A huge mix of geekeries and experiences for the general public made up the programme for the 6th THSF, a festival organized by art collective Mix’art Myrys and Tetalab hackerspace, May 14-17, in Toulouse.
Toulouse, special report
This year, the Toulouse Hacker Space Factory (THSF) attracted a peculiar audience from May 14-17. Since 2010, this hybrid hacker’s festival has been hosting artists, hackers, thinkers, tinkerers and confirmed geeks, but also curious seniors and early-rising riverside residents who aren’t scared off by last night’s partiers carrying on till noon the next day.
“It’s a relaxed atmosphere. We don’t know much about it, but it’s different from our usual outings,” says one couple accompanied by their two children, already glued to an Atari game joystick.
The 4,000 m2 warehouse owned by art collective Mix’art Myrys hosted four days of performances, installations, retrogaming, lectures, concerts and maker workshops, including in sign language. Most popular were Arduino 101, DIY silkscreen printing, and crocheted locks. The organizers wanted to incite the public to be less passive when confronted with new technologies and to weigh issues such as protecting personal data online.
“The hackers aren’t here to mediate. We’re interested in knowing how to turn information into knowledge,” explains Pierre, THSF organizing committee member for the past three years (the Toulouse hackers insist on remaining anonymous). “We can’t just question objects for their technological value, our approach implies some reflection, i.e., understanding the transformation of representations and knowledge, how judgments are made, political and social mutations.”
So it wasn’t surprising to find at the festival’s opening Célia Izoard, theorist of the neo-luddite movement in France, and her openly technocritical discourse, as well as the philosopher Bernard Stiegler, who presented an experiment on territories, based on the sharing economy in the Paris region.
The dense lineup of lectures was intentionally wide-ranging, from Internet rights and freedoms with Jérémie Zimmermann, cofounder of La Quadrature du Net, to hyper-specialized sessions such as one on quantic computing and its impact on cryptography, “which loves access”, as confessed by one member of the organization.
Jérémie Zimmermann lecture at THSF 2015 :
Invited by the collective, Spanish hacktivist Lord Epsylon presented Border Check, a browser extension that traces and geolocates relay servers on maps, in an effort to reveal the political and physical realities hidden behind the Internet.
“This year, we really wanted to pad out the lectures programme. As we organize everything collectively, this can take some time before we’re all on the same page,” Pierre admits. Mix’art Myrys collective and Tetalab hackerspace, co-organizers of the festival, are betting on self-management and overlapping practices. With a budget of about 30,000 €, the event has been extended from two to four days, among other reasons to facilitate welcoming artists and collectives “in mini-residence” like the Labomédia of Orléans or RYbN.
“We receive some funding, but the goal is to remain as independent as possible,” says one Tetalab member who prefers to remain anonymous. “Especially when the city council changes, we don’t really know how things will go for us in the future, so we stay alert.”