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Eniarof Aix 2013. Photo by Manuel Braun

I've been hearing about, seeing and discussing the work of Antonin Fourneau for a few years now. I even met him and played with his works on more than one occasion. Yet, I never took the time to properly sit down and have an online interview with him. I'm sure many of you have read about Antonin's rather magnificent Water Light Graffiti or about his interactive pieces that revisit and reposition classic video games. Maybe i'll sit down again one day and interview him about his artworks but right now, i felt it was high time to get him to talk about ENIAROF, the geeky funfair he's been orchestrating since 2005. Eniarof looks like nothing you've ever experienced. It's like a very wild, very Far West version of a digital art festival, with elements of village fair, hacker meeting and circus thrown here and there.

Eniarof is a reinvention of the funfair where the concept of the attraction becomes an excuse for art. The creators of each Eniarof take their inspiration from popular culture, ancestral and new, obeying the rules of the "Dogmeniarof". Karaoke, Lucha Libre, video games, art installations, performances, gory films and curiosity cabinets can all be found on the jolly & unprejudiced grounds of the Eniarof funfair.

The last edition of Eniarof looked a bit like this....

Eniarof Aix 2013. Video by Alex "A2HN" Napoli

And without further ado, here's what Antonin had to tell us about Eniarof. Scroll down if you prefer to read the interview in its original version (french).

Hi Antonin! What is the story of ENIAROF?

I was a student at the Art School of Aix-en-Provence when I started Eniarof. The idea for the project started to germinate in 2004 when I was participating in the exhibition Power at Villette Numérique with the collective Téléférique.

The piece "Fan" contained already quite a few tracks for collaborative collaboration that i wanted to keep persuing in the future. At the same time, entertainment industry workers with intermittent contracts were protesting in France. In the context of the scandal of amusement park employees (Mickey, Minnie and the others) working all year long but under a casual employment contract, I had the opportunity to read an article about the disappearance of funfair model in favor of a business model closer to the amusement park. The article also echoes Rem Koolhaas' book Delirious New York in which I discovered that an attraction was a rather interesting object at the crossroad between installation, pop culture and innovation.

I was just missing the artistic 'Freaks' side that you could find in a fun fairs but not in an amusement parks. Then I simply asked myself about the kind of environment I would have liked to evolved after art school and the idea of working exclusively in the digital art world was freaking me out. It felt like a ghetto that lacked the recognition from the art world and refused to embrace its popular side.

That was in 2005 and now the situation has changed a little: people are more tech-savvy thanks to the smartphone in the pocket, they are also more comfortable with the idea of ​​interacting. But when I created Eniarof, my idea was to decompartmentalize digital creation as much as possible and to disinhibit it while mixing it with other forms of interaction, with the public but without a computer. I thought it needed ​​different degrees of public interaction. So in general people go through an arcade with a new breed of interaction then they'd venture to slip on a jumpsuit made out of tyre to play 'pogo bumper car' or wear a wig to play HardRock simply by shaking their head. That's how Eniarof was born.

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One Life Remains, Slam Of The Arcade Age. Eniarof Aix 2013. Photo by Manuel Braun

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Eniarof Aix 2013 photo by Manuel Braun

How did it grow from a student project to a village fair slash high tech geek festival that counts 13 editions?

I've always been bad at promoting Eniarof. If you search online, you'll need to fish for information. Nonetheless, whenever I had the opportunity to present the project, I found that people were seduced by the concept. Soon enough we received proposals from festivals or cultural structures that were willing to welcome us just through word of mouth. I did not want to confine the project to a repetitive formula that would be presented each year at the same place. When I launched the project I was talking about a 'downloadable' funfair and I imagined a system of fair that would be easily duplicable. A bit like Dorkbot or Maker Faire. In the end, Eniarof did not go in that direction and I think that ultimately what we managed produce with our Eniarofer group is a kind of family and festive cohesion even though we meet only once or twice per year but the public knows us and returns because Eniarof's atmosphere cannot easily be compared to anything else.

Then there must have been a small evolution over the past few years because even the City of Poitiers called us to organize Eniarof 12 in a space of Blossac Park in connection with their Christmas fair. Eniarof is quite a polymorph party that comes with an array of representations and organizations that vary depending on the context. The Eniarof we ran in Aix-en-Provence or in Slovenia in collaboration with organizations that trust us have turned into real residence laboratories to build over a short period of time (2 to 3 weeks) what were essentially new attractions. In other Eniarof, you get 50% new attractions and 50% attractions that are already running with success and that guarantee a good atmosphere.

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Arcade Backpack (UCLA) @Eniarof, ESAAix with the Eniarof Fanfare next to the town center of Aix. Photo Daan de Lange

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Eniarof Aix 2013. Photo by Manuel Braun

There is an ENIAROF dogma, however, the event is still in the hands of a lot of improvisation, DIY, freedom, and collective efforts. So i suspect that things might not always run smoothly. What have you learnt over the editions of ENIAROF?

The main objective of the Dogmeniarof is to set the tone and give an idea of ​​the spirit of Eniarof but in reality we hardly ever fully comply with the rules of Dogmeniarof.

What works, what doesn't?

We could say that, in general, what does not work anymore in an edition of Eniarof is something that used to work well. For example, this year, we have a sound fencing game that met with such success that on the first night someone ripped the device cable from the wall. Which is great and proves that an attraction works when you do not even have to explain people how to play with it.

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Monsieur Moo, Brouette Tuning. Eniarof Aix 2013. Photo by Manuel Braun

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Alexandre Saunier, Helmetron. Eniarof Aix 2013. Photo by Douglas Edric Stanley

I'm curious about some of the projects shown during the last ENIAROF in Aix-en-Provence. In particular: the Wheelbarrow (Brouette tuning), Helmetron, and Arcade Concrete. Could you tell us a few words about these works?

Brouette Tuning first appeared in 2007 during the Eniarof in Slovenia. We've since presented it at 4 or 5 editions of Eniarof. This is a piece by Maxime Berthou aka Mr. Moo. It embodies in an object what Enairof is: pimped recycling, a touch of technology, mobility and lots of fun. The wheelbarrow is our best way to attract people. Just go out in the street with it and people wonder what's this UFO.

Helmetron was created by Alexandre Saunier and piloted as an Eniarof trio with Douglas Edric Stanley and me.

A few words of explanation from the author:
"""""
This is a light and sound instrument for computer. A bit like Isaac Asimov's Visi-sonor in the Foundations series except that here, the computer is the interpreter. In the end, we are immersed in the very heart of the computer and in its data stream, we are bathed in the files it reads and converts into light and sounds. It's 'glitch', it's hardcore, it looks a bit like a digital machine dream, it's a bit like Tron but without Disney's special effects.

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Alexandre Saunier, Helmetron. Eniarof Aix 2013. Photo by Manuel Braun

Two of my favourite anecdotes:

A guy took off the helmet and asked me:
" - What's the color inside the helmet?"
" - There's only orange, it's the only light I'm sending at the moment"
" - Oh, right, I was wondering cuz I've seen some green, blue, white and orange."

And then there was this girl who was shaking and trembling from time to time, I was afraid she was epileptic. When she took off the helmet she told me that she felt like she had tiny animals, insect-like, that were walking on her.

Otherwise what is interesting is that the reaction of people is always different, depending on their physiology / nervous system, some see circles, other see fractals, colors, etc.
.
"""""
What attracted me to his work is its Clockwork Orange 2.0 side which I think very few people would have enjoyed in another context. Here, however, we had people queuing to scan the mazes of the computer. This is one of the reason for Eniarof success: we take the public on board by mixing borderline and conceptual things in many different experiences and the public completely indulges.

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Antonin Fourneau and Manuel Braun, Arcade Concrete. Eniarof Aix 2013. Photo by Manuel Braun

Arcade Concrete is a project I developed with Manuel Braun with whom I've done several pieces (Patch&ko, Eggregor8, MadNes, Domoludens, spongegame ... ) which often revolve around the idea that the game interface can be sculpture material like any other and this sculpture material involves specific mechanisms and forms related to the gameplay of the software. It's as if every video game could get a materialization of its physical interface other than the standardized one and this materialization would involve a re-reading of its gameplay.

The context of the game offers an interesting space to observe our behavior. The halls of game arcades in the '80s and '90s used to play the role of physical and community space of video games. Arcades then disappeared in favor of 'in-house' games. And finally the video game is back in the urban space thanks to mobile devices. Arcade Concrete questions the place of video games in urban space. Playing on your iPhone in the underground is not the same as standing in front of a terminal and playing in front of everyone. There is now a terminal that sits at the entrance to the Art School of Aix-en-Provence and it became a space for discussion. Our objective is to multiply performances by casting terminals all over the world. A bit like Invader pasting mosaics, we will try and optimize the placement of a terminal and we will write down a user manual in the Eniarof book.

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Antonin Fourneau and Manuel Braun, Eggregor, 8 players are 1 pacman and try to play together. Photo decept.org

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Antonin Fourneau and Manuel Braun, Eggregor. Eniarof Aix 2013. Photo by Manuel Braun

And if you had to chose 5 projects shown at ENIAROF over the years, which ones would they be?

We have quite a few projects that have become "best playable" and that got more exposure such as:

Hyper Olympic by Djeff Regottaz and Loic Horellou where you play a remake of Track & Field with a very physical interface. It has now become a staple of festivals and it makes for a great atmosphere.


The Hyper Olympic Party - Parizon@dream - Gaïté Lyrique - June 9, 2012 - Dekalko

Eggregor8 by Manuel Braun and myself where 8 people play Pacman at the same time, as if 8 people were using the same joystick.

What's funny is that in 2010 there was a video game exhibition at the Centre Pompidou and most of the works invited were Eniarof pieces but they didn't even realize that the pieces were connected.

We could call it the BeaubourgNiarof.

There's also a work called "A battre" which Raphael Isdant created during the second edition of Eniarof in Aix-en-Provence. That one traveled a lot too.


Raphael Isdant, A BATTRE

There are also works that are either more unexpected or more specific to Eniarof Aix-en-Provence.

Such as Pogo Tamponneuse, a fighting ring where you need to put on a suit made of tyre in order to face your opponent. Video soon!

Or the Fucking Machine battle which was a bit borderline and totally surrealist.

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Eniarof Aix 2013. Photo by Manuel Braun

Eniarof has a dogma that mentions that ENIAROF has to take place in the proximity of an Emmaüs. Could you tell us why?

Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg's Dogme 95 often refers to economy of means. When I mounted Eniarof, my goal was to avoid going overboard with projects that swallow too much money simply because I could see that there was no budget for young artists. At the time, I was often hanging out in Emmaus where I saw many materials that Emmaus did not necessarily know what to do with. In addition, it is often nice to recycle, it gives you the feeling of having done something ecological.

Another thing that surprised me in the dogma is that the barman is paid as much as an artist. Why do you think it is important that every participant receives the same fee?

At the beginning of my career as an artist I was horrified to see that a festival was paying the guard or the bartender more than they were paying me. I wondered what was the future for us if artists were forced to sell themselves off just to get some exposure. Add to that that during this festival my work ended up being destroyed. Fortunately, the trend has now reversed for me, but it used to be a bit of a rule to remind me that I don't sell off artists the way i was sold off.

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The Book of Eniarof

What is next for ENIAROF?

We're working on a book.
We have a call for donations on KissKissBankBank.

We are also in touch with people on the other side of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean to make other editions of Eniarof over there but nothing's confirmed so I won't speculate too much.

Thank you Antonin!

If you want to see more images of Eniarof, check out:
Antonin's flickr set.
ENIAROF pool.
Daan de Lange flickr set.
The very staged HEAD Media Design flickr set.


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Eniarof Aix 2013 photo by Manuel Braun

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Eniarof Aix 2013 photo by Manuel Braun

If after this long interview you're still wondering what Eniarof is, this video might enlighten you:

-------

and now for ze frenchy version:


What is the story of ENIAROF?

J'était étudiant à l'Ecole d'art d'Aix-en-Provence lorsque j'ai démarré Eniarof.
L'idée du projet a commencé à germer en 2004 lorsque j'ai participé à l'exposition "Power" à Villette Numérique avec le Collectif Téléférique :

La pièce collaborative "Fan" du collectif regroupée déjà pas mal de piste de création collaborative que je voulais mener à l'avenir. Puis à la même époque nous avions des soulèvement intermittent en France. Avec le scandale des employés des Parc d'Attractions (mickey, Minie et autres) travaillant à l'année mais considéré comme des intermittents, j'ai eu l'occasion de lire un article sur la disparition du modèle de Fête Foraine d'avant au profit d'un business modèle plus proche du parc d'attraction. L'article faisait aussi écho au livre New York Délire de Rem Koolhas dans lequel j'ai pu découvrir qu'une attraction était un objet assez intéressant entre installation, culture pop et innovation.

Il me manquait juste le côté Freaks artistique que l'on trouve dans un fête foraine mais peu dans un parc d'attraction. Je me suis ensuite simplement demandé dans quel milieu j'aimerai évolué après l'école d'art et la vision d'oeuvrer seulement dans le milieu art numérique me faisait flipper. J'avais la sensation d'un milieu ghetto en manque de reconnaissance du milieu de l'art et ne voulant pas embrassé son côté populaire.

C'était en 2005 et maintenant la donne a un peu changé les gens sont plus numérisés avec des smartphones dans la poche et plus à l'aise avec l'idée d'interaction. Mais à l'époque au moment où je fonde Eniarof mon idée était de décloisonner un maximum la création numérique et la décomplexer tout en la mélangeant avec d'autres formes d'interaction avec le public et sans ordinateur. Je pensais qu'il fallait apporter différents degrés d'interactions au public pour le décomplexer. Ainsi en général les gens passe par une salle de jeux vidéo revisités avec des formes d'interactions qu'ils connaissent pour ensuite oser s'aventurer à enfiler une combinaison en pneu pour faire du pogo tamponeuse ou encore enfiler une perruque pour jouer du HardRock simplement en secouant la tête. Ainsi Eniarof est né.

How did it grow from a student project to a village fair slash high tech geek festival that counts 13 editions?

J'ai toujours assez mal communiqué sur Eniarof il n'y a qu'a regarder sur le Net il faut partir à la pêche aux information. Cependant à chaque fois que j'ai eu l'occasion de présenter le projet les gens ont accroché au concept. Donc assez vite on a eu des propositions de festivals ou structures qui voulaient nous accueillir simplement grâce au bouche à oreille ils ont entendu parlé du projet. Je ne voulais pas enfermer le projet dans un projet récurent qui serai présenté chaque année au même endroit. A l'époque où j'ai lancé le projet Je parlais d'une fête foraine téléchargeable j'imaginais un système de fête duplicable facilement. Un peu à l'image des Dorkbot ou Maker Faire. Mais eniarof n'a pas vraiment pris cette direction et je crois que finalement ce que nous arrivons à produire avec notre bande d'Eniarofer c'est une sorte de cohésion familiale et festive même si on ne se retrouve que 1 ou 2 fois par an le retour du public qui nous connait est que l'ambiance dans un Eniarof et difficilement comparable à autre chose.

Ensuite il y eu une petite évolution ces dernières année car lors du Eniarof 12 c'est carrément la Ville de Poitiers qui a fait appel à nous pour occuper un espace du Parc de Blossac dans la continuité de leur fête foraine de Noël. Eniarof est une fête assez polymorph qui a un tas de représentation et organisation différentes selon le contexte où nous sommes. Les Eniarof que nous avons mené à Aix-en-provence ou en Slovénie dans des structures qui nous font confiance étaient l'occasion de vrai laboratoires de résidence pour quasiment construire en un temps court (2 à 3 semaines) essentiellement de nouvelles attractions. Dans les autres Eniarof c'est un 50/50 de nouveautés et d'attractions qui roulent déjà bien et garantissent la bonne ambiance.

There is an ENIAROF dogma, however, the event is still in the hands of a lot of improvisation, DIY, freedom, and collective efforts. So i suspect that things might not always run smoothly. What have you learnt over the editions of ENIAROF?

Le DogmeNiarof est surtout là pour donner le ton et une idée de l'esprit dans lequel se déroule un Eniarof après effectivement on est très rarement dans le respect intégral des règles du dogmeniarof. (je vais te donner un lien URL du dogme on est en train de refaire le site)

What works, what doesn't?

On dit en général que ce qui ne marche plus lors d'un Eniarof est quelque chose qui a bien marché. Par exemple cette année on un jeu d'escrime sonore qui a super bien marché. Tellement que dés le 1° soir quelqu'un a arraché le dispositif de câble du mur. Ce qui est génial et prouve qu'une attraction marche c'est quand on n'a même pas à expliquer aux gens comment jouer avec notre attraction.

I'm curious about some of the projects shown during the last ENIAROF in Aix-en-Provence. In particular: the Wheelbarrow (Brouette tuning), Helmetron, and Arcade Concrete. Could you tell us a few words about these works?

Brouette Tuning est apparue en 2007 pour le Eniarof en SLovénie et fût présenté à 4 ou 5 Eniarof depuis. C'est une pièce de Maxime Berthou aka Monsieur Moo. C'est un symbole concentré en un objet de ce qu'est Enairof : de la récupération pimpée, un zeste de technologie, de la mobilité et beaucoup de fun. La brouette c'est notre meilleur moyen pour attirer du monde. Il suffit de sortir dans la rue avec et les gens ce demandent c'est quoi cette ovni.

Helmetron est une création de Alexandre Saunier qui a quasiment drivé Eniarof en trio avec Douglas Edric Stanley et moi.
Quelque mot de l'auteur pour quelques explications :
"""""
C'est un instrument lumineux et sonore pour ordinateur. Un peu comme le luminophone d'Isaac Asimov dans le cycle des fondations mais ici c'est l'ordinateur qui est l'interprète. Au final on plonge dans au coeur meme de l'ordi et on vit ses flux de données, on est stimulé au fil de ses fichiers qu'il lit et qu'il transforme en lumière et en sons. C'est glitch, c'est hardcore, ca fait un peu pensé à une dream machine numérique, c'est un peu comme Tron mais sans les effets spéciaux à la Disney.

Pour les anecdotes, mes deux préféré:

-> un mec a enlevé le casque et m'a dit
"Y'a quoi comme couleur dans le casque?"
"y'a que du orange, c'est tout ce que j'envoie comme lumière pour le moment"
"Ah. j'me demandais, perso j'ai vu du vert, du bleu, du blanc et du orange."

-> y'a une nana qui avait des secouses/frémissements de temps en temps, j'ai eu peur qu'elle soit épileptyque d'ailleurs^^
quand elle a enlevé le casque elle m'a dit qu'elle avait l'impression d'avoir des petits animaux, genre insectes, qui se baladait sur elle.

Sinon ce qui est intéressant c'est que la réaction des gens est toujours différente et dépend de leur physiologie/système nerveux, certain voients des cercles, des fractales, des couleurs...

www.alexandresaunier.com .
"""""
Ce qui m'a séduit dans sa pièce est le côté Orange Mécanique 2.0 auxquels je pense peu de gens auraient adhéré dans un autre contexte mais là on avait une queue de gens qui voulaient scanner les méandres de l'ordinateur. C'est une de nos réussite dans Eniarof en mélangeant des choses à la fois borderline et conceptuel on arrive à embarquer le public dans plein d'expériences différentes et il s'y livre avec plaisir.

Arcade Concrete

C'est un projet que j'ai réalisé avec Manuel Braun avec qui j'ai réalisé plusieurs pièces (Patch&ko, Eggregor8, MadNes, Domoludens, spongegame...) qui tournent souvent autour de l'idée que l'interface de jeu peut être un matériaux de sculpture comme un autre qui implique des mécanismes et formes particulières liées au gameplay du software. Un peu comme si chaque jeu vidéo pouvait avoir une matérialisation de son interface physique autre que standardisé et qui impliquerai une relecture de son gameplay. Le contexte du jeu est un bel espace d'observation de nos comportements. les salles de bornes d'arcades dans les années 80-90 jouaient pour nous ce rôle d'espace physique et communautaire du jeu vidéo. Les salles d'arcades ont ensuite disparu au profit des jeu en salon. Et finalement le jeu vidéo est revenu dans l'urbain au travers des dispositif mobiles. Arcade Concrete est un questionnement sur la place du jeu vidéo dans l'espace urbain. Ce n'est pas la même chose de jouer sur son iphone dans le metro que de s'afficher devant tout le monde debout entrain de jouer devant une borne. Il y a maintenant une borne qui trône à l'entrée de l'école d'Art d'Aix-en-provence et c'est devenu un lieu de discussion. Notre idée est de multiplier les performances en coulant des bornes un peu partout dans le monde. Un peu à la Invaders qui pose ses mosaïques nous on va chercher à optimiser la pose d'une borne et on va rédiger un mode d'emploie dans le livre Eniarof.

And if you had to chose 5 projects shown at ENIAROF over the years, which ones would they be?

On a pas mal de projets qui sont devenu des "best playable" et les plus exposés comme :
hyperolympic de Djeff Regottaz et Loic Horellou où vous jouez à un remake de track'n field avec une interface de jeu très physique qui est devenu maintenant un incontournable des festivals pour mettre la grosse ambiance.


The Hyper Olympic Party - Parizon@dream - Gaïté Lyrique - June 9, 2012 - Dekalko

et Eggregor8 de Manuel Braun et moi où vous jouez à Pacman mais à 8 en même temps comme si vous étiez 8 sur la même manette

C'est drôle d'ailleurs car il y a eu en 2010 une exposition dans l'espace 13-16 du centre Pompidou sur le jeu vidéo et ils ont invité essentiellement des pièces Eniarof sans même se rendre compte qu'il y avait un lien entre nous.

On pourrait appeler ça le BeaubourgNiarof

Il y a aussi la pièce "A battre" de Raphael Isdant qu'il avait créé lors du deuxième Eniarof à Aix-en-Provence et qui depuis à aussi beaucoup tourné


Raphael Isdant, A BATTRE

ensuite in y a des pièces plus inattendus ou très spécifique à Eniarof Aix-en-provence

comme Pogo Tamponeuse un ring de combat où vous devez enfiler une combinaison en pneu pour affronter votre adversaire.
vidéo prochainement

ou encore combat de Fucking Machine qui était border line et complètement surréaliste.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/atoimage/10856699295/in/set-72157637674537996
http://www.flickr.com/photos/atoimage/10856672265/in/set-72157637674537996

The dogma mentions that ENIAROF has to take place in the proximity of an Emmaüs. Could you tell us why?

Dans le dogme93 de Lars von trier et Thomas Vinterberg il est souvent question d'une économie de moyen. Mon but quand j'ai monté Eniarof était de ne pas tomber dans l'excès des projets qui engloutissent trop d'argent car tout simplement je voyais bien qu'il n'y avait pas de budget pour les jeunes artistes. Je traînais souvent à l'époque dans les Emmaus et je voyais qu'il y avait beaucoup de matériaux dont les Emmaus ne savaient pas forcément quoi faire. En plus c'est souvent agréable de recycler un objet on a l'impression d'avoir fait un acte écolo.

Another thing that surprised me int he dogma is that the barman is paid as much as an artist. Why do you think it is important that every participant receives the same fee?

Au début de ma carrière d'artiste j'étais horrifié de voir que le vigile ou le barman était mieux payé que moi sur un festival. Je me demandais quel avenir pour nous artiste si on était obligé de se brader juste pour s'exposer. En plus dans ce festival ma pièce s'est en plus faite détruire à la fin. La tendance c'est heureusement inversé pour moi mais c'était un peu une règle pour me rappeler à moi même si je dois inviter des artistes que je ne les brades pas come on m'avait bradé moi.

What is next for ENIAROF?

on a un livre en cours de réalisation
d'ailleurs on a un appel au don ... J'ai pas encore l'URL du KissKiss

et on a eu pas mal de bon contact pour réaliser d'autres Eniarof d'ailleurs de l'autre côté de l'Atlantique et au bord de la Méditerranée mais encore rien de validé donc je ne m'avancerai pas trop.

Merci Antonin!

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Ben Roberts, from the series Amazon Unpacked, 2011. In their bright orange vests, 'pickers' deliver goods between various areas of the warehouse

There's an exhibition called All That is Solid Melts into Air right now at the Manchester Art Gallery. It's been curated by Jeremy Deller. So of course i took the train to see it.

In a show which title refers to a passage in Marx and Engels' Communist Manifesto, Deller takes a personal look at the impact of the Industrial Revolution on British popular culture, and its persisting influence on our lives today.

This is not an exhibition of Deller's work (apart from his film about glam rock wrestler Adrian Street.) Neither is it a historical treatment of the industrial era. Instead, Deller brings side by side historical artefacts and contemporary works to explore several threads that expose the impact of the Industrial Revolution on British cultural life.

I was particularly interested in the connections drawn between the digital revolution and the Industrial Revolution, in particular working conditions. They were notoriously harsh in the 19th century: low wages, long hours, child labour, etc.

A document entitled Rules to be Observed in this Factory, Church Street Mills, Preston (c. 1830) informed workers that to give their notice they must do so on Saturday only, in writing and one month in advance. Whereas the "Masters have full power to discharge any person employed therein without any previous notice whatsoever." The same documents states that workers are to be at the factory from 6 in the morning to 7.30 at night, with half an hour allowed for breakfast and one hour for dinner.

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But accounts from the time deplored the fact that managers did as they liked, with clocks brought forward in the morning and back at night. Some clocks were even made to measure productivity as time. One of the artefacts in the gallery is a two-faced clock that was connected to a watermill at a silk factory and would show 'lost' time if the wheel did not turn quickly enough. The time would then have to be made up at the end of the working day. The struggle to shorten working days was hard fought by successive generations.

Nowadays however, the growing use of 'zero hours contracts' in the low wage sectors of the service and digital economy is shaping a new form of day labourer, imposing another time discipline where the worker is informed often at short notice if their labour is required. A tapestry (by Ed Hall, maker of remarkable protest banners), hanging near the clock, is adorned with the words, 'Hello, Today you have day off', a message texted to a worker on a 'zero hour' contract on the morning his shift was due to start. No work, no pay.

Also next to the clock are photos from Ben Roberts' series that documents the inside one of Amazon's nine UK 'fulfilment centres' where employees spend 10½ hours a day picking items off the shelves.

Visitors have no problem joining the dots by themselves....

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Ben Roberts, from the series Amazon Unpacked, 2011. The interior of Amazon's giant fulfilment centre is the size of nine football pitches

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Swainson Birley Cotton Mill near Preston, Lancashire, 1834.. ©Science Museum/SSPL

The last object on that wall is a Motorola WT4000, a computing device worn on the wrist by people working in a warehouse. Retail giants rely on this kind of device to monitor the speed of orders and the efficiency of its staff in fulfilling them. It can also send warnings if the worker is falling behind schedule.

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Motorola WT4000

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But as can be expected with Jeremy Deller, there's a great deal of music in this show. Here he is posing next to a jukebox visitors are welcome to activate. Pressing buttons triggers archive recordings from factory machinery, folk songs or quarrymen singing at work.

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Jeremy Deller with Jukebox, 2013 and mural backdrop by Stuart Sam Hughes. Courtesy Alan Seabright / Manchester City Galleries

All That is Solid Melts into Air also looks at heavy metal and rock bands such as Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Happy Mondays and Slade and at how they are the products of the industrial towns their members came from. Many came from working class backgrounds and their music echoed the loud and traumatic rhythm of the factories.

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Judas Priest, Unleashed in the East (album cover), 1979

The only Deller work in the show is a film about Adrian Street. Street was born into a Welsh mining family but he refused to follow in his father's footsteps and spend his life working in the coal mines. He left home as a teenager and became a flamboyant wrestler and for a brief time also a glam rock singer.

The photo showing Street posing next to his father in the Welsh coal mine he had fled from embodies a country attempting to get to grip with its new role: services and entertainment.

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Adrian Street and his father, 1973 (photo: Dennis Hutchinson) © Dennis Hutchinson 2012


Jeremy Deller, So many ways to hurt you, the life and times of Adrian Street (excerpt)

More images from the exhibition:

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Iron Workers, Tredegar, Wales, 1865, W Clayton. Manchester Art Gallery. Photographs courtesy Manchester Art Gallery

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Iron Workers, Tredegar, Wales, 1865, W Clayton. Photographs courtesy Manchester Art Gallery

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Stockport Viaduct 1986. ©John Davies

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Mersey Square, Stockport 1986. ©John Davies

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G. Greatbach, 'The Black Country' near Bilston 1869 Engraving. ©Science Museum / SSPL

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Chapman, W.J., Francis Crawshay Workers Portraits. Courtesy National Museum Wales, Cardiff

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Portraits of Scuttlers, members of youth gangs characterized by their carefully coiffed hair and colourful scarves (and as such precursors of the Teddy Boys)

All That is Solid Melts into Air: Jeremy Deller is an exhibition curated by an artist so don't expect academic interpretations and rigorous narratives. It is an eclectic and thought-provoking show that confronts with each other elements from our past and present, draws parallels, and triggers all kinds of associations.

If you're curious about the show but can't make it to Manchester, you'll find more information in the film that Deller shot together with BBC. And, obviously, in the exhibition catalogue:

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All that is Solid Melts into Air Curated by Jeremy Deller is at the Manchester Art Gallery, until 19 January 2014. The exhibition will tour to other cities known for their strong industrial heritage: Nottingham, Coventry and Newcastle.

Related stories: Ed Hall, the art of protest banners and Audio CD review - Jeremy Deller: Social Surrealism.

Field_Notes: From Landscape to Laboratory - Maisemasta Laboratorioon, edited by Laura Beloff, Erich Berger and Terike Haapoja.

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From the back-cover: Every second year the Finnish Society of Bioart invites a significant group of artists and scientists to the Kilpisjärvi Biological Station in Lapland/Finland to work for one week on topics related to art, biology and the environment. "Field_Notes - From Landscape to Laboratory" is the first in a series of publications originating from this field laboratory. It emphasizes the process of interaction between fieldwork, locality and the laboratory. Oron Catts, Antero Kare, Laura Beloff, Tarja Knuuttila amongst others explore the field and laboratory as sites for art&science practices.

I was about to add this book to the list of books i liked in 2013 but i decided at the last minute that i might as well give it its own space.

In 2011, the Finnish Society of Bioart organised the Field_Notes - Cultivating Grounds laboratory. Five working groups led by Oron Catts, Marta de Menezes, Anu Osva, Tapio Makela and Terike Haapoja developed various art and science projects while in contact with nature and ecology in Kilpisjärvi, a rural area in Lapland, Finland.

The book contains seventeen articles (in both English and Finnish) that report and meditate on the research, reflections and activities that took place during the scientists and artists' stay in Lapland. Field_Notes offers one of the very few residences that allows people who engage with art&science to work and experiment directly in a natural environment and not exclusively in laboratories or galleries.

I wouldn't say that this is a book for anyone who's interested in bioart. It's not the kind of crazy sexy pop bioart you read about in Wired magazine (or in my own blog.) It is sober and at time theoretical, but not less surprising and thought-provoking than any razzle-dazzle bioart works you've read about in the past.

Field_Notes offers is a great mix of essays by scientists and lively stories of experiments by artists. I particularly enjoyed reading Laura Beloff's essay on how experience is a key aspect (and sometime even the main objective) of art practices that use organic materials or has some affinity with science. Professor Antero Järvinen wrote about the icon of global warming that is the Arctic charr and more generally about the difficulty of drawing simple conclusion of complex material systems and phenomena. Oron Catts came with the most unexpected essay about a piece of plexiglass from a German aircraft that had crashed in Kilpisjärvi in 1942 and how the discovery led him to explore 'new materialism in action'. Andrew Gryf Paterson has a great piece about berries foraging and a proposal to set up Berry Commons which sounds trivial until he makes you realize the politics of berries. Maria Huhmarniemi looked at the dilemma of preserving the endangered Capricornia Boisduvaliana butterfly or building an hydroelectric power plant.

I'll close with two of the many projects i discovered in this book:

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Laura Beloff, A Unit, 2012

A Unit is a miniature green area an individual would wear on their shoulder. A Unit speculates on the concept of green environment and its beneficial impact. It experiments with an idea of wearable miniature green space that becomes part of one’s everyday existence and asks if this can be considered as natural environment with potential health benefits?

A Unit contains a GM-plant or other primarily human-constructed plant and as such acts as a training device for our changing relation with organic nature for the future when both humans and nature are artificially modified or constructed.

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Niki Passath, The Tourist (infected with moss)

Niki Passath took his touristic robots for walks around Kilpisjärvi and soon found out that fungi and bacteria had adopted them as a habitat. Traces of moss and lichen started to grow on the structures.

So there you are: a serious, solid book for anyone who'd like to go beyond the easy reductions, the fast conclusions and simplification that sometimes characterizes articles and books about bioart.

More art adventures in Derry/Londonderry....

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Willie Doherty, Remains, 2013. Video still

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Willie Doherty, Remains, 2013. Video still

Willie Doherty is currently at the City Factory Gallery with some of the photos and videos he made from the mid-Eighties in and around Derry/Londonderry. The show is called Unseen. Because unseen is the way Doherty used to work when had to remain as inconspicuous as possible to the British military that kept a close watch on Northern Ireland.

Unseen are also the memories of violence, control and conflicts that are lurking in overcast landscapes and dark city corners. There's always something in his images (and their laconic title) that seem to conceit and conspire. At least that's what the viewer suspects because Doherty is a master of making them paranoid.

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Remains (Kneecapping behind Creggan Shops), 2013

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Willie Doherty, Silence After A Kneecapping, 1985/2012

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TO THE BORDER. A Fork in the Road The place where Ciaran Doherty was executed in February 2010, accused of being a British informer, he was abducted two hours before his body was dumped at the side of the road, 1986 - 2012

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HEADLIGHTS, Border Road At Dusk, 1993 - 2012

Doherty, I keep reading, was born in the city, witnessed the Bloody Sunday killings from his bedroom window when he was 12, was later told by the media later that 'it didn't happen' and is still looking at the indelible marks that past violence has left on the local community.

Doherty, however, doesn't do documentary photography, he uses dark images to explore issues of surveillance and brutality but also the truth that a photo can both hide and reveal, the multiple meanings of an image and the blurring between fiction and non-fiction.

The voiceover of his new film, Remains, dispassionately describes three kneecappings. This form of punishment for serious offence was often carried out by paramilitary groups who imposed their own idea of "justice," especially at a time when police was regarded as the enemy.

The fictitious work is situated in Derry and it is based, said Doherty to The Guardian, on real events. Two of the kneecappings took place in the 1970s, the other is much more recent. "A father from a prominent republican family in Derry was told to bring his son and another boy, a cousin, to a certain place to be kneecapped." This was a punishment for drug use, an activity the IRA saw itself as policing.

"It had happened before that a father had been told to bring in a son to be kneecapped or expelled from the city or be murdered," Doherty said. "So I used these locations and the idea of the generational nature of the conflict, how it passes through families and how there is a vicious circle that people get caught up in."

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Willie Doherty, Remains, 2013. Video still

I very much enjoyed this retrospective of Doherty in his hometown but it could have been titled UNTOLD as well because the exhibition space contained so little information about the works. It was frustratingly intriguing.


A video profile of Willie Doherty. Directed by Vincent O Callaghan and produced by the Nerve Centre

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Willie Doherty, Ghost Story, 2007 (video still)

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Willie Doherty, Last Bastion, 1992

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Willie Doherty, Shifting Ground (The Walls, Derry), 1991

Unseen is at the City Factory Gallery, Derry/Londonderry, until 4 January.

Related story: Donovan Wylie: Vision as Power.

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Ron Haselden, Fête. Photo Chris Hill

A couple of weeks ago, i was in Derry/Londonderry. It was my first trip to Northern Ireland. Beautiful landscapes as i'm sure everybody knows, super friendly people, vegan-approved yummy food at the Legenderry Warehouse, some stunning socially-engages exhibitions i'll tell you about later and a city-wide event called Lumiere. Lumiere is a festival of 17 projections and installations that lit up as the night came onto the city. It is a crowd-magnet, a place to bring your family and marvel at what artists and designers can do with light. But don't be mistaken: some of the works had depth and bite.

Here's some of my favourite:

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Cleary Connolly, Change Your Stripes. Photo Chris Hill

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Cleary Connolly, Change Your Stripes. Photo Denis Connolly

I don't think i would have been that impressed had i seen Change Your Stripes by Ann Cleary and Denis Connolly inside a gallery. But in the street of Derry, when evening is coming and people are out to walk the dog and stumble upon the installation, it gains a touch of magic. The artwork only comes to life as you walk past.

The huge ondulating black and white stripes are projected on the facade of the Derry Credit Union. They move as people walk by it. Passersby silhouettes are multiplied and distorted in a fluid, dancing stream like in a living version of a fairground Hall of Mirrors.

At this point, i feel like i should add a few words about Derry/Londonderry's political context. First of all because i found the installation to be absolutely brilliant but far less fascinating than the surrounding Bogside murals. And second because it is difficult to avoid mentioning politics when you find yourself in a city which carries political tensions in its very name(s). Please skip the coming paragraph if, unlike me, you are not crassly ignorant about the local history.

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The Free Derry Corner might be a good introduction to the whole Derry or Londonderry issue. It was painted in 1969, shortly after the Battle of the Bogside, one of the first major confrontations of The Troubles, the 30-ish year old conflict about the constitutional status of Northern Ireland and the relationship between the unionists and loyalists (the mostly Protestant community who wanted Northern Ireland to remain part of the UK) and the Irish nationalists and republicans (the Catholic community who dreamed of a united Ireland.) If you're a nationalist you'll call the city Derry, and if you're a unionists you'll use the name Londonderry.

Now allow me to open a parenthesis. From now on i will refer to Derry/Londonderry as 'the city'. I'm already tired of typing that double name over and over. End of the parenthesis .

The sum up above is a bit rough but that should provide you with some context. The Bogside is also the area where Bloody Sunday took place in 1972.

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The Petrol Bomber (Battle of the Bogside), painted in 1994. Image by Keith Ruffles

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Bloody Sunday Mural. Photo by Keith Ruffles

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Operation Motorman, The Summer Invasion. Image by Keith Ruffles

But let's get back to Lumiere.

Some artists openly engaged with the local context, others didn't. As was to be expected, Krzysztof Wodiczko created a sharp, deeply moving work about local people's perception and memories of the past conflicts and their hopes for the future of the city.

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Krzysztof Wodiczko, Public Projection Derry-Londonderry, at Lumiere Derry 2013. Photo Chris Hill


Krzysztof Wodiczko, Projection at Lumiere Festival Derry Londonderry Ireland. Video by Maria Niro

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Krzysztof Wodiczko, Public Projection Derry-Londonderry. Photo Maria Niro

Public Projection for Derry~Londonderry was a series of extracts from interviews the artist had conducted with local people. Their words were screened from an ambulance (a fairly ubiquitous vehicle during The Troubles) onto several facades throughout the city .

Wodiczko talked to a cross-section of people, from ex-police officers to victims of the Troubles, from young people growing up in the aftermath of the conflict to people who had got into troubles for being on the 'wrong' side of the political divide at a certain time.

I saw people with tears in their eyes in the crowd....

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A Stitch in Time, Tim Etchells, 2013, Photo Chris Hill

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Tim Etchells piece being lifted into place on the roof of Rosemount Shirt Factory. Instagram by Artichoke

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Tim Etchells, A Stitch In Time. Picture Martin McKeown

Tim Etchells installed a few words that paid homage to Derry-Londonderry's shirt-making industrial past on top of the old Rosemount Shirt Factory.

The work was 23 metre long and 2-metre high making it visible from afar.

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Deepa Mann-Kler">Deepa Mann-Kler, Teenage Kicks. Photo via saatchi online

And so was Teenage Kicks. By this time, you've figured how much i (and the Lumiere festival) like to see big letters invading a city.

The 30m-long neon sign reading "A teenage dream's so hard to beat" sat on top of the city's BT building. It was inspired by the 1978 pop song of the same name, the greatest hit of Derry band, The Undertones.

"My impetus for this artwork is to celebrate a key moment from the history and culture of Derry," explained Deepa Mann-Kler. "I am an Indian woman who grew up in England, but came to live in Northern Ireland in March 1996. One of my abiding memories while growing up in Leicester, were of Northern Ireland during The Troubles, the TV footage of the army, rioting, and then the music of The Undertones."

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Fire Garden, Compagnie Carabosse, 2013. Photograph by Chris Hill

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Fire Garden, Compagnie Carabosse, 2013

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Fire Garden, Compagnie Carabosse, 2013. Photo Martin McKeown

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Fire Garden, Compagnie Carabosse, 2013. Photo Martin McKeown


Fire Garden. Video by Derry~Londonderry 2013

Fire Garden by Compagnie Carabosse lit up the whole St. Columb's Park and made you feel like you had just stepped into the set of one of those lavish BBC period drama.

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Holywell Trust and the Nerve Centre, The Empty Plinth. Photograph by Chris Hill

The empty plinth was originally topped by a statue of Governor Walker, until it was bombed (twice) by the IRA in 1973/4. It has remained unadorned since then.

Nerve Centre and Holywell Trust gave it a new life with a simple column of white light, as a symbol of togetherness and tolerance of a protestant and catholic cultural identity.

These sound like suitable words to close the post.

A few more images though...
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Daan Roosegaarde, Marbles. Picture Martin McKeown

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RMS Design, Grove of Oaks. Picture Martin McKeown

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The Lumiere public. Via Telegraph Belfast

Lumiere was produced by Artichoke for Derry-Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013.

Related: Krzysztof Wodiczko: The Abolition of War.

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