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Get your Kikks: Festival challenges role of technology in the world

20:19 31/10/2019

More than 25,000 people from all over the world will be descending on Namur from 31 October to 3 November for four days of digital and creative culture. The international Kikk festival showcases new technologies from Wallonia and abroad, providing an economic boost to a wide range of digital and artistic projects. Aimed at building bridges between art, science and technology, it offers a dual programme for professionals and the public, with conferences and workshops, a demo market, indoor and outdoor art exhibitions and a city-wide artists’ trail.

For its ninth edition, the festival is tackling the topic of fragility within technology, the planet and its ecosystems, exploring topical questions of migration and North-South relations. In selecting the theme, curator Marie de Chastel wanted to highlight the beauty and diversity of the planet as well as how technology can connect people.

“We also want to look at the downside of technology: the question of ethics, representation and inclusiveness,” she says, pointing out the risks of a sector dominated by white Western males of a certain age. “With the rise of AI, it’s important to think about how we categorise data and how it can lead to discriminatory decisions.” This is one reason the festival is designed to be as accessible as possible. “We invite people from different disciplines and who have a critical point of view on society as well as using technology in their practices.”

The hub of the festival will be a marquee in Place d’Armes, with the majority of events within easy walking distance at the Théâtre Royal, Stock Exchange and new cultural centre, Delta. Visitors are invited to take a tour of the city with AfriKikk, a parcours by artists from Africa with some 20 locations and installations. There are also kids’ activities, including a music forest, a sound and light installation and French-language theatre performances at the Abattoirs de Bomel.

The festival exemplifies Namur’s pioneering work in the digital sector. Non-profit Kikk is a founding partner of the creative hub and multidisciplinary co-working site Trakk, along with the University of Namur and the province’s economic bureau, BEP. This co-creation space and fablab includes the Smart Gastronomy Lab in Gembloux, the first Belgian living lab to explore gastronomy in the light of technology, and Wallifornia MusicTech, an association aimed at promoting music and technology. 

Kikk and Trakk will be inaugurating their pavilion at Namur’s citadel in 2020. The former Belgian pavilion from the 2015 world fair in Milan will reach a wider audience and cover a broad range of themes via exhibitions and artistic projects.

This article first appeared in the Wab magazine, autumn 2019

Written by Sarah Crew