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KIKK 2023: between bodies and water, a polymorphous festival

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Marie-Flore Pirmez

A voracious fan of podcasts and documentaries, Marie-Flore is a firm believer in the revival of print journalism thanks to the many opportunities offered by the web and long-form magazines. When she takes off her journalist's hat, you're likely to find her hiking or in a yoga studio.

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This coming October 26 to 29, the twelfth edition of the KIKK festival will take over ten or so unusual or heritage sites in the Namur centre. The programming reflects the objective embedded within the very DNA of the international festival dedicated to digital and creative cultures: breaking down the barriers between sciences, technologies and the arts.

In chemistry or mineralogy, polymorphism is the ability a substance has to crystalize into different structures according to the conditions of its environment, such as temperature or pressure. For KIKK, this property is the source of endless creativity in terms of programming. But what to do, what to see, what to learn and what to discover during this edition? Read on.

In terms of lectures, 52 speakers from across the entire world will take to the floor to address varied but always interconnected themes: the web, graphics, design, artificial intelligences (AI), digital art, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), immersive storytelling, creative coding, technologies, etc. The opening of the festival will be a morning affair with much fanfare at the Theatre of Namur, featuring Nelly Ben Hayoun-Stépanian. The French artist and director will take us on a journey through her decolonial practice to trigger a radical imagination. A genuine force of nature with a packed-full CV, she/they has always dreamed of becoming an astronaut and is today working with the SETI Institute and NASA. Among others.

Nelly Ben Hayoun and their electric Porsche Tuycan and virtual world © Naomi Ngoo Richmond

Other big names will take their turn at the microphone, including Kirsty Jennings. The executive producer at Anagram – an English creative studio specialising in interactive and immersive storytelling – will focus on Goliath: Playing with Reality. This VR experience, a prizewinner at the 2021 Venice Film Festival, showcases the studio’s virtuosity and recounts the life journey of an anonymous schizophrenic, mistreated by psychiatric institutions, all the while blurring the boundaries between the real and the virtual. 

Nor should you miss the Japanese creatives of the Maywa Denki art studio and their pop-kitsch concert-performance. It is the first time on a Belgian stage for these artists and their very curious electromechanical musical instruments. And don’t forget Valentina Peri, artist, author and independent exhibition curator, who will give a talk entitled ‘Love, Lies and Romance Scam’. An exploration of love, intimacy and deceit in the digital age. A small last one for the road? Jack Isles, architect, researcher and cartographer, will offer an exhibition which is both political and militant to document and denounce the violence at sea sponsored by the States on the edges of Europe. A member of the Swiss-based investigative agency Border Forensics, he will highlight various resistance strategies against the criminalisation of migration and the widespread surveillance of maritime borders.

A theme for getting to grips with the ongoing digital revolution

Bodies of Water.’ By means of this transversal theme, the 2023 KIKK festival aims to explore the relationships between water and the phenomenon of life on Earth. As Marie du Chastel, the KIKK artistic director and curator of the KIKK festival, puts it: ‘we sweat, we urinate, we ingest, we ejaculate, we have our periods, we breastfeed, we breathe, we cry. The process of life is thus closely linked to fluid matters’. Be they cultural, political, economic or maritime, flows of every type will be the narrative thread of this edition. Inevitably, the programming will also highlight environmental issues, and will sound out the human impact on the water cycle.

As part of its aim to reach out to an increasingly diversified audience, the KIKK festival is, on the one hand, aimed at the professionals of the digital sector, with spaces such as KIKK Pro, the attendance of the cream of creative ecosystems, but also international pavilions representing dozens of nationalities, or ‘KIKK your career’, a genuine meeting and exchange platform between talents and the key names of the Belgian industrial landscape. A mobile phone application equipped with an AI will for that matter appear during the festival in order to aid the pros in their quest for new profiles. Is there a matchup? The professionals will therefore be able to arrange a meeting right away with their potential new recruits.

But the KIKK also endeavours to meet the needs and wishes of every type of public and family. The aims of the festival regarding the general public are for that matter multiple: to inspire the region, enable everyone to understand the digital revolution, to question it, test it, to get hands-on with it, and even become an actor within this revolution, but also to transform the opinion people have of the City of Namur. The KIKK in Town exhibition will take the visitors on a journey across the Walloon capital city and will present some fifty or so monumental or microscopic art installations. The opportunity to (re)discover mythical sites such as the Halle Al’ Chair, an impressive recently renovated sixteenth-century building, the Sainte-Marie chapel, a jewel hidden in a school courtyard, the Pavillon, the unmissable former Belgian pavilion at the 2015 Milan World Expo, today transformed into an exhibition space by the KIKK non-profit association and nestling above the Citadel, or the immense basketball venue at the Institut Saint-Louis, plunged into darkness to immerse you in the landscape work by Hicham Berrada. Entitled Présage, this projection caused a sensation at the last Avant L’Orage exhibition at the Bourse de Commerce Pinault Collection in Paris.

Hicham Berrada – Climats artificiel © Laurent Lecat

The KIKK in Town 2023 vintage has many other surprising artistic encounters in store for you. Attend the Phantom Limb performances. A project conceived by the multidisciplinary artist Amos Peled which explores the enigmatic and poetic relationship between a human being and the Pandora’s box that is their interior by means of a medical ultrasound machine. Explore the issues connected to climate repair and technosolutionism with ‘Whatever disappears is immediately transformed into eternity’. An installation created by Barthélemy Antoine-Lœff and Antoine Meissonnier putting to work a fictive laboratory which measures the melting of mini-icebergs symbolically generated in the ice by an AI. Prick up your ears to hear another environmental note produced by the media artist Marco Barotti, with Clams. A metaphorical experience of the sonification of data established by a series of small clams which convert the data sent by water quality sensors in the Sambre river into sounds and movements. And complete your journey by letting yourself be enveloped by the tears of Maurice Mikkers. In his ongoing photography project, Imaginarium of Tears, the Dutch artist captures micrographs of tears to raise awareness of the stories or challenges that have caused these fluids of sorrow or joy, it depends. 

Workshops, masterclasses, concerts and DJ sets, etc. There is simply no way of including in so few lines the profuse character of this 2023 programme, but a large number of other activities will delight young and old alike, the simply curious or confirmed aficionados of the sciences, techs and the arts. 

The complete programme on kikk.be 

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