Introduction

From Gijon to Brussels

Why show in Brussels an exhibition produced by LABoral Art and Industrial Creation Centre in Gijon (Asturias, Spain)? Because we think it raises urgent and relevant questions about art, culture and technology while waking up the emotional capital that two or three generations of gamers and computer users have invested in these discarded game platforms and obsolete computers from the 80's which announced a 21st century where electronic and mobile computing devices are surrounding us, connecting us and shaping our lives. Because Playlist shows how our attitudes towards this technological society are decisive for our evolution: from endless desire for the novelty, from mandatory consumption to repurposing, reinventing and free appropriation.

 Playlist demonstrates how ubiquitous technologies are no more in the hands of the engineers and corporate guys who produced them. Once released on the market, they start their own life liberated from their creators and industrial producers, a life defined by how we decide to freely use and mis-use them. Playlist gives us a sample of the way musical and visual artists asserted this freedom by taking the time to reinvent the specificites of the computer medium (code, computation generation, machine glitches,...) pushing obsolete game and computing technologies into new directions, far away from expected usages and established aesthetics, far away also from the pressure to consume the next generations of digital products launched on the market.  Playlist highlights also the continuum of researches and practices based on reinvention, recycling and repurposing, active not only in mainstream cultures (game, hackers and demoscene, 8-bit and chiptune music) but also in contemporary media arts. This reinvention process is often one of the first steps that leads to innovation and renewal, a collaborative and open process shared by open communities and indivuals with rich, mixed and hybrid profiles.

Technologies as raw material

Today, computers and game platforms are nearly 1,000 times more powerful than their ancestors of the 80s. But we are far from unleashing their full potential, hidden as it is under complex layers of software locking them into the definite usages that global manufacturers and sofware publishers have designed. Besides, the next upgrade is released before we had any chance to explore. Playlist is a manifesto for the freedom to create directly with the technologies which are proposed (or imposed) to us, to consider them as a raw material to explore and exploit for its specificities (e.g. code, processes, network, interactions,...) and for the potential for empowering expressions and communications they offer us, with the open tools we design ourselves, along the directions that we - artists, developers, designers, citizens and entrepreneurs - have chosen.

The Preservation of a Digital Volatile Culture

 Digital Culture is fragile: paradoxically, our digital world is much more vulnerable to the passing of time than we might think. Playlist indirectly raises the issue: artists, hackers and developers, by exploring the materiality of electronics, by their passion and intense work on a recent cultural and technological heritage are helping its preservation while pointing at the fragility of digital media and tools. It is therefore not suprising to see an obsolete technology such as vinyl being used as a digital data support, as it may be much more durable than our current digital memories...

European Collaborations

There are some art centres specialised in technology-based or media arts such as LABoral and iMAL in Europe and others around the world. These institutions carry on research, reflection and diffusion actions about new forms of creation and expression in the context of today's technological society. They are also catalysts for socio-cultural and technical innovations as well as laboratories for art experimentations closely connected with the scientific and economic worlds. Showing the largest audience, local as and international (as in Brussels), the initiatives of each other is both a self-evident choice and a necessity.

With the co-production in 2009 of Chapter 1 - The Discovery (nominated at Transmediale 2010 and at the New Media Price of Foundation Liedts-Meessen, honorary mention at Ars Electronical Festival 2010) by artist Félix Luque, Playlist in Brussels is the second collaborative operation between LABoral and iMAL. I want to thank Rosina Gómez-Baeza, Director of LABoral, for making possible this framework for collaboration and LABoral's team for helping us making it real. I also thank Domenico Quaranta who curated Playlist at LABoral for his commitment to the adaptation and extension of Playlist Brussels, and I am very grateful to all the artists who accepted to participate to this second show and to the new ones who are joining us in Brussels.

Yves Bernard
director of iMAL, Center for Digital Cultures and Technology