Saturday, May 24, 2008

Samedi Matin

Today is going to be a busy day, Matt is off to La Cantine to present at a seminar about public space and we have an afternoon / evening of Heartlands back at the Main Egg as Matt is calling it.

The last couple of days have become a bit of a blur of French speaking, quiches and hanging out at the Egg.

I left the Matts to roam free in the Jardins de Luxembourg, more likely chasing innocent French girls, I went to try to resolve the audio issues on the french version of the sound track. Spent the afternoon in the artists atelier (geek man pit) and then set the game up, had 8 players, they went well. Met some guys who are setting up a pervasive game company and have made a heart rate mobile phone game which sounds interesting. I was interviewed for a Canadian radio station and also (in French) for the film about the festival. We have French telly coming today.

Capra came in the evening and we saw a bit of the music programmed at the festival. Electro kids swerving between glitchy sounds and 80s singing, with bowl haircuts and semi-tektonic dancing.

The artworks in the exhibition are really interesting although the layout of the space somehow doesn't do it justice. The Optokopter installation is a simple yet engaging concept of typing your name onto a screen - that amusingly emerges from a suitcase, throwing a ball against the wall and your name (or whatever word you type in) appears on the wall.

There is a really lovely, tactile installation called Akousmaflore by Scenocosme, hanging plants that sing and make sounds when you touch the leaves, it is impossible to walk past without stroking them, each plant has it's own song.

Kit Collaboration is Toby's collaborative work about viruses, he has only brought his hooded tops with virus names on them but I am intrigued to know more, and like the idea of doing an exhibition that involves hanging some hoodies on a clothes rack. No tweaking.

Samuel St-Aubin and Sofian Audry's sensor triggered electronic objects are like little animals waiting to come alive in corners of the Mains D'Ouevres. The most beautiful is outside on a tree, you press a red button on the trunk and the tree wakes up with birds singing and chirping. I wonder how the real birds feel when they take refuge there. The solar powered insect UFO in the gallery makes cricket noises in response to it's solar powered head.

There is also an interface that determines your mental health problems and types out a prescription, i got a prescription for valium (always useful); a wearable coat with a camera on the back collar and a video screen in the arm so you can always see what is going on behind you, commentating on CCTV and surveillance. I think the French are worried they will go the way of us English, being watched constantly but no-one ever seeing.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Found Outside Girabaldi Metro Station

The Stadium of the gays?!

Aujourd'hui... mangetout mais oui

The day of aggro was upon us, after escaping the grasps of the French room inspectors, I made my way into the picturesque bustling streets of Jaures to buy the one thing I always forget... a towel! With a couple of baguettes under one arm and the inevitable cheese and sausage in the other I queued up at our local monoprix only to be held by the police as one young guy thought that shoplifting was an easy way out, au contraire think again when the local gendarm have baton power. Needless to say my man wasn't getting out of the shop and neither did we for what seemed like an age whilst I tried to engage in my best French with the old man next to me.

It was the kids workshop day down at good old Mains D'oeuvres, so after tarte de jour it was pandimonium as 50 children descended upon the gallery space. They had a game at the beginning where the object was to find clues hidden around the space. Although a treasure hunt amongst expensive equipment and technology didnt prove to be a great idea, as clues were hiding behind carefully balanced monitors!

The children loved the game as they sprinted off around the marketplace eating up territories fueled by chocolate tucked inside baguettes. I even got so immersed in the game that I managed to run off the map and ended up on a tube back to base all kitted up to the bemusement of the passengers.

An exhausting afternoon was followed by some light entertainment in the evening as we headed into town for a rendezvous avec our fellow artists. We were warned in the usual French manner that there may be a strike on the metro, but everything seemed fine apart from the slower speed that the trains moved at (maybe it was a minor dispute?) We watched Man Utd take the European cup whilst biting our nails as Rachel read intently under the vigour of the Parisian football chants.

The walk home was a long and winding route that took us back along the canal to the point ephemere where it all started for us. The aggro continued as one French guy intent on causing a rukus followed us asking all the time if we would like to engage in some man love with him. Matt seemed game for a second, but we then quickly realised he simply wanted to fight so we made a sharp exit.

After collapsing in a huddle back at the pad, we were a little rusty to start with this morning, apart from Rachel, who once again came to our rescue with petit dejeuner. We decided to head out and make like tourists this morning, so obligatory sunglasses on, we headed off to Sacre Cours for a croque monsieur and a wander. We bumped into the Moulin Rouge on the way, as I noted the word poisson rouge to add to my ever increasing and annoying random French vocab. Amongst the usual people sculpture things and souvenirs there was a guy drawing a portrait of a lady in the usual way, only to our amuse/bemusement somehow he was making her look unmistakably like Parkinson of BBC chat show fame, nice.

Due to a lack of internet cables and anyone assuming responsibility, we ploughed on with Heartlands today dipping in and out of weak wi-fi connections. But the game was fine and dragged in spectators from all nationalities over the buidling as the spray shapes unfolded.
We're heading off to see some of the festival's experimental music this evening after planning our trip to Rex Club this weekend. Mais oui mais oui

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Rude Awakening

This morning we were woken up by some particularly rude french building inspectors (In fact I am writing this now because they have denied me my lie in!) 3 people barged in this morning ranting about "Salle des Bains", scaring Rachel and generally stomping round the flat as if they owned it.

Anyway yesterday we got Heartlands working properly and 8 people played the game and it was well received. We also had an interview from a French Journalist for a magazine called TelePop and apparently there was an article on us in Liberation.

We had one guy called Pierre who played and on returning to the space he looked as if he had been taken round an assault course by a drill sergeant. He was dripping sweat and claiming that we had tried to kill him! After he had calmed down we realised that he had really enjoyed it but perhaps engaged in the experience beyond the call of duty.

We had a boring early night last night. Which was probably a good thing as far as the first part of this post is concerned.

more pictures

Sam making a pancake face

Matt D making pancake triangles

Matt and Matt making fart jokes during the set up at the Mains D'ouevres

petit dejeuner

looking for a restuarant in beaubourg and finding notre dame

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

lundi mardi...

Set up finally happened in time for the launch at 7pm Monday. We weren't quite sure if the launch happened, but got a meal of big quiche with the other artists and ended up all sitting in the workshop that is a bit of a man geek pit full of toys and electronics from Sofian and Sam, and Christophe and Jonathan (Optokopter) fixing their electronic balls and playing chess, eating cakes, cold pancakes and passing round cheap wine. Met Lucy a textile artist who had also found herself drinking wine in the pit. The picture looks like a technology self help meeting. Eventually got home about 2am again.

Yesterday we attempted to get to the Mains D'ouevres early, finding our area of the gallery covered in mud and a strange mannequin that looked like it had been badly abused.

Set up got complicated by the computer we had been given not working, but finally resolved it by the skin of our teeth in time for several games to run at our alloted time. A really great second game (which was good cos the press were there to interview us) with Pierre setting the highest score at 1183, we thought we might need to call an ambulance though, he came back sweating and breathing hard, needing water...

We managed to get back to the flat for an early night-ish in bed before 2am missing the contemporary dance show in order to recuperate. Ate the best pizza ever from round the corner from Point Ephermere. Matt's french word of the day remains "aujourd'hui" despite our pleas to find a new word to say every 5 minutes. He is making us laugh constantly with his "Pahs", "Bofs" and "Pouffs" particularly when he trys them out on French people. My brain is fried by speaking french, explaining the game to the visitors and players and the long french lessons with Laura to make the voice over. Laura was very amused by trying to make me make all kinds of wierd french sounds so that people could understand what the hell the game was about. Sat in workshop making strange french faces whilst shouting oouuu and rrrrr down a microphone, think i have turned the game into comedy.

Heartlands has featured in Liberation the french newspaper. Now we are famous.


Monday, May 19, 2008


We arrived at the exhibition space at 12pm to start setting up as instructed. Unfortunately the technicians decided to arrive at about 3.30pm, and work on installation didn't really begin in earnest until about 5.30pm. So we spent a whole afternoon twiddling our thumbs and getting frustrated in an Anglo-Saxon work obsesssed sort of way.
In some ways it demonstrated stereotypical attitudes of European nations to getting things done. The Germans were in a back room quietly beavering away. The french were smoking fags looking at the problem and saying things like "we'll do that tomorrow", and the British were wandering around looking for something to do while laughing at anything which vaguely sounded like a fart. Specifically the sound in someone else's installation.

In the evening we went to the area around the Pompidou Centre and wandered aimlessly around street after street as tourists do before finally finding a reasonable restaurant near the Bear Bar (it does exactly what it says on the tin, big hairy men drinking wine on the street, arm in arm).

In our moments of vague meandering we came across a shop which look like it dated back to before the revolution with a sign declaring: "destruction des animaux nuisibles". In the window a strange tableaux of stuffed rats in embraces or fights could be seen. This rat catcher was demonstrating his abilty at catching vermin through the number he could exhibit in bizarre poses in his window. Brilliant.


Sunday, May 18, 2008

French Rainbows and Paper Triangles

In the evening we had a meal with some of the artists where we got quite drunk and challenged each others creativity in an origami tournament. I made a samurai hat, Samuel(pictured) from Montreal made a fox and Matt made an endless stream of tiny triangles!

On the way to the restaurant we also saw a rainbow over Pere La Chaise Cemetery.

good morning from Paris

It is morning, looking out over the roofs of Paris and eating madelines, coffee brewing. The Matt's are complaining of feeling rough as...

Yesterday was a very excitable day, much random French words and wandering through North East Paris finding the various venues of the festival. The Main's D'Ouevres is in a cool area (quartier) which is the Marchee Au Puces, the flea market lots of winding streets and things to look at. Be fun to play the game there. Set up was fine, although some new problems with the global interface but sure they will be sorted by Tuesday, nothing fatal. The new kit and version is so far so good.

Lots of walking good for my bad knees and the 5 flights of stairs to get to our apartment, pretty much back to normal now which is a big relief.

Went to Christian Nold's launch at Ars Longa, meet with the festival gang, made some new found friends from France, Canada, Germany and Finland (although Juha we had meet before in Bristol last year).

Went for a long meal involving a mixture of alcoholic celebrations of Matt W's birthday involving origami and I don't know what. We deliberated drinking champagne by the canal but stumbled back to the flat.

Weather good, stormy, sunny, view of Sacre Couer from our window perfect.


Saturday, May 17, 2008

Acid Paris

So we arrived in Paris last night we've got a great if somewhat small apartment in Paris. Picture shows the view from the window with the Sacre Coeur in the distance. Matt Davenport and I had to share a bed last night. After arriving we went to the venue for the opening party where they had a great acid techno DJ playing (Huoratron), with lots of cool Parisienne's shakin there stuff. I managed to confuse a bar maid with my sub standard CSE french. But a good night was had by all.

This morning we got up on my Birthday(hooray) and me and Rach went and got some supplies from the Boulangerie, Charcuterie, Fromagerie and the a bit like Tesco-erie and had a breakfast of coffee and croissants. Oh c'est tres bon!

We are now off to the venue to set up and get a feel for the festival.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Them and Us

photos courtesy of Julian Hughes

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

May 08

The last couple of months have been very interesting at ai.

We have been preparing for Them and Us - the work in progress, which happened last week. It was interesting but quite scary to show something at such early stages to an audience and to see how they react, engage and play with the technology. It was a good experience though, hopefully for the people who gave us their time and involvement in our early ideas. The overall response was positive and even quite excited from the majority of the players/participants/audience whatever they were! The main feedback we got was more... we need to be more full on, which is really great.

We have been in residence at the Mixed Reality Lab, at Nottingham University which has been fantastic for us. Playing with the Ubisense technology, an ultra wide band tracking system that tracks distance, proximity, height etc.. of people and objects. We are using this to develop Them and Us (which we are describing as a "mass participation wii game").

The same week we had a visit from Paulo and Marcelo from Mobilefest in Brazil, to discuss the BR163 expedition that is planned now for August 08, although we will try and fundraise to do a reccy this year, although it is very tight for time. We had lots of meetings and organised a network event at Broadway Media Centre to talk about our work, Nottingham Trent Uni and Radiator's Performance Space programme and for Paulo and Marcelo to talk about Mobilefest.

Hopefully even if we don't get to the Amazon this year we will find a way to go back to Mobilefest in the winter and continue our collaboration with them.

The other very exciting thing that is happening is that we are in discussion about a new venture, more about this soon...

We also have a new version of Heartlands which will be launched at the Mal Au Pixel festival in Paris next week... so we are off again on our travels, this time to Paris with Matt Davenport and meeting up with Capra for the final weekend to present Heartlands in the area around the Marchee Du Puce (Flea Market) and the Mains D'ouevre arts space.