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Second and last chapter of my report from the GAMERZ festival, one of the very few French festivals that doesn’t play it safe nor stiff with a programme that endorses the unexpected, a laid-back atmosphere, a few famous names but also an impressive line-up of fresh talents. Plus, it’s in Aix-en-Provence so as the French say “y’a pas photo!” (which means something like ‘it’s a no-brainer.’)

This year’s edition of the GAMERZ festival not only demonstrated that there is nothing trivial about play but it also explored how our relationship to play has changed with the advances of technology. And, more interestingly, it invited us to join artists whose work investigates how the digital age is changing man, whether we’re talking about Huizinga’s homo ludens, the working man (Homo Faber) or more generally the modern man (Homo sapiens.)

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The 10th edition of the festival celebrated the death of passive leisure in the hands of games and art as well as the transformation of the compliant consumer into a creative user and abuser of technology. The exhibitions across town also investigated how the digital environment impacts and disrupts people’s development at conscious and unconscious levels (cognitive, social, psychological, among others) and looked at how these often invisible adjustments can be harnessed in alternative social, economic, political or ecological practices.

DRONE.2000 is a performance where autonomous objects moved by simple algorithms are patrolling over the audience. Their latent and dysfunctional presence is a concrete threat. Drone.2000 takes us into a dystopian situation, thus illustrating the military origins of these entertaining objects. Here, trusting the autonomy of the machine is not only a discursive concept but a true experience shared with the audience

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 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.

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 gaming dynamics. Using 2 buttons and a joystick, visitors can navigate inside movie sequences from The Shining, Jurassic Park, The Blair Witch Project, Old Boy or Rocky. 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 kick and lengthen the fight that opposed Bruce Lee to Chuck Norris in Way of the Dragon

This year, even GAMERZ, an art&tech festival with a name that promises tis 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

Often both playful and critical, Benjamin Gaulon’s projects involve printing messages on walls using a PaintBall Gun, collecting video streams from wireless surveillance cameras, turning your videos into animated GIFs, developing radio controlled cars that physically react to messages sent on Twitter, giving an architectural dimension to the 1970s game PONG, circuit-bending, hacking, deconstructing and re-purposing “obsolete” electronic devices