[Innovation] Art science

Ez3kiel "Les mécaniques poétiques" (CCSTI Grenoble, 2009) © Ilan Ginzburg

This article comes from Digitalarti Mag 13, read it online.

The projects at the crossroads of art and research supported by Atelier Arts Sciences are perfectly in line with CEA’s mission to valorize technology, carried out on the site of Polygone Scientifique in Grenoble. This dynamic is complemented by the mediation and nearby fabrication facilities of the associate organization CCSTI.

Innovation and hybridization

In Grenoble, connections between art, research, education and industry seem to have found a fertile ground. Situated on a peninsula, the aptly named Polygone Scientifique continues its implants, making it one of the most advanced poles of technological innovation in Europe, with more than 4,000 researchers. At the heart of these sensitive and therefore well-guarded core organizations—featuring CNRS, ST Micro, CEA and its famous Synchrotron particle accelerator—one team is working on a specific mission.

Atelier Arts Sciences, founded in 2007 by CEA and the national theater Hexagone, joined last year by CCSTI (Center for Industrial and Technical Scientific Culture), aims to bring together artists and researchers in defining and producing common projects where the technology at work demonstrates innovative and hybrid collaboration. It’s important for the university, research and companies to connect through culture and art, says Antoine Conjard, director of Hexagone and founder of Atelier, as if to better lay out the stakes.

With its numerous research laboratories—CEA-LETI (Electronics Laboratory of Information Technology), CEA-LIST, more oriented toward software development, or CEA-LITEN, focused on renewable energy—CEA has an army of researchers, whom Atelier associates with the artistic projects it chooses to support. Such projects are developed over residencies spread out over varying lengths of time, but which we try to make at least two years, says Eliane Sausse, Atelier’s director.

While creativity and exchanges between artists and researchers take place over time, they are punctuated by high points and showcases, such as the biennial Rencontres-i (next edition in October 2013) and the annual Experimenta expo. The idea behind these exhibitions is to introduce professionals to technology that is brought about by artists and potentially useful to other artists, but also to innovative companies, Sausse emphasizes.

From “artisanal” to industrial transfer

The researcher Angelo Guiga has participated in Atelier’s program since the beginning, and has contributed to numerous projects. Along with Yann Nguema and his music group EZ3kiel, he developed the scenic sound balloon or Mécaniques Poétiques, the poetic mechanics of the madona-theremin or flakes with multiple levels of auditory drunkenness. The artists offer us a different vision, he confides. And this gives us leads to develop new projects. He and Italian composer Michele Tadini are exploring sound/light relationships, as in the primary-color combinations of the chromatophore, a synesthetic device that the duo is currently transforming into a working light-music composition tool for the project La Terza Luce.

If the artistic concept is the guiding thread and the creative process is almost “artisanal” (according to Antoine Conjard), transferring the technology to the industry is no less taken into consideration. Hence CEA’s transversal organization SPICE (Service Pour l’Innovation Centrée Expérience utilisateur), directed by Jean-Luc Vallejo. Its mission is not only to allow the financing and availability of researchers for projects, but also to follow through with any derived products by supporting the launch of dedicated start-ups. This idea can also be found in the project Pixel Motion, which Guiga and Nguema are currently working on. Regarding these light pixels, Vallejo has already commented on their potential for derived products, for example in the form of light installations for concert halls.

Technology showroom

In order to fully appreciate this policy of valorizing technology supported by CEA, not only within Atelier Arts Sciences but also in the context of its own research, one must visit the site’s “innovation catalyst” showroom. In a science-fiction decor with a mosaic design, several research objects demonstrate CEA’s radiant activity.

Motions sensors are duly represented. Guiga has been working for the past 15 years on this technology, which has since been miniaturized into the portable intelligence of Motion IC, an object whose quality accelerometer and magnetometer allow for extreme precision in detecting movement, speed and direction.

We relay the basics and the patents to the industry, Guiga explains. Among potential applications, sensors embedded in fabrics to create LED shows seems ideal for fashion and events. Other sensors are more suited to the domestic ergonomics of the future home, for example, presence sensors that automatically turn down the heating or turn on the lights in a room. All can be directly controlled with a smartphone, thanks to a specially designed communication protocol common to all sensors via middleware.

Le Ballon, Ez3kiel @ Atelier Arts-Sciences, 2008-2009. Photo: D.R.

Within this high-tech scenography, the cabinet of curiosities, which includes some of the objects developed by Atelier Arts Sciences, fits right in and even adds a hint of poetry. There we can find Madone, the latest version of EZ3kiel’s sound and light balloon reinforced by gyroscopic lights, Tadini and Guiga’s chromatophore, where LEDs placed around a graph converge to the center in wavelengths, superposed with musical layers depending on the effects. The strange object Toimiva, a sort of origami basket, seems to come alive when touched or manipulated. It perfectly entertains this organic proximity with technology that the creations of Atelier Arts Science so enjoy entertaining.

Fablab for all

Another organization shares this idea of proximity, both between the object’s design and production, as well as with the public. Actively supporting Atelier Arts Sciences since last October, one of CCSTI’s missions is to mediate with the general public and make digital fabrication tools available for personal projects within its fablab.

At CCSTI, we think about transmission, mediation between culture, science and technology, explains its director Laurent Chicoineau. For the Living Lab project, for example, we devised interfaces—using augmented reality on smartphone, geotagging, etc.—developed especially for the general public and mediators. Then we implement evaluation protocols and tests in order to transfer them to other fields of application… It’s remarkable how the cultural sector allows us to test these kinds of things. This willingness to open up research to others is fundamental and goes hand-in-hand with Atelier Arts Sciences, as the interfaces devised are presented at Experimenta, in addition to outside festivals such as Muséomix.

But inside the fablab, public access is more direct, with a range of equipment on par with MIT’s (CCSTI has a direct relationship with the labs of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where the first fablab was born from an educational program and the concept of networked fablabs). It’s important for us to find concrete prototyping ideas that can be tested with the public, insists Chicoineau.

We work with artists like Ezra, who came here to design his 3D glove, developed at Atelier Arts Sciences. But we’re also open to a younger public and to anyone who wants to try out their ideas. And these can be very big, as the young Dutch engineer in charge of the fablab, Jean-Michel Molenaar, remembers one person who used a 3D mill to make a rudder for his boat! We make the machines available to the public and only charge them for the fabrication time, he says, while regretting the difficulty in documenting all these past creations.

We put up a website where people can describe their creations, their methodology, to help others carry out similar projects… We also accompany people throughout the process. With 900 projects developed in less than a year, one can imagine the stock of potentially accessible knowledge. And there is no shortage of ideas, as the CCSTI team is currently contemplating a greenlab on its rooftop, a real vegetable garden above ground, nourished by solar panels and sensors for watering the plants.

Laurent Catala

This article comes from Digitalarti Mag 13, 
Read it online.


Atelier Arts Sciences : website, facebook, twitter


More videos on atelier Art-Sciences:

Experimenta 2012

EXPERIMENTA 2012 - Parvis sciences - MINATEC par Atelier-Arts-Sciences



FabLab CCSTI : webfacebook, twitter




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