"Curse of Knowledge" Artist Meeting, organized by the French Institute of Saint Petersburg, February 2021


“Encounters” is a Mixed Reality experience by Mathieu Pradat, co-produced by SoWhen? and La Prairie Productions.

In February 2021, Freddy Koné, co-founder of Sowhen? was invited to present the “Encounters” project with its creator Mathieu Pradat.

The first part, “The Crowd”, was presented at the MULTIFEST at UDLA (Universidad de Las Américas) in the capital of Ecuador, Quito (click here to read our in-depth article).

The project continued to be produced around the world, following its success in St. Petersburg, with a performance at the Grenier à Sel contemporary art space (Avignon) in April 2021.

For their “Curse of Knowledge” events, the French Institute of St. Petersburg provided an opportunity for contemporary artists to express themselves via their works. The idea was for audiences to gain a better understanding of the issues raised by the works and to be able to ask questions directly.

The two event moderators were Anton Iakhontov (artist and video-visual-sound creator) & Andrey Bartenev (artist, sculptor, experimentalist and creator of interactive installations).

Virtual and Mixed Reality creations (obtained by blending the physical and digital world) are challenging to both explain and understand as they use technologies and techniques that are unfamiliar to many. They have the unique advantage of rewriting the rules and references of our world, leaving a huge space for the imagination.

The wide spectrum of interpretation is what contributes to the richness of these works. For a more in-depth analysis on the subject, we recommend that) you watch the following video of interviews and live discussions (here).

Below you will find a brief exploration of the main themes discussed in the video link above.

Dual influences

A particularly interesting concept that’s emerging from this domain is the reciprocal influence between the artist and his tools, which in this case are virtual realities and their technologies.

“Encounters”, which unfolds over several episodes in different countries, evolves over the course of its human encounters with the public and professionals. It also evolves through its encounters with the techniques and technologies that shape and modify the creation according to the audience’s desires and discoveries.

So, the artist uses technologies and their relevant techniques to construct a work, and in turn the technologies influence the work and the artist in parallel. The work becomes a product of symbiosis, leaving room for improvisation and the unpredictable.

As Freddy says, artists and their works have always had an influence on technology. Take Jules Verne or Isaac Asimov for instance; they invented entire futuristic worlds and technologies which often became reality afterwards. Life imitating art if you will!

Some would say these artists are alchemists, sometimes appearing to be completely at one with their materials, their tools and their new world.
Visionaries, adventurers, poets, writers, experts, technophiles, artists… Whatever definition you choose, picking just one seems too reductive. The fact is, their Art allows us to travel through imaginary worlds and this is, for many people, something truly remarkable.

A fruitful co-creation

Another subject that Mathieu Pradat has held close to his heart since the very beginning, and here too at SoWhen?, is the richness of creation made possible by immersive art productions and the fact that we can interact and co-create with the public, based on their reactions.

Each participant has their own unique reflexes, reactions, questions and emotions that are then incorporated into the work, bringing it to life little by little and leaving the door open to its own evolution. These are qualities we can find in a variety of artistic forms, jazz being a perfect example, according to Mathieu.

As Mathieu points out, in its early days, cinema was more experimental and interacted more with its audience, like Franck Capra, who organized multiple screenings to observe audience reactions before modifying his final cut. Cinema would gradually lose this aspect of audience participation, falling back on delivering a finished product to be consumed passively.

In Encounters, artistic intuition takes center stage, producing a new reality where the real people and virtual beings that inhabit the work can evolve together as one.

What actually is reality?

Freddy argues that reality is a subjective concept, transposed by our senses. The technological tools and devices we use simulate sensations, confuse our minds and change well-established rules. They offer a new field of expression where we can establish new worlds, tailored to the experience we want to create: different gravities, different time perceptions…

Being able to evolve in a new reality according to the experiences we want to feel is a very exciting idea. The aim is not to replace our own reality, the one we’ve known until now, but rather to reach new horizons of expression, emotions and sensations.

To avoid getting lost in the vastness of this subject, Mathieu explains how important it is to express these new rules in a clear manner. We have to give audiences reference points, and a solid supportive framework from which their imagination can be set free to interpret, feel and live the experience.

In Encounters, water is a vector, an element that reminds us of our physical reality, since the audience experiences the work barefoot in water, moving around to meet the virtual beings; water becomes a thread which runs throughout the work. This element, common to the real and virtual world, embarks people on a journey, an experience of a whole new reality.

Are we on the cusp of a revolution?

Andrey and Anton are eagerly awaiting a new era of artistic expression, just as cinema proved to be back in its infancy. “We need the new Lumière Brothers!”.

People have said our two co-founders Mohamed Marouene and Freddy Koné, are bringing SoWhen? towards this new era propelled by their clear and strong vision felt and shared by each member of the team. The confidential project we’re currently working on will be the perfect expression of this vision and should soon be available to the public…

If you have any questions or want to know more about the work “Encounters” and the themes covered here, please contact us via our online form!

Find out more about “Curse of Knowledge” here!

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