CITYWIDE


Citywide In Paris: Futur en Seine
June 22, 2012, 6:29 pm
Filed under: Exhibition, Technology

On my first day on my freshman year floor, our RA Jenna chose “Two Truths and a Lie” as our inaugural icebreaker. When my time came to make my new floormates what my lie was, I told them that my uncle was a huge rockstar in Madagascar and that I loved computers (I can’t remember what I gave as a third option). Immediately, everyone guessed the computer one was the lie. They were right; other than their practical nature, I saw nothing particularly appealing about computers then–try to tear me away from it now though and you might have a different answer. I thought I had been so smart by putting in something ridiculous to throw them off, but I guess my un-techy-ness was visible from the get-go, even to complete strangers.

All this to say that Futur en Seine, the digital innovation festival going on in all of the Parisian region until the 24th, is not at first sight a place where you might expect to find me. Even though I have now warmed up to what the digital culture has brought for us and feel much less of a need to be hostile to the technological innovations around me, a lot of what gets discussed in these circles is way beyond my level of understanding.

Luckily, I went to the festival’s inaugural fair at the CentQuatre on the two days it was open to the public, when kids were running around everywhere  and many curious souls erred, which forced all the people presenting their work to make what was often probably very complex technology seem intelligible to simple minds like mine. Also, thanks to a plethora of tactile screens and Kinect-based games, a good amount of stations ended up being somewhat interactive, even though a lot of it was aimed at children. For example, I passed in front of one screen that detected bodies going in front of the camera and added Iron Man suits on the image that was then formed on the screen. Another station allowed you to embody a flying creature in a videogame if you spread your arms out and bent side to side to mimic flight. Thinking back on it, the whole Kinect experience was doubly unreal. The center where the fair took place, the CentQuatre, used to be a morgue so with these games, huge crowds of people played with these almost ghostly, mirror images of themselves while standing in a place with a bit of a haunted history. I realize as I’m writing it that it sounds rather morbid, but I’m keeping it because I still find it quite fascinating.

However, the most fun application of that technology was shown during a workshop for children who had recorded and filmed a few video samples during an after-school program. One of the program directors would put up some of the pictures they’d taken on the screen and as a few girls volunteered to dance in front of the camera (their song of choice was Danza Kuduro), any big arm movement would make the picture superimposed over their feed change shape so that as you saw the girls moving around to the rhythm, the picture on top would also then follow that same beat. So a much more alive use of Kinect, this time.

While Futur en Seine wasn’t a place where I thought I’d find much artistic inspiration (going there was really just an excuse to go see my sister and hang out), I was pleasantly surprised, because there was still a lot of creativity at work once you looked past the more commercial ventures present. Below, you’ll see videos of some of the projects I talk about in the piece that aired on the show in case my description of them didn’t give you a full idea.

Here’s Object Avatar by Digitalarti‘s Jason Cook:

And Jules Hotrique’s Dualo:

With my new, more open mind, I look forward to telling you about more Parisian adventures!

Sedera

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