From November 6-15, Gamerz lab in Aix-en-Provence is holding the 11th edition of its festival for artistic tinkering around video games. A fine opportunity to visit this gamelab that blurs the codes between art and playful reappropriation.
Aix-en-Provence, special report
Gamerz lab lovingly cultivates the art of gaming and tinkering. Founded in Aix-en-Provence in 2003 by the artists of the Dardex collective, this gamelab of artistic experiments thoroughly explores the theme of games and gaming. “We’re interested in games as a way into culture,” says Quentin Destieu, artist and cofounder of M2F Créations, the organization behind the lab.
Hosting artists in residence, producing multimedia artworks, giving educational workshops… the small Gamerz team of five employed staff is never idle, especially when it comes to organizing their signature festival to “showcase” their activities.
It’s also an ideal occasion to premiere art produced by the lab’s prototyping gamers, incidentally alumni of Aix’s art school. “Recently our projects have leaned toward 3D video and stereoscopic generative 3D,” Quentin continues, “kind of in the footsteps of Parallax, a European project that we developed a few years ago with ZKM (Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie in Karlsruhe).”
Still modest in size (“although we’ve made progress, we started out in an apartment”), the 100 m2 lab is gradually acquiring new machines form the festival. “We’d like to buy a laser CNC, but it’s still expensive,” says Bastien Vacherand, artist and technical coordinator of the lab, which includes 3D printers, holographic 3D studio and Oculus stock.
“We even have a sort of foundry for working with aluminum! Quentin keeps it in mind for picking out the gold from processors…” Each year, Gamerz hosts four or five artist-researchers in residence who come to hack games in high spirits alongside electronic engineers and programmers.
“My video game installations are more about tinkering and the culture of reappropriation than a pure gesture of visual art. I also hack 3D printing tools, which is a very different approach from the fablabs.”
Bastien Vacherand, artist and technical coordinator of Gamerz lab
“When we call for residency projects and festival projects, what’s important to us is to be able to contribute our technical expertise to the artwork,” says Quentin. Archive d’une frappe, a sculpture that materializes drum movement created by Paul Destieu (Quentin’s brother), required a year and a half of lab work, from developing the tool to capturing the drummer in real time, to 3D printing.
Photos of Paul Destieu’s residency at Gamerz lab:
A bit too snug inside their space in Patio du Bois de l’Aune, the Gamerz team would like to move into a space that could function as a lab, residence, educational studio and exhibition space, so that they can prolong the ambitions of the festival all year round. Their idea of moving in with Seconde Nature fell through, as this historical venue for digital arts in Aix was due to begin serious renovation work.
Artistically speaking, it’s not easy to occupy the territory. Between institutional and political scrambles, support is highly variable and funding is unreliable. This is particularly clear to Quentin: “Political changes tied to regional elections destabilize project development. We’re always in a precarious balance that needs to be readjusted each year. We’re aiming to be self-financed through the sales of artworks and educational workshops, but at the cultural level, we really need to be in subsidized circles, where national and local governments are involved.” However, the Gamerz lab cofounder remains confident. Even if they’re navigating on sight, the artist gamers are carrying on the resistance.
Gamerz lab website
Gamerz festival website