D-CAF Festival: ‘InterLAB Cairo-Dresden’ at Hotel Viennoise
We can’t say that D-CAF didn’t warn us what was coming; for weeks, they’ve been hard at work preparing for their takeover of Downtown and this weekend saw the curtain finally raised on a month of culture in Egypt’s Capital. We went along on Saturday afternoon, to the dusted down Hotel Viennoise, which opened its doors to InterLAB Cairo/ Tele-Exhibition, which will run for the entirety of the festival’s program at two venues in the city – Downtown’s Hotel Viennoise and Medrar in Garden City. The two venues are linked in real-time and all the pieces allow users in one venue to interact with those in the other, using bazaar and innovative ways.
The venue is dingy and run down in the artiest of senses; its walls are adorned with graffiti and peeling wallpaper, either as an original feature or for artistic effect, we couldn’t decide. Inside the gallery, the venue has been bought bang up to date with the whole place, dressed to the nines in Wi-Fi and all other sorts of flashing devices, which no doubt do marvellous things.
The exhibition is a collaborative work featuring five German artists from Dresden, and another five from Cairo. Who can say whether these ten geniuses are computer geeks or artistic souls, but what they’ve come up with is somewhere in between the two and in that realm, they’ve done something pretty fantastic.
First off, we ventured into a small curtained-off booth, where a computer screen with a camera attached scanned us, then turned our image on the screen into a mustached gentleman, a beautiful temptress and many more creepy characters. Once we had found our favourite new look, we pressed print, and way over in Medrar gallery our photo was produced, while on our side, photos of those who had visited Medrar were stuck on the walls.
Through another door along the eerie corridor, we entered a new artistic dimension, which experimented with what technology can do with sound. We could hear extraterrestrial beeps coming from behind a door hung with a heavy curtain and upon entering we found a web of lasers across the ground and a speaker system set up with a light sensor atop it. By pointing the lights they have hung from the ceiling at the sensor, a recognisable, musical tune could be produced, however, for most of us, they were more of screeches than melodies.
At the end of the corridor another room contained half a dinner table, seemingly mid feast, with a large screen set up at the end of it, which was connected via Skype to the other half of the table over at Medrar. A virtual tea party can be had with strangers on the other side of the city, and the cushions on the seats contain sensors which when sat on make lights flash on the table’s estranged half.
This is not an exhibition for those who are still reeling from the marvels of colour TV, or who fear a robotic revolt any moment, as this gallery marks another step on the way to technology’s domination of the world. But it also reveals its softer side to science. Billed by D-CAF as ‘the creative playground’, we certainly had a lot of fun there, and the artists’ abilities to master and adapt technology to their creative whims is fascinating, promising an exciting future for both art and technology.