Digital Art and Electronic Music Warp Reality at this French Festival

At this year’s electronic music and arts festival Transient, digital arts explore man vs. machine.

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Dec 28 2016, 1:30pm

An image from Veronique Pecheux and Simin Renaud’s ‘Between Two Mirrors’. Images courtesy the artists and Transient Festival

From Moogfest to the Mutek and Sónar, electronic music festivals are playing host to a variety of electronic and new media art. For the last three years in Paris the Transient Festival has been doing this by blending French electronic musicians, VJs, and installation artists. The latest edition, which wrapped in early November, featured a number of digital arts exhibitions, ranging from disorienting audiovisual installations to conceptual photo series.

“For each new edition we want to show the diversity in forms and shapes of creation that can become digital art installations, whether by video, projection mapping, net art, glitch art or even webjaying,” says Déborah Nogaredes, who co-curated the installation exhibitions with Marie Koch. “This year we have followed this direction, offering videos, photographs, and many interactive installations that gives an approach of virtual reality and the relationship between man and machine.”

Image of Dorian OHX’s ‘Immersion Part 1’

As with the 2015 edition, Nogaredes and Koch put out a call for projects. This year they received about 200 applications, from which they selected six projects for the exhibition and another 15 for audiovisual live performances. Nogaredes and Koch wanted to showcase emerging and young French artists, introducing them to a wider audience. Beyond that, they wanted to show how new technologies are influencing this new generation’s creativity.

One such young artist is 21-year-old Dorian Vallet-Oheix, a.k.a., Dorian OHX, who typically makes audiovisual sound poems. For his new work Immersion Part 2, Vallet-Oheix gives viewers the opportunity to use old TV sets and VCR tapes. On each of these tapes are an assemblage of Super 8 footage that Vallet-Oheix found, which he hopes immersively takes viewers into a “filmed newspaper” of lives and unknown persons as viewers choose which ones to select and play.

Fake/Realities by multimedia artist Hugues Clément is an unsettling but visually engaging audiovisual installation. In it, he presents synthetic but organic looking textures that evolve physically in abstract ways. As the sound and visuals are both computer-generated, Clément asks his audience whether these realities and others are fake or real.

Exploring a somewhat similar thread between the virtual and the real is Veronique Pecheux and Simin Renaud’s Between Two Mirrors (2014). These photographic works are incredibly deceptive optical illusions. At first glance they appear to be a fusion of photography and digital editing, but in fact Pecheux and Renaud used some very clever body paint, makeup, lighting and props to create the illusion of digital textures on human bodies.

Installation view of Hugues Clément’s ‘Fake/Realities’

On a vastly different end of the spectrum, but still exploring the territory between the real and unreal, is Autopost. Created by artists Ivan Murit and Romain Marula, this interactive installation involves two social media profiles—one for Facebook, the other for Twitter. Viewers are prompted to write and post a message from one of these accounts—a message that is automatically either “retweeted” or “reposted” on the other account. This triggers a feedback loop of social media posting, augmented each time by metadata that ever so slightly tweaks the new message.

In Don’t Be Evil, artist Jordan Allard explores search engine user thoughts, which he calls “the oil of the digital economy.” The installation is largely built around anonymous sound portraits created out of Internet search histories, which Allard transcribed into vocal synthesis.

Still from Sybil Montet and Simon Kounovsky’s transmedia project ‘CORE.PAN’

CORE.PAN, a work by artists Sybil Montet and Simon Kounovsky, is a research program that explores concepts of network, instinct, consciousness, and mutation. A transmedia project, CORE.PAN flows through a network of media—web, holography, virtual reality, video, and installation—and imagines a scenario where a quantum accident at C.E.R.N. would distort the laws of physics and “unleash the intangible dimensions of consciousness.”

"Twin Peaks all over the States" au Transient Festival 2016 from Yannick VALLET on Vimeo.

A rather odd duck among these new media art installations, at least conceptually, is photographer Yannick Vallet’s Twin Peaks All Over The States. Inspired by David Lynch’s cult series, at first glance it almost looks like traditional photography, but Vallet used Google Street View to take viewers on a virtual roadtrip along US highways to find the 102 American towns named Twin Peaks. Yet, the installation isn’t just a photographic slideshow—Vallet turns the Street View stills into a mesmerizing motion picture road trip.

What unites all of these disparate installations are the role of viewers. As Nogaredes insists, they weren’t just an afterthought, but a vital participant in the experiences.

Image of a hologram from Sybil Montet and Simon Kounovsky’s ‘CORE.PAN’

Says Nogaredes, “It is also [with respect] to the audience that we think of our scenography, to give the possibility people navigating and interacting with various spaces and atmospheres. Through the interactivity of our exhibitions and the immersion that we propose, we would like that our audience think that they are not just viewers [but] ‘actors of creation’.”

Click here for more info on Transient Festival, including details on two related programs happening in France this December.

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