Paris, Frankfurt, Ghent, Berlin, Rennes and, since January, Lyon and Bordeaux, with Mexico, Toronto, Chicago, New York and Philadelphia on the horizon… The Processing Cities project—a series of regular and participatory workshops open to anyone interested in open source tools for visual arts and code-related creativity—pursues its territorial coverage. Mark Webster, president of the Free Art Bureau, initiated the project.

Mark, how does the Processing Cities project work?
Processing Cities started off as an idea that followed the launch of the first edition in April 2010, and the project developed naturally. At the time, the director of the Offf festival, who was organizing the next edition at La Villette, asked me to organize a series of creative workshops and an exhibition on the relationship between computer code and digital art. The programming language Processing was beginning to gain importance as a powerful tool in the creative process of visual arts. However, this tool was relatively unknown to artists in France, and introductory training even less so. I had invited Julien Gachadoat and Karsten Schmidt to lead two workshops, one for beginners and one “master class” for those with more experience. This very first edition of Processing Paris received enthusiastic feedback, and I quickly realized that there was a demand for this type of workshop followed by other activities. In 2011, Cedric Kiefer and Andreas Köberle launched monthly meetings in Berlin to discuss code, present projects and meet other creatives working with programming and open source tools. Processing Berlin was born. I had contacted Cedric and Andreas with the intention of trying to establish a platform where other cities could follow. The basic idea was to encourage other people to organize an event where creatives could share ideas, projects and knowledge related to tools such as Processing, OpenFrameworks, Arduino and vvvv. Shortly after, Ghent launched its own meeting, followed by Rennes, Frankfurt, Lyon and Bordeaux.

Can you say a few words about Free Art Bureau, which is behind this "label"? How did you get the idea for these localized cycles of conferences / workshops ?
The Free Art Bureau association was founded in January 2011 in order to promote the use of code and open source tools in the creative process. We organize workshops, conferences, forums and exhibitions in light of this objective. Free Art Bureau is directed by a board of artists, designers and developers, and we give presentations in art and design schools as well as cultural festivals. Our intentions are rooted in education, but we also want to produce and support the work of artists and designers in this field, most of whom are marginalized. For this reason, I would say that Free Art Bureau operates more like a label; Processing Cities is one of its projects: an open platform where the operating mode is sharing. We want to encourage the free exchange of knowledge about these open source tools for creative projects. It’s up to each city to organize its own events in order to achieve this goal. We created the Processing Cities website with Julien Gadachoat so that there would be one centralized place where everyone can find practical information about each city.

Who are the speakers?
Processing Paris and the workshops that we organize are always led by professionals who are often recognized for excellence in this field. I’m talking about people like Karsten Schmidt, Christian Delecluse, Julien Gachadoat… For the next edition, we invited Marius Watz, an artist who lives and works in New York, and the Swiss designer and professor Andreas Gysin.

Do you document the work so that it can reach a wider audience (performances, online, etc)?
Documentation is very important, and we take care to do our best, but it’s not easy. For example, the Silkscreen Algorithms workshop was documented with the resulting works and the speakers’ comments, which are also very important. But you can find other documents, such as summaries, images/photos and videos at We’re currently dedicating a section of the website to the entire content of our workshops. You’ll find a presentation of each workshop, the themes and subjects involved, as well as all the documents, images and videos related to each one. To be continued…

Processing Paris for example, is an annual event with more regular meetings at École Multimédia. Which have been the most interesting projects presented during these sessions in Paris?
In terms of the annual event, we presented a lot of really interesting projects, such as videos by FIELD.IO studio and Okdeluxe from London, data visualizations by Jer Thorp and generative images by the artist Holger Lippmann. But the emphasis is more on the participants’ results and their work during these two-day workshops. The speakers focus on a specific theme and encourage the participants to develop their own ideas. During the meetings at École Multimédia, our time together is much more limited and the organization is less formal, so we try to share our knowledge according to the needs of each person. For example, we’ve helped some students with their school projects. We’ve also had presentations of projects such as Jérôme Saint Clair’s GML4U, a library dedicated to drawing and graffiti, and the Arduino project, an electronic tool based on a single-board microcontroller. Right now we’re thinking about how to do the monthly meetings in a bigger space with more presentations.

What are the development objectives of Processing Cities (partnerships, festivals)?
We hope that the Processing Cities project will be autonomous in the sense that anyone can launch events in their city. It’s up to each one to seek out partners and develop networks. We come in to consult and share the knowledge necessary to launch an event in a city and relay information through our own network. It’s important to understand that Processing Cities is just an initiative of the Free Art Bureau, and our development objectives are more related to structure than to a particular project. For Processing Paris, we will very likely organize a mini-festival, which I’m already talking about with La Fonderie de L’Image. So I’m open to suggestions by people and structures which might want to be a partner or participant.

interview by Laurent Catala

Processing Cities
Free Art Bureau




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