TRANSCULTURES@VIDEOFORMES 2015 (English)

By Julien Delaunay.

separationFounded in 1996 in Brussels, Transcultures is historically the first interdisciplinary center for digital cultures in Belgium. It also has strong international recognition; its productions and artists are shown regularly around the world. After settling in 2008 in Mons where Transcultures started the festival City Sonic[1], in 2003, sound art has become a strong component of the inter and indisciplinary fields that Philippe Franck and his team defend. But Transcultures has also reinforced the digital dimension, refusing new ghettos and opening up as much as possible to the “traditional” cultural sphere. For its thirtieth edition, Vidéoformes has invited the dynamic Belgian structure[2] to present a selection of digital and audio-visual works (exhibition Gif Art, performances and video selection). Works from Vidéoformes will then be presented at the end of November in Transnumériques, the Biennial of digital cultures that will be, with City Sonic, an important event of Mons 2015, European capital of culture, which was chosen on a slogan “when culture meets technology”, and which could also summarize the position of Transcultures.

Vidéoformes and Transcultures share a proto-digital art history, one coming from video and the other from audio-visual and theatrical hybridities. Both structures, who are part of RAN (Digital Arts Network that regroups around fifty international festivals, centers, research labs, art schools… initiated and coordinated by the Center for the Arts in Enghien-les-Bains, and of which Transcultures is a founding member), have evolved by defending digital cultures all the while remembering points of reference that led to their current development. Another common feature between the Clermont and Mons outposts is the strong taste for otherness and singularity that are, in these normative times, synonyms of resistance for an alter culture which must also update its modes of operation.

Last October, Gabriel Soucheyre was invited to Mons to present a digital selection from Vidéoformes during the event Vice Versa (from research to digital creation) organized by Transcultures within the framework of the “Quinzaine numérique” of the Walloon-Brussels Federation. He and Natan Karczmar (founder of Vidéocollectifs, international initiative of video exchanges that has been supported by both Transcultures and Vidéoformes) also met with the teachers at the Visual Arts School Arts2. This school is a regular partner of Transcultures, notably for its program of conferences/encounters/workshops “Digital and sound emergences”[3]. The director of Vidéoformes also saw Jacques Urbanska, artistic co-commissioner of this first edition of Vice Versa, multi-artist who is also in charge of network/media arts projects for Transcultures. Within this framework, he coordinates the Transnumériques Awards[4] that promote different network art forms (installations, performances, GIF, memes, geo-localized systems,…). They decided to launch a joint call for projects and present the first stage in 2015 in Clermont-Ferrand. This year, the Transnumériques Awards are highlighting the GIF (animated images most often in a loop). “If GIFs from the beginning of the web were very simple, we are now observing a new generation of artists who appeared at the end of the 2000s and who have stretched the topical and esthetic range” remarks Jacques Urbanska. GIFs have been the subject of many online exhibitions[5], but have also found their way into contemporary art galleries in the past few years. “The GIF particularly interests us through what it generates in terms of meeting points of a certain culture for which it has become, if not the emblem, at least an exercise in style…” point out Jacques Urbanska and Philippe Franck who had already presented an exhibition at the Maison Folie de Mons during the festival VIA in Mons. The exhibition was called spamm.be (from the name of the website launched at that time) and was about network arts which also awarded the Art(s) & Network(s) prize to Jim Punk, Fabien Zocco, as well as the project m0us310n.net / mon3y.us. The exhibition Gif Art for Vidéoformes extends this approach with a new selection of works in this format and three awards will be publically announced on the evening of March 21st.

The Transcultures selection at Vidéoformes

For Philippe Franck, “we can find in these uncontrolled network arts, which fly out from all directions and force us to rethink the mode of production and distribution, an energy and expansion that remind us, in a different technological, societal and cultural context, the explosion of video art in the 80s and 90s”. A form that he knew well at that time when working with the combo Hanzel & Gretzel[6] which was often selected in video art festivals, then starting in the 2000s, with Régis Cotentin whose work is supported by Transcultures, including installation and performance forms. We find three phantasmagorical films (with music by Scanner, Paradise Now, DJ Olive and Jean-Paul Dessy/Musiques Nouvelles) from the French director in the Transcultures video selection for this edition of Vidéoformes, as well as works, in a very different esthetic, from the Belgian-Portuguese visual artist Natalia de Mello who plays with technoid culture with a scathing low-tech humor. There are also four short videos from the young visual artist and Brussels post-rock musician Stéphanie Croibien whose poetic and sensual world is lined with a certain melancholy, as well as two intriguing and just as uncategorizable works from the partners Jacques Urbanska and Paolo Dos Santos (Swiss-Portuguese director, actor, and performer).

Christophe Bailleau, invited by Paradise Now[7] to produce the live soundtracks for the Bring your own projector evening on March 20th at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture of Clermont-Ferrand, is also here with Sérotones and Fumigènes that both play on vibratory and subtle relations between still yet changing images of a strange everyday life, and interlacing electronic music textures. This dynamic connection image-sound that applies complementarities more than simple collage would be one of the common themes in this heterogeneous selection that also reflects an often exhilarating hybridity and – says Philippe Franck – an “obstinate refusal for house arrest” that is dear to Transcultures since its origins.

A French actress, performer, and director who is settled in Brussels and very transcommunitarian in a country where culture, although thoroughly mixed, is institutionally split, Ariane Loze[8] personifies artistic freedom that is at the heart of the Transcultures commitment. Her MÔWN (Movies of my own) in which she performs every role in front of and behind the camera, are examples of the contextual dimension that Transcultures explored through its projects and festivals (City Sonic with its sound installation journeys metamorphosing places in the center of Mons each summer is a resonant example) and which also undoubtedly explains the dissemination of her projects that are highly adjustable and adaptable to different presentation frameworks and which also provide for these stages to complete their production.

The duo made up of Christophe Bailleau and Philippe Franck who, in addition to their activities at Transcultures and manège.mons, has been quite active since the 80s in the field of sound and inter-media creation, is invited to create a concert-video on March 19th that goes through impressionist tracks, post-folk fragments and electro chiaroscuro pieces that interact with images, snapshots of a crazed surreality that all have been produced by the two associates. Pastoral like Gauthier Keyaerts aka The Aktivist, 48 Cameras, Steve Kaspar, Isa Belle + Paradise Now, Supernova, Maurice Charles JJ… and other adventurous Belgian sound artists who are defended by Transonic, a “label for music and other sounds” launched by Philippe Franck (with Gauthier Keyaerts), on which City Sonic compilations can also be found.

Connectivity and multi-creativity

Impossible to include here the constellation Transcultures that is also very involved in the European Pépinières for young artists (network regrouping around thirty countries that offer creative residences, of which Philippe Franck is the national coordinator for francophone Belgium and who has given a distinct digital orientation) but also various exchanges with Quebec (partnerships, residences and co-productions with the Société des Arts Technologiques/SAT, Rhizome and the Chambre Blanche), and other networks including the “Creative Valley” (regrouping private and public digital companies from this Mons region that is particularly fertile in cultural institutions and infrastructures and who has attracted Google Research and the Microsoft Innovation Centre, as well as an exponential number of digitally-oriented start-ups) and TWIST, the cluster of Technologies Walloon for Images, Sound, and Text, in which Transcultures works to create creative links between “innovative” companies and digital creations by examining transformations of cultural industries.

In addition to audio and paper publications that Transcultures produces or to which this “nomadic center” collaborates, it is also very much involved on the web with its dedicated sites, but also by supporting a monitoring platform arts-numeriques.info (a breeding-ground for news, calls for projects, documents, and articles that Transcultures wishes to develop and open up even more to the community) initiated by Jacques Urbanska.

Convinced that the current artistic production chain can not overlook both the reflection dimension (including publications, organization of debates, conferences, symposiums and de-compartmentalized encounters and other “open-source think tanks”) and an awareness/mediation – that also is to be reinvented – with digital tools but also the uses and imagination that they generate, Transcultures has developed a workshop program “Creative Kids” in Mons (notably with the Mons FabLab that Transcultures is a part of), but also in Brussels, in Wallonia and in the north of France, proposing throughout the year, short and adapted workshops[9] given by creators to a young public as well as publics described as “blocked” or “disadvantaged”. In Philippe Franck’s opinion, we need to first identify then link and undoubtedly reinvent all these “transcultures” not only artistic, but also societal, economic, and technological. It’s a little bit of this great connective and libertarian adventure that is there for us to see and listen to at Vidéoformes 2015 through the forms that favor the intimate encounter to the overall show.

© Julien Delaunay, 2015 – Turbulences Vidéo #87

Link : Soirée TRANSCULTURES

separation[1] A book – City Sonic, sound art in the city, directed by Philippe Franck has just been published in a French-English version by Editions La Lettre Volée (Brussels). See also the website www.citysonic.be and the City Sonic CD compilations produced by Transcultures.

[2] In 2014, Vidéoformes had already welcomed projects by Gauthier Keyaerts (in collaboration with François Zajéga for Fragments #43-44) and Thomas Israël (with his solo performance Skinstrap), other artists supported by Transcultures and the Numediart research institution at the Université de Mons, regular partner of the Center for sound and digital cultures.

[3] The partnership Transcultures has with several Belgian art schools (Arts2, La Cambre, Saint-Luc Bruxelles,…) as well as French schools (ENSA Nice-Villa Arson, ENSA Bourges, ESAD Strasbourg,…) has enabled dozens of student projects to be technologically supervised and then presented in the associated festivals City Sonic and Transnumériques; some have even been shown abroad.

[4] Formerly called “Mobile Awards-Art(s) & Network(s)”.

[5] Transcultures also launched in 2013 the site spamm.be which, in a partnership with spamm.fr run by the artist-activist Systaime (spamm.fr had its first well-received offline exhibition at Transnumériques in 2012 at Galeries-Bruxelles), proposes works of net/web art from Belgian and international artists including a series of animated GIFs, but also a corpus of critical and theoretical texts on the different forms of network arts that the Transnumériques Awards also promote.

[6] Daniel Mangeon, who passed away in 2000 and whose meteoric and subliminal work continues to be defended by Transcultures.

[7] Hybrid Brussels musician, collaborator with poets (including Gerard Malanga and Ira Cohen), videographers, choreographers, directors and other sound researchers.

[8] We also see her in the video by Jacques Urbanska and Paolo Dos Santos, Ball Bunny Girl, in the selection Transcultures@Vidéoformes 2015.

[9] These customized workshop programs are called “Digital Kids”, “Sonic Kids”, “Digital Nomades”… according to whether they are more centered on new sound or digital practices, or if they seek out specific communities.

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