PIKSEL XX. 20 years of Libre Electronic Art 2022-24

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Bergen 2022

'“The development, and therefore use, of digital technology today is mainly controlled by multinational corporations. Despite the prospects of technology expanding the means of artistic expression, the commercial demands of the software industries severely limit them instead.

Piksel is focusing on the Free/Libre and Open Source movement as a strategy for regaining artistic control of the technology, but also a means to bring attention to the close connections between art, politics, technology and economy.”

― Piksel festival

2003-2022 – 20 years of the Piksel in Norway.

In November 2003 the first edition of p1k5el, or Piksel, takes place at BEK, Landmark and the Art Academy. The instigator of the event is Gisle Frøysland whose original intention was to organise a workshop around ‘real-time media’ tools, particularly the MøB platform which has reached a state where it may prove useful for other artists. Participants include Artem Baguinski, Antoine van de Ven and Simon de Bakker from V2_ Rotterdam, Tom Schouten from Belgium, Yves Degoyon from France, Jaromil from Italy, Pedro Soler from Spain, Amy Alexander from the USA, Martin Howse from the UK and Kentaro Fukuchi from Japan, altogether about 30 artists and developers. #video #vjing #software #workshop #realtime #freesoftware

From 2005 Piksel widens its scope to focus more broadly on the aesthetics and politics of open source, adopting the subtitle ‘Festival for Free, Libre and Open Source Audiovisual Software and Art’. About 60 participants gather at the event, from the collectives and organisations Goto10, dyne.org, Hackitectura, De Waag, Free Software Foundation and others.

By 2007, the exclusive reliance on free software as opposed to proprietary tools is without precedent in the context of arts events. With further editions to follow ever since, Piksel would established itself as the leading event for open-source arts internationally. Like-minded festivals would follow including Make Art, organised by Goto10 in Poitiers between 2006-2010, and LiWoLi in Linz from 2008, later called Art Meets Radical Openness. By now, Piksel has also established an informal support network with the audiovisual arts and digital culture festival Pixelache which took place in April at Kiasma Museum in Helsinki and its offshoot Mau au Pixel planned for the following April in Paris. Tatiana Bazzichelli (Aksioma) in Italy, servus.at in Austria and APO33 in France.

Over the 20 years, Piksel has become a strong international network and annual event for electronic art and technological freedom. Part workshop, part festival, it is based in a mixed artists selections, part curated and partially selected by the open call, it mixes different artists and programmers generations, all FLOSS practitioners.

As the head of PNEK Stahl Stenslie stated in the 2015 Piksel edition, after 12 yeas of existence, “Piksel is more than a festival. It is a contemporary academy in the experimental arts. Organized by Gisle Frøysland and Maite Cajaraville, Piksel turns Bergen into a creative explosion of new, emerging forms of creative expressions and strangely attractive experiments. The 2015 version saw anything from deep noise concerts to workshops in Do-It-Yourself, open source biokitchen art to electro-mechanical sculptures and surveillance bots. It was an event not just for visitors, but also an exquisite arena for the exchange of ideas and inspirations between artists. The feeling of the festival was intimate and local, yet a temporary home to a wide number of international guests from all over the world. Piksel is what PNEK is about: getting stronger through networking and building bonds across boundaries of thinking and acting.”

Piksel => Open source + art

Gisle Frøysland, the director of Piksel Festival over the years, started BEK (Bergen Elektronik Kunst, together with Jørgen Larsson who states about him “Gisle did amazing video installations, a real 8-bit steampunk. Gisle was the video guy for Baktruppen and played guitar in Alle Tiders Duster. He was a legend. We approached him and he said yes! Gisle Frøysland. Both Gisle and I had a kind of contrary thinking: technology is a way to get your own infrastructure by building something that is on the side of, or contrary to, commercially available tools. To get the tools into de workers’ house, to own your own tools. That was actually a very important part of early BEK. To have control over infrastructure and tools was really important. Very early on, Gisle knew how this all fitted together technologically, he knew how to work with Unix systems, create open-souce, free software and tools. He was so clear; he was older than me and had already been working a lot with this, and his ideology was really important for us at BEK at the time. Jorgen Larsson 2020 – pag. 125

Piksel influenced the Norwegian electronic art scene opening up new inspiration and tools to Norwegian artists.

Piksel was, an still is, a large international scene. Thirty to forty artists and programmers would come to BEK every year, and we filled Landmark and other venues with days of jamming and trying out different things. This scene was very much focusing on Linux. I was really influenced by the artists such as Martin Howse, Jonathan Kemp and Erich Berger. For me, Piksel was a huge inspiration in terms of research. Ellen Roed, 2020 -pag 128.

As a pioneer, Piksel was the first festival in the world devoted to free/libre technologies applied to arts. The festival model was promptly followed along Europe for many other artists associations and collectives. That situation also brought Bergen as the centre of the free media art.

Piksel was a big part of my work at BEK in the first years. What is interesting is that Piksel not as much part of the local and national, but rather of the international field. For many people abroad, the only thing they know about Bergen is that Piksel is happening here. Roar Sletteland, 2020. - pag128

Locally and internationally Piksel has written the story of new media art using Free and Libre technologies, after 20 years there is a lot to tell to new generations. As Dušan Barok, the founding editor of Monoskop, a research platform for the arts and humanities, states: “Through the Piksel history we can know the history of Free/Libre Open Source and Software movement”, that is the importance of the Piksel festivals in Norway and its impact in the international arenas.

To preserve the history of contemporary art in Norway, the electronic and experimental art scene that Norway triggered internationally through the Piksel festival, and to open it to new generations is the goal of this book.

The book. "PIKSEL XX. 20 years of Libre Electronic Art."

The book “Piksel. Celebrating 20 years of New Media Art and Free/Libre technologies in Norway” intends to collect the history of Piksel and the reflections, thoughts, collaborations and projects that was initiated as a result of artists meeting at the festival.

Themes will range among the Piksel theme: Electronic art and Free/Libre technologies and subtopics: artistic practices related to politics and surveillance in information technologies, open source biokitchen art, visual/sound instruments made by electronics using Free/Libre software and hardware (FLOSS), and open networks and communities around FLOSS.

The book is divided into 5 parts: 20 years of Piksel, Piksel on politics, The Piksel Kitchen bioart, Electronic instruments FLOSS based, and Piksel Open Networks.

The publication includes ‘ad hoc’ written articles by Norwegian and international Piksel guest artists and special contributions. Among the invited artists, Per Platou (Motherboard) and Grethe Melby, Norwegian electronic arts pioneers, and art critic writer at Scenekunst, Robertina Šebjanič and Marc Duseiller, main figures of the biokitchen artistic practices worldwide, Malte Steiner, artist and developer practitioner, John Bowers, artists combining design-led explorations of digital technologies with sound art and intermedia performance, and the open networks APO33, Asimtria / Marco Valdivia (Perú) / Paola Torres Núñez del Prado as representatives of Piksel Pulse, those international projects carried by Piksel abroad.

The editorial team has been carefully chosen. The editor and in charge of the Piksel history chapter is Dušan Barok, an artist, researcher and organiser. He is founding editor of Monoskop, a research platform for the arts and humanities. His work deals with digital culture, memory studies and activism. The deepest knowledge of Dusan Barok in the field of new media art and the free artists communities and the fact that he has been editing the book last year edited by BEK: 20 years of BEK, made us to decide he is the right person to carry on the job. He has already deep knowledge in the Norwegian electronic media culture and scene. With this book we try to add to that history, not to repeat. It is important to work with somebody in the field also in a geographical approach.

The book also intends to reflect the artistic part of Piksel as an artist book. The goal is to bring special attention also to its design. Jenny Picket is a Goldsmith artist designer who has developed Piksel design along the years. Working with FLOSS technologies she will create an outstanding front page and artistic book including more than 100 colour pictures.

The book will be printed in Bergen, and open a process of “printing on demand” online.