SFR Player & Digitalarti

News published on 05 Jan 2012 in Memorable & Digital Art Events, News

Since June 2008, SFR has been presenting its whole universe in its Studio in rue Tronchet, in Paris. Aside its commercial space, it includes a venue and an “apartment”. A teenage target has been quickly reached thanks to private concerts. The second target is more specific.
It comprises followers of new technologies in all fields of experimentation, with the launch, in 2009, of SFR Player, a yearly event focused on innovation and creation. Digitalarti was in charge of the artistic direction of this second event.

The SFR Studio could look like many concept stores if it wasn’t for its hidden side. The store, with its glass fade and its high-tech design, conceals a more cosy space divided in two environments and accessible by invitation only.
The venue is on the ground floor, several exhibition and meeting spaces are located in the private mansion. For this year’s SFR Player event, three rooms are hosting three digital installations; the following ones are focusing on the last innovations from the French telecommunication company. They encourage the spectator to experience the edge between reality and virtuality.

Two installations have been developed around augmented reality software, manipulating image and sound. It is about living a new reality in real time, a slightly modified reality in which virtual elements blend into film footages.
Shadow Monster (2005) by Philip Worthington reactivates Chinese shadows. Like its ancestor, the shadow outlines another reality. But with this playful installation, this new reality is augmented with details and sonorities. The visitor, positioned between two units, one with the screen the other with sensors, turns into multiple beings emitting noises directly drawn from children’s fairy tales.

The Messa di Voce installation (2003)
by the TMEMA collective, (among whom Golan Levin and Zach Lieberman), invites participants to draw with their voice and try out the possibilities between sounds and shapes. Just like for Shadow Monster, the public is needed to activate the piece.
Provided with a microphone, members of the audience sing, speak, make noises, as long as shapes appear on the screen facing them. We are far from Pissenlit by Edmond Couchot and Michel Bret, whose interaction abilities were limited. But this was in 1989, and poetry was nevertheless part of it, even without all these options. With Messa di Voce the experiment is similar.

Our breath produces an action on the screen in front of us. Interesting when handled by professionals, it vaguely recalls karaoke when run by amateurs. When performers appropriate this technology, the screen located behind them becomes a decor they can control in real time. Clouds of bubbles leave their head, swirls come out of their mouths, waves encircle the top of their body. Some go as far as painting with their voice and their creations resemble lyric abstraction or action painting. The title of the installation is quite clever. Indeed, The messa di voce is a musical technique used by numerous singers but mastered by very few of them. Technology is thus an instrument at the disposal of talent.

The third installation selected by Digitalarti makes it possible to hear live sounds from all over the world. Locus Stream is a visual and sonic device connected to the world via the Internet that enable you to listen to a stream of sounds recorded by microphones in Colombia, Iceland, Japan, England… Through this kind of projects, Locus Sonus, a French audio art research laboratory seeks to define sound art. Though this project it is experimenting networked sound spaces and sound spatialisation. There too, reality and virtuality meet. The virtual world is a network, a means, allowing the real world to be perceived in real time from one end of the planet to another.
And just as in both previous installations, the spectator is required for the substantiation of these soundscapes. Without him they do not exist.

In the fourth room of this 3200 square-feet building, everyone can pretend to be Luc Skywalker. The only difference with the Star Wars hero being that the objects moved with the sole power of the mind are virtual ones. A cerebral helmet, which looks far from a work of art, is put on the head of the visitor who then focuses on an object on the screen. A dream for video games addicts, the border between reality and virtuality, themselves and their avatar thus becomes increasingly thin. Beyond the playful aspect, this cerebral interface can have daily life uses in the case of motor disabilities.
EPOC by Emotiv enables to control via thoughts all that can be connected to a computer: a wheel-chair, the light, an e-mail box. This is a puzzling object, just like the 3D printer which leads us to dream of world in which we could produce objects on demand, thus avoiding cluttering.
To reach a little further, lectures and activities have been organized for the young ones. The children tried out robots to play with, Etch A Sketch 4.0 and discovered the “3D Kids” animated short films. A series of lectures was also held in the SFR Studio alongside reflections by the artists whose work was exhibited. The first one was focused on the relationship between the social factor and the digital one. The digital world, a chance for solidarity? was a theme questioning the role of digital facilities for social organisations actions.

The second lecture, FABLABS, manufacture your future objects, examined the gathering of engineers and designers who create and share with the public all types of innovative objects. The third lecture was dedicated to video games amateurs, trying to review the current situation in this field. The last meeting was centred on intelligent objects. Interactive design: from communicating objects to living objects proposed a prospective vision, roughly optimistic, on the objects of tomorrow and how we will relate to them. Before leaving this hall of trade, exhibitions, concerts, conferences and workshops, the visitor could discover a few digital gadgets thanks to the Amusement magazine in charge of the Player Store: Monotron for professional musicians, USB key in Lego, robots, night-vision glasses … so many possibilities.

Aude de Bourbon Parme

Published in the Digitalarti Mag #5.