KIKK 2023: Navigating new flows between arts, technology, science and culture

The 12th edition of the KIKK festival ended on Sunday after four days of exhibitions, performances, over 35 speakers, 35 prototypes and workshops. Spreading across the Belgium town of Namur, the festival presented a variety of experimentation between arts, technology and culture to explore alternative ways to experience these entanglements. 

The festival theme ‘Bodies of Waters’ poses the attention on the myriad of visible and invisible flows in which bodies move, from biological environments to abstract financial contexts. The metaphor of water becomes a key to combine different perspectives and engage a discussion between artists, speakers and participants. Opening with two kick-off parties accompanying talks and exhibitions, the festival welcomes the visitors with a dynamic vibe, inviting the audience to discover alternative perspectives and be open to new encounters. 

KIKK party_ LaNef (Photo: Quentin Chevrier)

The festival’s exhibition spread across different locations in the city town, encouraging the visitors to keep moving around following their personal flows of interests and inspirations. Spreading in different locations, site-specific installations and interactive works offered a tangible example to blur the lines between technology, science and arts. Converging steel and iron to create interactive prototypes, ‘Steel Life’ by Carlos Sefir Vottero challenges the separation between industrial and natural life allowing steel flowers to bloom. Netherlands filmmaker Jan van Ijken captured for the audience the invisible world of living microscopic plankton with ‘Planktonium,’ while artist Nicky Assman invites visitors to play with the interactive installation ‘Solaris’ making a movie with soap frames.

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Carlos Sefir Vottero_ Steel Life (Photo: Antoine Toinberg)

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Hicham Berrada_ Présages series (2007) (Photo: Quentin Chevrier)

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Nicky Assmann_ Solaris (2023) (Photo: Quentin Chevrier)

Moving up to the citadelle, the exhibition CAPTURE #2 offered an overview of Belgium’s digital arts scene. The group show was an invitation to question the perception of algorithms, pushing the potential and limits of computational visions of reality. ‘Cascade’ by WIP collective altered visitors’ perception of reality with a series of cameras filming each other; ‘Missing people – Inventio fortunate’ by Stèphanie Roland explores with AI databases of missing people to melt personal stories in generic portraits; or ‘Les Télépathes’ by Claire Williams visualises the materiality of our consciousness transforming neural activities into light pulses and mechanical sounds.  

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Lawrence Malstaf_ Nemo Observatorium 02002 (2022) (Photo: Quentin Chevrier)

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Michaël Verlinden_ Digital Wool (2016) (Photo: Quentin Chevrier)

During the festival, the live performance by Amos Peled invited the viewer to look inside our body with an ultrasound machine, while Diane Mahín performed with his gut’s sounds an intimate yet immersive conversation with the audience. Using sounds, lights, and diverse materials, the artists visualised how invisible connection between technology, bodies and culture can take unexpected forms going beyond our imaginations.  

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Alongside art exhibitions, the audience could browse different technological innovations in the Market, combining different approaches to create a connection between entrepreneurs, artists and researchers to find more sustainable narratives and approaches to technology and the future. Walking through the market, the audience could learn how to play piano with an intelligent LED strip, navigate the visual universe of visual artist Henning Wagenberth, or start an interactive journey with ONA to discover the deepest quests of humanity. Alongside creative explorations, visitors could play with devices producing non-alcoholic beverages bringing out the natural plants’ colour and flavours, or play interactive games to simulate psychosocial risks in the workplace (Owlion), or a finding the Liége Hackerspace community to share, create, and learn about technology. 

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Market (Photo: Antonin Weber)

The combination of art exhibitions and creative explorations in a more entrepreneurial and institutional context shows the intention of promoting a different approach to technology and environment to push the boundaries of traditional perspectives on technology and culture. Opening with two days of conferences, the festival offered a wide frame to expand the discussion with different speakers. Simone Rebaudengo illustrated alternative AI applications with traditional craft to co-create spoons, and the Kling Klang Klong collective pushed the limit of algorithm recognition software to create music and visuals. If Japanese musician Maywa Denki amused the audience with singing robots, artist Špela Petrič encourage a more critical discussion on the implications of technology on society. While Ana Desponds breaks the misconceptions about art and business, Freya Salway presents Google Arts & Culture Lab to show the potential of art and gaming in education and information. 

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Tatiana Vilela Dos Santos (Photo: Antoine Toinberg)

Promoting hands-on activities with workshops and masterclasses, the festival made complex topics and issues accessible to a broad audience, facilitating a collective conversation starting from creative experimentation and applications. Without the usual boundaries of more traditional approaches to knowledge, the 12th edition of the festival celebrated the importance of connections and discussions to understand this fast-changing world and find new ways to perceive and act in this evolving reality.