Digital Data, The New "Paint" For French Artists

Screenshot of Unfold
Screenshot of Unfold
Elisa Braun

NANTES â€" In contemporary art, digital data is as much a medium as paint these days.

One of the best works showcased during Scopitone, a festival centered on all things digital in the French city of Nantes, used scientific data to reflect how stars are born. An audio, tactile and visual work, called Unfold, is the result of a year-long collaboration between artist Ryoichi Kurokawa and astrophysicist Vincent Minier, who says the artistic reproduction of data is a "natural continuation" of his work.

This artwork is part of a new field of digital art â€" data art.

"For about five years, this artistic branch has been erasing the borders that existed between the two disciplines by combining technology and science, without technology being just an excuse," says Cédric Huchet, Scopitone's digital art organizer.

Mulitmedia artist Martial Geoffre-Rouland created an installation called Cinética last year that focused on data created by the movement of local residents in Nantes. He worked in partnership with two technology laboratories to come up with a physical work of art generated by data from volunteers who downloaded a specific application on their smartphones. When residents walk around town, their phones send signals to the city's antennas and the art installation adapts in real time. On a 10-by-3-foot board, metal disks and their LED lights shift according to the movements of people.

"The idea is for people to be able to project themselves," says Geoffre-Rouland, who encourages visitors to download the app and to interact with his installation.

Artworks such as Geoffre-Rouland’s are a mixture of design, coding, physical and human sciences, says Franckie Trichet, a local government official who was in charge of organizing a Digital Week in Nantes. These works reflect a "turn towards a digital humanism," he says.

Ryoichi Kurokawa's Unfold

"This event represents the opportunity to claim a specific relation to the digital, characterized by a critical mind towards technology, a strong link between culture and science and a cross-disciplinary approach that goes from art and music to startups," says Trichet.

Huchet says the link between the startup ecosystem and artistic experiments makes sense. "The Digital Week stands for a digital culture that is developing, experimenting and testing with a goal of openness," says Huchet. "Just like the digital sphere can help artists, art can also help startups."

Data is more than just material used to create digital works of art. It’s also the subject of reflection in contemporary art. "With this type of algorithmic creation, there's a political interest for artists to show that, despite automation, they still have a part to play in creation," says Nicolas Nova, a researcher for the website Regards sur le numérique (Views on Digital).

Indeed, certain artworks focused on machine errors can also be seen as an act of resistance, if not rejection, of the automated and algorithmic world. For instance, artist Katsuki Nogami's Rekion Voice, which is installed in the cellar of the Château des Ducs de Bretagne displays strange-looking robots in a disturbing reddish light. Tightly bound by ropes, the machines emit mechanic shrieks as they endlessly repeat movements. Visitors have found the installation to be disturbing, hilarious and pitiful.

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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