Digital culture at the Pavilion

What do the Eiffel Tower, the Atomium and the Pavilion open since March 13 at the Citadel of Namur have in common? Ephemeral structures designed to last the duration of a Universal Exhibition, they are always standing and perennial. Admittedly, the Pavilion is no longer in its initial location, Milan, but it has found a second life on the Citadel esplanade, next to the arrival of the cable car under construction. The city entrusted it to the ASBL KIKK, already known for the festival and various other digital initiatives which has just launched a three-month Pop-Up exhibition there, a very tempting foretaste since we explore there. the relationship between humans and machines.

In the “farm” (the entrance hall), we are in the “Strange Valley”, according to a Japanese concept developed in the 1970s which states that the more a creation resembles us, the more it arouses discomfort: dogs robots “playing” with each other, humanoid with 62 facial expressions dialoguing with a human, robot / mechanical arm that blackens pages of punishments for the harm it could do to human beings (The Punishment by Filipe Vilas-Boas), robots stored in formalin and reacting to various stimuli.

From the central dome then open niches, on two floors, with further works questioning artificial intelligence.

We are at the crossroads of arts, sciences and technologies, with installations designed by international leaders, such as Ugo Dehaes (Bel), Diemut Strebe (USA), Mélia Roger (Sui), Mathieu Zurstrassen (Bel), Mushon Zer-Aviv (Isr) or Justine Emard (Fra) (with a poetic installation presenting the dance of a robot with a dancer).

Among the works is this famous deepfake showing all the leaders of the world appearing to sing together “Imagine” by John Lennon. Another creation invites us to differentiate “synthetic” sounds from real voices. Yet another is responsible, on the basis of 800 known types of tulips, to create in real time tulips which do not exist but which evolve according to the price … of bitcoin, a work thus weaving a link with the first known speculative bubble of the history, which plagued the Netherlands in the 17th century: the tulipomania which saw the prices offered for the very rare striped tulips reach those of a… house.

The expo also shows, worryingly at times, that AI depends on the basic information it is “fed”, such as these facilities that invite “the most normal people” to be chosen. The Playground presents playful experiences: giant tetris, facial recognition projecting you into a work of art, a digital work transforming you into a character reminiscent of La Linea or a swing immersing you in the screensaver Windows 95 …

Gilles Bazelaire co-director of KIKK

“The ASBL KIKK, in charge of the management of the Pavilion, was born 10 years ago, at the start of a festival which aims to promote digital cultures on Belgian territory. The KIKK Festival now attracts 30,000 visitors and we were looking for a permanent place to evoke these digital cultures. The City of Namur had just bought the Belgian Pavilion from the Universal Expo from Milan to Besix and let’s say that we quickly found ourselves in view of the occupation of the Pavilion for the next few years. We have been working on this project for two years. Our goal is to provide the keys to understanding digital technology, to present what is developing in the world in terms of AI, deep learning, machine learning… through the eyes of artists, entrepreneurs, creatives; be able to give the public a snapshot of what is being done and then question themselves in relation to these issues. The public will therefore discover projects that are sometimes scary or distressing, others much more enjoyable. One way of understanding them is to endure them, to consume them, the other being to understand their dimension in order to be able to become an actor. It is therefore not a question of being afraid of them but of demystifying them, of grasping the totality of these applications. We also want to break this world created by whites for whites who have money but to show all the dimensions of the digital world. With this tool, the city of Namur brings a new perspective on the current world, in dialogue with Terra Nova, visitors can thus immerse themselves in both history and current affairs, with exhibitions that are always changing in the future, once this first Pop-Up phase has passed, then the development of the future scenography. We also have the ambition to target an international audience. In addition, the Panorama, right next door, will become a quality restaurant with a breathtaking view. The complex comprising the esplanade, the bleachers and the open-air theater will also be renovated. ”

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