'installation matérialisant l'oblique de notre position sur terre, quant à la seconde elle était rassurée par le fait d'avoir une balise, un repère dans cet ensemble démesuré.

The installation uses a motorized equatorial mount. Could you explain how it works and where/how you discovered about it?

I've discovered this system while I was working at the Observatory of Provence (OHP-CNRS) in summer 2011. J'avais eu l'idée de photographier, ou filmer un paysage, affranchi du mouvement de la Terre ; j'étais curieuse de voir ce que ça pouvait donner. J'ai donc commencé à réfléchir à un système de rail de travelling, calculer la vitesse de rotation de la terre, me prendre la tête sur beaucoup de points pratiques... Quand au cours d'une conversation avec un astronaume amateur (Olivier Labrevoir) j'appris l'existence de la monture équatoriale, outil très simple dont les observateurs du ciel se servent depuis plusieurs dizaines d'années pour suivre des objets sidéraux (étoiles, planètes, etc) et qui me permettrait d'obtenir le résultat recherché. Le principe de ce trépied est de faire pivoter l'objet de captation (téléscope, ou appareil photo et caméra dans mon cas) autour d'un axe central, cet axe étant parallèle à l'axe de rotation de la Terre. Pour ce faire, l'axe doit pointer l'étoile polaire, qui se trouve être très proche du Nord Géographique de notre planète ; elle est donc la seule à rester immobile lorsque la terre tourne sur son axe. Ce mouvement est motorisé, les moteurs pas à pas vont à l'exacte vitesse de rotation de la terre, en sens inverse ; la caméra fait ainsi du "surplace". Elle est en apesanteur! Et notre point de vue avec elle...

You used the equatorial mount in several of your work. Why do you find this point of view on our surrounding so fascinating?

Je trouve cet outil fascinant car il représente pour moi, par glissement de sens, le pouvoir d'être en état d'apesanteur sans quitter le sol...un point de vue inédit, que je n'avais jamais pu observer auparavant, qui est celui du statisme le plus exact ; souvent pour expliquer le procédé, je parle d'un saut surplace, mais durant lequel on reste figé dans les airs, et durant lequel on peut observer notre planète continuer à tourner, sans nous. C'est une lévitation, un procédé d'envol lent et progressif, et dont je voulais partager le témoignage et le point de vue.

Do you have drawings or other image that would show visually the process used to make Pulsar? (mostly because i cannot understand very well how it was made)

Unfortunately I don't :) mais je peux expliquer :
Pulsar est filmée depuis ce même trépied qui est ici utilisé dans le seul but de centrer le soleil et de le garder immobile dans le cadre. La caméra est une vieille caméra, obsolète et fragile, qui "imprime" momentanément les fortes lumières sur son capteur. Dans une volonté d'analogie entre l'oeil humain et le capteur de la caméra, j'ai voulu profiter de cette lacune et obtenir un jeu de persistance "rétinienne" ; la fermeture intermittente du diaphragme est une protection automatique de la caméra, qui ferme sa "paupière" lorsqu'elle se sent agressée par trop de lumière. Si tu étais surplace aux côtés de la caméra, tu verrais osciller la bague du diaphragme de 16 (ouverture minimum) à C (fermeture totale) ; la caméra se protège de ce soleil offensif et destructeur.

Merci Luce!

Constance est une co-production M2FCréations, Accès-s Cultures Électroniques et Otto-Prod. Le travail de Luce sera au festival Soleils Numériques - ACCES(S), du 10 au 23 Novembre, Pau et agglo, France.

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Still from Hold On, The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)

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Installation view of Hold On at Festival Gamerz, Fondation Vasarely, Aix-en-Provence,2012. Photo courtesy EBMM

One of the best surprises of this year's edition of the GAMERZ festival in Aix en Provence was a work that mixed clips from cult movies with video game dynamics. Using 2 buttons and a joystick, visitors could navigate inside movie sequences from The Shining, Jurassic Park, The Blair Witch Project, Old Boy and many more. The main actor becomes an avatar and you can delay the inescapable moment when the little boy in The Shining bumps into the evil-looking twins or you can give a couple of extra kicks and lengthen the fight that opposed Bruce Lee to Chuck Norris in Way of the Dragon.

Hold On, by Maxime Marion & Emilie Brout is pretty irresistible. You want to try all the movie sequences and then you want to try them once again to see how much more you can do inside the same movie clip.

There's no video to demonstrate how the installation work. Not yet. In the meantime, i've asked the artists Maxime Marion & Emilie Brout to take us behind the scenes of their project:

Bonjour Emilie and Maxime! How did you chose the film sequences? Does any action movie work for example? What were you looking for exactly when selecting the extracts?

The idea behind Hold On is very simple, but its efficiency depends heavily on the choice of sequences, which proved to be more complicated than we initially thought! Many constraints have to be respected. For example, you need a main character at the center of the action so that he or she can immediately be identified as avatar. You also need homogeneous settings, lest you get shocking discrepancies as you move around. We are also looking for autonomous extracts, with an introduction, a conclusion and an issue to solve. There are many extracts we would have liked to use but we had to leave them aside because they wouldn't work.

More generally, we've been looking for film sequences that have their own originality, often referring to famous video game genres, like in The Shining where the little Danny irresistibly evoques Mario Kart, or the puzzles that the dung beetle needs to solve in Microcosmos which evokes games such as Worms or Lemmings. We've made some 15 sequences so far, but for Gamerz we left aside the ones that didn't fit this year's theme. We will show Travolta's incredible danse in Saturday Night Fever another time.

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Still from Hold On, Microcosmos (Claude Nuridsany & Marie Perennou, 1996)

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Still from Hold On, Jurassic Park (Steven Spielberg, 1993)

It was amusing to watch people play with Hold On at GAMERZ. Some had reactions of surprise and tension because instead of diluting the suspense, the installation often increased it. Is this something you were expecting?

Indeed, the visitors' reactions far exceeded our expectations. It was great for us to witness it. When people are allowed to navigate inside a movie, they have a feeling of freedom, of broader space and abolished temporality. Paradoxically, by losing these limitations of the views, you find yourself in a kind of maze, in a scary labyrinth.

The sensation is enhanced by the fact that it is far more engaging to embody an avatar than to just watch an actor on the screen, and we often know what to expect at the end. That's another reason why we chose very famous movies. When you stop playing, the film simply proceeds till its -not alway happy- ending. Some people were thus playing as long as possible in order to delay the unescapable death in the final scene of The Blair Witch Project, or to avoid meeting the little girls of The Shining, which might occur after each turn in the corridors.

We are also happy to have been able to reproduce faithfully classic game controls, such as in the fight between Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris in The Way of the Dragon, its game play is identical to the Street Fighter 1: we've seen some pretty enthusiastic otakus. And seeing how much fun people were having, sharing with them this fantasy of 'getting inside' a movie was probably what mattered the most.

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Installation view of Hold On at Gamerz, Fondation Vasarely, Aix-en-Provence,2012. Photo by Luce Moreau

You developed the work Hold On during a residency with M2F Creations in Aix-en-Provence. Can you tell us something about the residency? What you found there, how it went on?

We first had the idea of the project in 2006 and its form has evolved ever since, but we needed an impuse to make it come into existence. That's exactly what M2F Créations gave us. We also needed some technical support, especially regarding the responsiveness of the HD video that had to react under 40 ms, plus some electronics for the interface.

So last May we were invited to the Maison Numérique, which Quentin Destieu & Sylvain Huguet are developing more and more. While we benefited from the invaluable technical skills of artists such as Stéphane Kyles and Grégoire Lauvin, we also found that the residency provided us with a fantastic space for exchange and sharing where we've built long lasting relationships. We particularly enjoyed M2F's innovative approach which enables experimental practice while fostering research. In a nutshell, this is a residency we highly recommend!

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Still from GEM, Fellini's Roma (Federico Fellini, 1972)

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Still from GEM, Once upon a time in America (Sergio Leone, 1984)

Most of your other works show how fascinated you are by cinema. I particularly like Google Earth Movies. What did you learn from this transposition of cult movie sequences into the Google Earth software?

Cinema plays indeed an important part in our works. The concept of GEM is to transform a mapping tool into a filmic object, to use Google Earth as if it were VLC. The software allows you to manage many factors when you enter the code, such as tilting, or the focus that enabled us to recreate the famous Jaws Shot.


Google Earth Movies - Jaws (beach panic scene with vertigo effect)

As we were trying to reproduce as faithfully as possible inside Google Earth the movements of the cameras on the real shooting locations, we realized how complex and subtle these movements can be. It was a real lesson of cinema. For example, we recreated the scene of the death of Dominic in Once Upon a Time in America. As the child falls after the shot, the camera follows him, gently going down. Then, as he dies, the camera goes up, a metaphor for "ascending to heaven." So although there is no visible character in GEM, you understand the whole action. In Apocalypse Now, you almost see the helicopters performing their massacre.

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Still from GEM, Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)

While adjusting the light, determining the year, the month and the time with an accuracy of 5 minutes in some cases, we also realized that some scenes that seemed to follow each other perfectly had been shot at different moments (because of the quality of the light.) But this only serves to reproduce a cinematographic feeling for viewers who can discover by themselves the off-screen landscape by turning the camera around.

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Still from Dérives, La Piscine (Jacques Deray, 1969)

Hold On, as you wrote in the presentation text, does the opposite of a machinima, it uses cinema for gaming purposes. But would you use games to make a film? I'm not talking about machinimas but about a film, experimental or not, that would use the dynamics of a game or its interactivity? Is this something that already exists or that you are planning to do at some point?

This is an angle that interests us but it is also different from what we do because it entails some real directing work. Our approach involves the use of found footage, and remaining in reality which triggers so much fascination, rather than in purely synthetic images. At the beginning of Hold On, we had worked on Rashomon by Akira Kurosawa, which tells the same story under four different perspectives. We wanted to make a kind of total movie/game that would allow you to create your own story. But the result was too complex to use. The current version is far more efficient because the simplicity of the controls does not disturb the immersion of the player (a big problem with interactive films) and that is what matters.

But it is true that we are very interested in the dynamic aspect. The work Dérives, for example, uses more than 1500 film clips that represent water and, by constantly renewing the editing, it generates a kind of infinite meta-film. Dérives is not interactive but it is dynamic and generative so it's not cinema anymore. It is almost impossible to cover it all. There's still a lot to do with captured images and generative effects.

Merci Emilie et Maxime!

The festival GAMERZ is over alas! but Google Earth Movies is currently part of the show UPLOLOLOAD - In praise of a diminished reality in Paris.

This year, even GAMERZ, an art&tech festival with a name that promises its visitors much joy and entertainment, didn't want to turn its back to the times of fear and uncertainty we are living. The festival was as playful as ever but with a slightly darker tone and with a selection of artists whose works question the worrying changes at work in society.

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Night view of the Fondation Vasarely. Photo : Luce Moreau - for M2F Créations

The opening of the festival took place at the gloriously Op-Art Fondation Vasarely, a museum designed by Victor Vasarely and containing some spectacular works of his. Sadly, the space is now equally famous for the state of disrepair of the artworks and of the building itself.

I've mentioned two of the works exhibited there already: Cécile Babiole's Bzzz! The sound of electricity and Benjamin Gaulon's Printball and i'm still working on a post focusing on the work of two young and ridiculously talented artists from Paris. Which means that i haven't much left to say about the exhibition at the Fondation. I must however mention the stunning Salamander:

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Photo : Luce Moreau - for M2F Créations

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Pascual Sisto, Salamander, 2006

Pascual Sisto used stock images of explosions from the movie industry as "digital ready-made" and collaged them with the After Effects software. The potentially deadly explosions are turned into sublime, hypnotizing fire works.

I can't find a way to embed the video on the blog so do me a favour and click over here to see the film.

The rest of the exhibition is spread throughout the center of the city of Aix-en-Provence. Let's start with Paul Destieu's solo show at the Seconde Nature space because, year after year, my first question when arriving at the festival is "What is Paul showing this time?" And as always (see Project NADAL and Fade-Out) his pieces were simple and brilliant.

Révolutions pits against each other two different moments in the history of the audiovisual media: the beginnings of home-made cinema and YouTube. The artist transferred the loading circle of YouTube onto the silver band of a Super8 projector, an object nowadays obsolete. The history of home-made video draws a circle metaphorically and visually.

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Paul Destieu, Révolutions. Photo : Luce Moreau - for M2F Créations

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Paul Destieu, Révolutions. Photo : Luce Moreau - for M2F Créations

Another work Destieu was showing compiled scenes of duels from the Star Wars saga to create a fight made of light and sound. The dialogues of the duelists can be heard in the room but the only image of the duel is shaped by the light emanating from two video projectors. They face each other at a distance, each at another end of the room. Below, smoke machines give shape and materiality to the projected beams that emerge in the dark and look like the fighting swords of the Star Wars warriors. A moment of violence and anger turned translated in darkness and white mist.

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Paul Destieu, DOJO. Photo : Luce Moreau - for M2F Créations

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Paul Destieu, DOJO. Photo : Luce Moreau - for M2F Créations

Apart from the screenings, games and installations, the festival also programed a series of performances. I saw a couple of them but the one that impressed me the most was by Feromil, the 'post-apocalyptic one man band'. The artist gave a concert using a metal detector as his main musical instrument. The performance was very raw, and very physical. Try wearing a gas mask while holding and moving around a metal detector for half an hour over a bass amp and you'll get the idea.

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Performance by Feromil. Photo : Luce Moreau - for M2F Créations

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Performance by Feromil. Photo : Luce Moreau - for M2F Créations

There a video of one of his performance over here but i'm going to embed the one made by Jérôme Fino.

The room where My Computer Just Started to Smoke was exhibited at the Galerie Susini was filled with smoke that the computer was 'enthusiastically' inhaling, depending of the temperature variations of its processors.

The computer runs a software that navigates the internet exclusively through pop-ups that pitch porn, poker, and tricks that will make you rich almost instantly. The more pop-ups the computer encounters and opens, the more its processor heats up and, of course, the faster the fans are spinning. But that's not enough. To further 'calm down' the computer also inhales the smoke of the hookah.

At first sight, the work created by the Dardexcollective might seem to be merely mischievous. But it is actually a comment on computer animism and on the internet, a new world that promises freedom but delivers equal doses of mercantilism.

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Collectif Dardex, My computer just started to smoke, 2012. Photo : Luce Moreau - for M2F Créations

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Collectif Dardex, My computer just started to smoke, 2012. Photo : Luce Moreau - for M2F Créations

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Collectif Dardex, My computer just started to smoke, 2012. Photo : Luce Moreau - for M2F Créations

To be honest, i wasn't expecting to see GAMERZ invade the venerable Musée des Tapisseries (museum of tapestry) of AIx-en-Provence but the organizers used the entrance space to display several experimental games people could play with.

Hommage a New York, by Florent Deloison, is one of them. The game was inspired by Breakout, the video game released in 1976 by Atari, and also by the self-destructive sculpture created in 1960 by Jean Tinguely with the help of engineer Billy Klüver.

In Deloison's version, instead of breaking bricks, the player must destroy the computer code behind the game. You can never win and the game inevitably ends when vitals commands stop working. A big red button on the control panel is used to restart the game

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Florent Deloison, Hommage à New York, 2012

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Florent Deloison, Hommage à New York, 2012. Photo : Luce Moreau - for M2F Créations

If GAMERZ is for me the best festival to discover new names in art&tech, it is also a space where confirmed names are given 'carte blanche' to invade an exhibition space as they please. This year, Quentin Destieu and Sylvain Huguet, curators and founders of the festival, invited Rafael Rozendaal to spread one of his internet works onto the walls, ceiling and floor of the gallery of the Aix en Provence art school using mirrors and 5 video projectors. The experience of 'walking inside' a web page, moving through it, seeing your shadow cutting through solid chunks of colours is eerie.

Video this way!

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Rafaël Rozendaal, Everything Always Everywhere. Photo : Luce Moreau - for M2F Créations

A couple more images:

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One Life Remains. Photo : Luce Moreau - for M2F Créations

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Romain Senatore, wAAAr, interactive installation, 2012. Photo : Luce Moreau - for M2F Créations

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Grégoire Lauvin, Landstape, sound installation, 2012. Photo : Luce Moreau - for M2F Créations

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Graffiti Research Lab (France). Photo : Luce Moreau - for M2F Créations

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Paul Destieu, Série T. Photo : Luce Moreau - for M2F Créations

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