Exploring Invisible Narratives at Namur’s KiKK Festival

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The picturesque town of Namur probably isn’t the first city that comes to mind when you’re looking for an international, innovative and multifaceted festival that puts digital and creative art in the spotlights – although you might have to reconsider that now. The yearly KiKK Festival, which is prepping up its seventh edition, is an extraordinary opportunity to sample some of the best (inter)national artists across the board. Focussing on a wide variety of creative cultures, the KiKK team not only invites DJs, but visual artists, designers, makers, scientists, entrepreneurs and developers as well. We’ve been eyeing them for a while now, but with the seventh edition coming up soon we decided we wanted to learn more about this unique gathering deep down in the south of our country. Coordinator-curators Marie Du Chastel and Carole Haine spill the beans...

KIKK Festival 2017 - INVISIBLE NARRATIVES Teaser from KIKK Festival on Vimeo.

KiKK Festival does things a little different than other festivals: what are your main principles as a festival?

"Well, there are not many other big festivals that make ties between music and other forms of art like the way we do. We’re a hybrid festival – and I think that’s our strongest asset. Discovering and sharing digital art by ways of workshops, lectures, exhibitions and performances is what it’s all about for us. Surely there’s music too, but it’s not the most important branch of our event. Usually it’s the visual artists that work in the shadows of the DJs and bands – but not here at KiKK, where it's practically the other way around. We want to be the crossroads for all forms of digital arts."

Which people come to KiKK? Graphic designers? Music lovers?

"We have a pretty good idea about who visits our festival, as it’s free entrance (except for the parties at night) given you have to register yourself first. Generally, we can see there are 4 groups of people that visit us every year: graphic/web/visual designers, people from the communication community, artists and creative people and lastly, entrepreneurs, start-ups and people from the tech industry. Many of these come from outside our borders. We’re happy to host a wide variety of people (15,000 in total actually) from different backgrounds."

This years’ tagline is “Invisible narratives”. What does that mean?

"We always have to keep the theme open and accessible, because we don’t want to limit the participating artists. This year we want to focus on storytelling and invisibility: how can artists use today’s technology to show things that are invisible to the human eye? We like to see this in 3 parts: invisible infrastructure, invisible power structures and storytelling. The best example of this is the internet, which makes the world go round, but the cables, satellites and servers that make it tick are rarely seen and the algorithms that dictate its modus operandi rarely understood. How far can this go? That kind of question is very relevant for artists nowadays. Then, finally, we want our guests to use these new technologies to tell a story."

What’s new this year compared to previous editions?

"Many things are new, really. For the first time we have commissioned installations especially for KiKK Festival. We will host some of these on various public locations throughout Namur, which is a first too. Then we have an extraordinary (and our personal favourite) ‘shrink’ exhibition of Lawrence Malstaf in a church. The nightlife events with DJs will be expanded and hosted on new locations this year – and we have a brand new ‘KiKK Pro Village’, which will have a special programme to create the perfect environment for casual networking. To top it off, we’ll host a ‘KiKK Tech’ conference room, where technical talks about technologies will take place – most of them hosted by women, which is quite extraordinary for this subject."

Can you tell us a little bit more about this year’s music lineup?

"On the first day we’ll have two parts in our evening schedule: live-sets go first on a stage and afterwards we move the party to another venue that’s better for DJ-sets. As most people that visit us fill their day sitting still and listening to other people talk, we wanted a lineup that can shake things up in the evening. Avalon Emerson, who we saw delivering a stunning B2B set with Courtesy at Sonar Festival this year, is the perfect choice for that. Then there’s the ‘piano techno’ of Mezerg, the analog synths of Monolithe Noir, the live show of the field recorder NSDOS, the beautifully crafted atmospheres of SKY H1 and the pounding house beats of DC Salas. Then for our Friday night schedule we’re working together with FTRSND and Brussels Electronic Marathon to set up an evening with Kangding Ray, Bétøn and 2559. So that’s good news for the techno fans!"

Not many people will know much about music venues in Namur. Can you elaborate on the two places you’re gonna host these parties: Cinex and Bunker?

"As Namur’s not a big city our options are limited. All venues we previously worked in have either shut down or are being renovated at the moment. Both Cinex (for stage performances) and Bunker (for clubbier vibes) aren’t used for these type of events usually, so we have to be creative – both of them get a total make-over. The latter is actually a student venue, but it totally looks like an old underground warehouse. So that will go down perfectly with some pounding techno."

What part of the festival are you guys looking forward to the most?

"Seeing the streets of our little Namur filled with creative people from all corners of the globe. That’s an extremely rare sight – it creates a unique vibe. Combine this with the free accessibility and you have a familial atmosphere amongst an international community with the same interests but different languages. That’s what we’re looking forward to the most."

KiKK Festival takes place on various locations in and around Namur on November 2, 3 and 4. All information and the programme can be found here.