"Mal au Pixel" does good to society
The "Dindy" project will be presented in the next edition of "Mal au Pixel"
On the occasion of "Mal au Pixel", the festival of open source cultures which will be held in Paris from June 9th to 19th at la Gaîté lyrique and elsewhere, the festival's two organizers, Kevin Bartoli and Mathieu Marguerin, discuss digital and technological creation. Open source is at the source...
Kevin Bartoli : From its beginnings some six years back, the festival was based on "open source" - the subversive, Do-It-Yourself, hackers' culture. But this tendency turned radical and its themes were politicized. The festival is politicized because open source is, de facto, social. It is a tool that engenders new behaviors, new usages and new economies. The festival is an attempt to highlight these subtle psychological shifts by distancing us from the ultra-consumerism which characterizes our times and which is also very much present in art, including digital art, mainly in the form of the gallery system.
Mathieu Marguerin : Starting from technical solutions, we quickly arrived at political, social and cultural questions. We are witnessing the passage between two cultures: that of the industry which has doubled itself with the help of free communities of people contributing to community platforms. We have only to look at the conventional encyclopedias which, just a few years ago, were trounced by Wikipedia. Free software programs have turned into extremely powerful tools because, being open, they could be taken into directions which were not dreamt of by industries, which think only in terms of concepts, output and precise usage. More than technicians, it is the artists who are at the forefront of these solutions and who are the constitution of these informal communities.
K : At the same time, we are no open source ayatollahs, we do not do cybernetics or even advocate technology! We are more into research than technology.
IS:BC, HONF's project
Dealing with one's context
M : Artists' views on technology teach us much on the use we make of it. The artistic process estheticizes day-to-day problematics and exemplifies certain scientific studies. It deals with questions that concern us all, not only visual and auditory, but also economic, environmental, cultural, nutritional, biological.... In the festival, we are constantly dealing with triangular problematics: art, science and society..
A typical example is HONF, an Indonesian collective of artists and researchers which we will introduce in our next edition. They are artists with a social preoccupation linked to their country: because of the prohibition, people there consume spurious liquor and fall ill. HONF asked itself how technology could help build a bridge between art and society and has invented an installation which allows people to distill their own alcohol. Through such artistic approaches, we can now begin to have an effect on our contemporary social environment, to have a role, to become active citizens.
K : Open source is thus not just a tool, but a philosophy which helps us change our views on how we consume, produce and distribute. In this domain, the differences in application, depending on context, are especially striking. For example, the Pure Data software can be used in audiovisual performances in France, while in Indonesia, it will be used to make prostheses and in Dakar, to test the strength of materials. Everyone deals according to his context. In France, it is also true: there are enough factors to make us wonder whether we are not in a context of resistance...
«The aim is to constantly raise the thought: in which world do we live?»Kevin Bartoli
La P2P Gift Card de Paolo Cirio
M : In the same vein, we have dedicated a section of the new edition of "Mal au Pixel" to money and alternative economies. We have unearthed projects and people who say: because citizens have had to pay banks after they lost billions in bad investments, insured one another and enriched themselves on their clients' debts, we will do something. In the manner of one of our invitees, Paolo Cirio: he thinks that we should be able to do credit and to create a community capable of generating value, money and economic systems. For that, he applies the peer to peer principal to credit cards.
We are, I believe, at a turning point. While we think that the internet is a place of equity, freedom and equality between sites and data streams, everything can be tilted the other way: one can re-privatize, impose unfair regulations. Somewhat like the situation within dictatorships, where the gates can always be closed.
K : The purpose is to understand the system in which one lives in order to try and regain control. Responsibility is the vehicle that is found in every project put forward in the festival. The aim is to constantly raise the thought: in which world do we live?
Héhé's Green cloud
from the artistic to the pragmatic
M : We form part of a network of festivals which was born in Helsinki with PixelACHE and which has now spread all the way to the southern countries. Around this formal network there exists an entire informal one, a community of developers, artists, researchers... a real breeding ground of knowledge and learning where all exchange bits of code, ideas and interests.
Some of the slightly mad projects that were seen in this network of festivals some 5 years back today find themselves incorporated into mainstream society and integrated into research programs and enterprises. For example, in Finland, the electric power company has called upon some the artists of the festival, especially Héhé and his green cloud, to find ways of increasing awareness in order to reduce electricity consumption.
K : Another example was brought by a brother-festival: AfroPixel in Dakar. In their 2010 edition, they worked with the Congolese Jean Katambayi. This artist wanted to work at home late in the evening, but the incessant phase changes in the electrical grid made it impossible. Instead of tampering with the wires – the cause of many accidents there – he invented a machine, rather striking in its esthetics, which resets the phase changes by playing the role of a fault simulator and the required corrections. It has not yet been developed, but it very much possible.
M : The projects in France and Europe deal mainly with environmental and ecological issues. For example, the European collective "Re:Farm the city" which we presented last year. It is a community of urban gardeners who think that technology can help in growing gardens with optimized water requirements while avoiding the use of fertilizers, etc., by the use of electronic interfaces. It is also a way of seeing how urbanites can get back in touch with farm practices and come to terms with the problematics of consumption and importing. But a project like this can also speak to market gardeners and farmers in emerging nations with a range of solutions for consuming less water, developing hydroponics, avoiding fertilizers...
M : Over the past ten years, the conclusion is clear: more and more artists, students and researchers are participating in the festivals of the network. At the beginning, the PixelACHE festival had been based on fringe activities without any visibility such as Vjing or computer art and it was only progressively that theoretical questions, networks and the visual arts were integrated. Moreover, and rather symptomatically, at its beginnings PixelACHE was a three-day festival occurring once a year - today, its organizers have evolved training courses which are recognized by the university system.
Similarly, when Mains d'OEuvres began some ten years back, we were just starting to think about how artists and social activists could look after themselves and not just depend on institutions and cultural facilities. Basing ourselves on the needs of artists, we have created this venue and the "Mal au Pixel" festival in France. The idea was to bring people together, give their works visibility and create competition. Today, the artists themselves have begun to look after its organization.
The fact that Kevin, an artist, has joined me in organizing this festival is not without significance... the fact that places such as la Gaîté lyrique exist and welcome us and that the majority of the new cultural venues that have sprouted in the past ten years also welcome resident artists, is not without significance either. Cultural venues are no longer just showcases, as is clear from the demands rising from cultural backwaters and intermediate venues.