I was curious, more than anything else, to finally see what this place the Fresnoy is like. The official word from the Fresnoy is that they have been working with new technologies, and specifically with Interactivity, from the very beginning. But from very strange meetings with people who work there, people who have given workshops there, and lots of horror stories from friends and former students who’ve studied there, the reality appears to be a whole other story.

So I went to get some responses. I didn’t really get any. A lot of conflicting signals. I don’t think I really understood the project.

The building itself is impressive. But just a few minutes in, I started noticing things. When I tried to plug in my Mac, it was explained to me that all the machines run on Windows because the IT staff says it’s too complicated to make Macs and PC work together (and don’t even mention Linux). Huh? A high-end audiovisual studio doesn’t use any Macs? I’ve heard engineer bullshit like this before, that Linux, for example, isn’t really secure because it’s open-source (cough). But the worst is when they dictate this pure ideology to artists who just don’t know any better (although they should). Anyway, I headed into the theatre, which was nice, but the videoprojector image was pale and veering on illegibility. The bulb needed replacing, for one, and the projector serviced — or simply replaced with something more serious. I couldn’t understand how a center dedicated to the ‘contemporary’ image couldn’t have a more serious digital image projection system in their main theatre. Don’t they ever have digital projections? Are they still only projecting celluloid? On that front, the machines looked pretty sweet.

Just before our conference, the Director of the studio — a brilliant visual artist named Alain Fleischer — showed up, gave a little speech about digital art being the future, then dissapeared. Too bad, I guess I don’t get to meet Alain Fleischer after all.

The conference itself was pretty non-descript. Apparently, my talk went over well, considering the response I got during the break. Several enthusiastic students presented themselves, interesting debates, a couple of requests to come and study in Aix. But when it came to the Q&A, the whole energy shifted as we ended up with a sterile debate from some annoying remarks from the audience. Go-nowhere debates suck.

Luckily Louis Bec (the infamous ‘zoosystematician’) was there, ever acting the mind-expanding gourou that he is. If he were Indian, they would have built him a temple. In France he’s just a wacky artist/scientist/philosopher that no one really knows what to do with. We spent a wonderful evening together, and promised to meet up again at his home in the countryside not far from here. I’m going to have to go with a video camera. Someone has to record this man, he can go on for hours and it’s always brilliant; who cares if you agree with him or not. A real shame he left Aix-en-Provence so soon after my arrival. I would have liked to work with him more.