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Le Cube-ism: New Media gets arty with Nexus Productions

(Issy-les-moulineux.) Le Cube is an institution dedicated to “art 2.0” and the creative possibilities of new technologies. Which makes it all the more surprising that on their website you will still find information on the summer holidays 2012.

Also, if you should decide to visit Le Cube in the greater Paris village of Issy-les-moulineux (“Ici, c’est Issy”), you should not blindly trust the directions given on said website. Getting off the suburban RER C train and turning left, you are not on Avenue Verdun, but on Avenue Rodin, and you might end up completely lost in the village. Don’t be scared: Issy‘s not a particularly dangerous part of the infamous Banlieue, but it seems not a serious competitor for a “Village of the Year” award, either. Think of it as just another “residendustrial” appendix of Paris.

Having taken the wrong way, you might feel impressed by the variety of beliefs omnipresent in Issy, it feels like every ten metres stands a catholic church, a mosque, an Armenian orthodox temple, or some other place of worship. Maybe the inhabitants of Issy don’t go shopping on a Saturday, but “churching” on a Sunday, switching belief every week or so.

Anyway, sooner or later you’ll finish the promenade and arrive at Le Cube (which came first: the global dismantling of street signs, or the invention of cell phone navigation software?). The institution is housed in a large school complex. The stairways up to Le Cube’s reception desk on the second floor spread the charm, and the smell, of every average mid-20th Century High School gym. Yet, there hangs the visit’s first artwork, a nice computer print from Olivier Ratsi (Anarchitecture).

The reception interns are really friendly, only at first they seem surprised at what you could possibly want from them – there is no entry fee! In Paris (/ok, near Paris). Something for free in Paris is certainly suspicious and could prompt you to leave asap, but trust us: Le Cube is legit. There’s no risk, no tourist trap, not the slightest rip-off attached.

The temporary exhibition’s title is A taste of London, and it brings us a collection of videos from artist collective (sounds so much better than “production company”) Nexus Productions. To see the works, there are more stairs to climb, these reminding of a submarine ladder. If you have an Olympic swimmer’s back, you’ll need to step sideways.

That’s actually a brilliant transition to Forms by dQ (Quayola) and Memo Atken, the first video to watch up there: The artists combined images of Olympic athletes - swimmers, gymnast and pole vaulters - with abstract animation and spherical music to create a harmonious experience. Their film has been commissioned for a National Media Museum exhibition during the London Olympics 2012.

When computers start doing exercise, it’s probably time to prepare for the Robot apocalypse. Which is almost what Kibwe Tavares and Factory Fifteen’s Robots of Brixton is about.

Film recordings give the background for animated robots walking, first through the city, then through a forest, and finally clashing with a squad of Robocops. Of course this is a critical analysis of the 1981 (/1985/1995/2011) Brixton riots. It looks simply amazing, despite the mix of natural background with artificial characters – an approach that can go terribly wrong and result in a ridiculous mishmash (just think of what George Lucas did to Star Wars, turning it into some sort of Who Framed Roger Rabbit).

Others keep it fully animated. Like Conor Finnegan in his short film on the adventures of a birdlike critter that looks suspiciously much like it would talk in #hashtags. The Fear of Flying is a cute, funny, film, but if you’re not too tech-savvy you might think the story would have lost nothing back in the good old days, when it would’ve been drawn at candlelight by a hundred Korean kids in chains instead of one guy using his CGI workstation.

More serious is Jonas Odell’s story of an left-wing anarchist terrorist’s ex-girlfriend, told in a Scandinavian language with French subtitles. The images imitate the style of collages and edited photographs.

And then, there’s a true gem with Felix Massie‘s In the Air is Christopher Gray: An American teenage love story, told in reduced graphics that show only the most important details and leave the background blank. It’s brilliant. The dry humour, the absurdity, the all too everyday tragedy. -“Everyday”? Well, maybe except some details like that boa constrictor. Maybe you could market the film as “A Romantic Comedy. With Snakes.” And no happy-ending.

We hope, Felix Massie won’t take offense, but he should definitely consider making movies. The storytelling talent’s there, without a doubt.

Similar could be said of Smith and Foulkes and their hilariously horrible tale of two gravediggers, a granny and her coffin: This Way Up.

Smith and Foulkes might be fans of Tim Burton’s animation classic Nightmare before Christmas, but they add a personal style nevertheless. Their film was actually nominated for an Academy Award in the “Best Animated Short” category back in 2008.

There’s still more to discover at Le Cube, like Emmanuelle Walker who doesn’t tell a story but brings us a silhouette kaleidoscope of body parts (with nudity), forms and flowers.

Only one screen (right next to the toilets, it’s true) shows the commercials, that are Nexus’ main business - filmmaking is just an extra. Nothing wrong with it, Nexus Productions employs a group of truly gifted animators.

Some of the films can be found on YouTube – go and watch. But Issy's worth a visit, too.

Nexus Productions: A Taste of London, Le Cube, Issy-les-moulineux, 31 January-26 July 2014



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