The Composites Festival, an opportunity to bring art and technology together

The Composites Festival with its original format, open to exchanges was organized Mars 1st-31, 2016 at the Espace Legendre in Compiegne. Visitors and participants were struck by the events allowing them to reflect on possible links between technology, science and art. Programme (in French) at -

The Composites Festival, an opportunity to bring art and technology together

This 19th edition of the Composites Festival – off-beat, innovative, modern and unusual was organized at the Espace Legendre, Compiegne. Often referred to as the “Off-beat festival that will change the way you perceive the stage” the Festival is totally devoted to exchanges on the interactions between stage, plastic and digital arts, providing an opportunity for scientists and artists to get together. And this year will see the UTC research scientists directly involved, proposing several unusual objects in the exhibition area; they will also participate in the thematics debates and meetings.

The key exhibit is an immersion experience in a digital 3D reconstitution representing the Stone Age painted walls (circa 36 000 BC) Chauvet Caves. Serge Bouchardon, Director of the COSTECH UTC Laboratory and research scientist specialist in ICTs, will propose several ‘strange’, yet poetic devices. The Typomatic is not the new name for a Cyber-Cafeteria, but a booth that looks like a ‘photomaton’ where the visitor can enjoy a small poetic break. The booth was designed by Pierre Fourny, Executive Director of ALIS (housed by UTC) and it operates by playing with alphabetic letters to transform words and phrases to generate surrealist, original poetic creations. Visitors can print their art-pieces and take them home.

Serge Bouchardon will be presenting two of his digital creations. DEPRISE (cf., a co-work with Vincent Volckaert, a UTC engineer which ‘plays’ on seeing a visitor taking control/losing control through a storyboard where his body moves and actions are used to deform sound s and displayed texts. This art-piece was awarded the 2011 New Media Writing Prize. DETRACE ‘plays’ on the tensions felt between the desire to leave digital traces and the opposite – erasing the traces (cf. This was a joint creation, with UTC student-engineers, Clément Routier, Antoine Aufrechter and Elsa Chaudet.

Over and above the Festival’s ‘mini-shows’ and the exhibits, attendees are invited to a series of meetings and debates with scientists and ‘actors’ in the artistic and scientific research areas. Among the visitors, we have Clément Mabi, a specialist in concertation engineering, socio-technological controversy, Internet governance who works at the UTC-COSTECH laboratory. At the Festival he will participate in the events that looks at the theme Artists-Scientists-Public: sharing Innovation. Nicolas Dauchez, a research scientist, member of the Acoustics and Vibrations (AVI) team at the UTC-Roberval Laboratory participated in another thematic, When 3D takes over musical creation.


Artistic creation, research and engineering sciences: the reasons to get together

As Serge Bouchardon, Director of the UTC-COSTECH Laboratory, Professor in ICT, sees it, the artists and scientists have lots of points in common. Witness the shared approach in research and creation that aims at emancipating actors from raw, direct observation of reality to better seize its deep nature. This specialist in digital writing is also an author in the field of digital literature. He explains why science and art would find it advantageous to work together.


What links do you see between artistic creation and engineering sciences?

Both artists and engineers must have an in-depth knowledge of their ‘supports’ and tools (digital tools, for example) they use in their work. Their shared adventure is how they control and use their tools and on how they contribute to ‘lending meaning’ to their work, and new dimensions opened by (or avoided by) technology and its progress which is a reflection that is very important in digital operations which is the basis of today’s technological milieu. One form of collaboration consists of welcoming artists into our academic laboratories. Experiments were conducted as of the 1950s, then further developed in the 1960s and 70s. Nowadays, we see more frequent interactions and indeed real-life collaboration. The alchemy between artists and scientists is a fragile situation, where going beyond the specialty boundaries (leading to scientific, technological and aesthetic breakthroughs) presupposes that art is not serving science, nor the reverse. Artist-scientist collaboration often leads to rethinking the priorities, valorising the process rather than the results, but also throwing light on the role of prototypes as something common to artists, research scientists and engineers. This collaboration is exemplified in the stage work proposed by ALIS who explore non-verbal language uses. In 2015, an artistic residential agreement was signed with UTC, under the denomination research artists in residence, with the aim to underline how artists can be totally involved in the scientific research work. In symmetry, scientists can also be actors in artistic creation, as we can see in the project called La séparation.


But why do you get student-engineers involved in artistic projects?

The way you can learn creativity can come via various channels, among which a primer to artistic creative practices. Engineers, above all other considerations, build uses but can also be inspired by artistic works that, in essence, reroute and rethink the uses and invent new possible worlds and ways. Some features here can be seen as shared by artists and engineers. When an engineer designs objects, he/she is in fact doing a DIY mix of heterogeneous ingredients (they can be scientific, social, economic …). Such handicraft is akin to the work done by artists when seeking their ingredients for a piece of art-work. For several years now, I have had student-engineers get involved in digital artistic creations, and also had them work with the artists themselves. In this approach they have a better sense of the interdependence of technical and cultural aspects in the digital world.

What is the contribution and ‘creative’ role in your research?

UTC often emphasizes research-design approaches, where the basic hypothesis is that research can not only help us understand and implement but also to implement and understand. This idea come hand-in-hand with research creation which allows you to create and understand. This novel approach is encouraged at UTC by the Research Directorate and also by the UTC Daniel Thomas Innovation Centre who wish to take advantage of (and build on) the students’ artistic potential. It is my privilege and pleasure at IUTC to embody this research-creative approach, among others. As a research scientist, my work focuses on digital writing (multi-media, interactive, collaborative projects), especially in the field of e-literature, where I am interested by staging interactivities and the role of gestures in interactive writing. A research-creation approach is an invitation to design and assemble experimental set-ups (objects …) which allow me to verify certain hypotheses and certain concepts. Creation allows you, in effect, you create the conditions needed to ensure observability of phenomena and their occurrences. Research-creation can prove attractive for the designing of objects/practices that relate to the digital world. The latter are still being perfected and the creative approach offers opportunities to ‘think differently” and to perceive as yet unknown levels of meaning.