Virtual Street Art 2: Promenade Nocturne in Marseille


Google have collaborated with French sound artist and urban storyteller Julie de Muer to create an immersive night walk through the back streets of Marseille using the Google Street technology.

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Promenade Nocturne / Night Walk takes the virtual walker in Julie’s footsteps, through the narrow, graffiti-covered ruelles of the Cours Julien neighbourhood in Marseille. The walk is guided by Christophe Perruchi, musician and street art enthusiast, who shares his personal insights. A map shows the recommended route, but also some off-track options in dotted lines, and the location of the 34 “secret” landmarks to check out.

Walk start

The Marseille-by-night atmosphere is conveyed by field recordings – echoing footsteps, music spilling out of bars, buzzing conversations on terraces – and a soundtrack composed by Perruchi.

Artworks and other points of interest to explore are signaled by icons to be clicked on.

Snapshot with secrets

Selected artworks can be explored in more details, with a mini-gallery and a few words about the individual artists.

Blaze - papier

It’s not all about street art: historical and cultural facts are part of the visit, such as this quote by Schopenhauer on Marseille.

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A stunning scrolling panorama of the city at night, with clickable points of interests, is also one of the ‘secret’ treasures to unlock.

Panorama with click points

A few 1-minute films – a timelapse video of a mural painting (below), street musicians, a chef describing his favourite dish, an elderly Marseillais recalling a personal story – are interspersed in the walk like as many chance encounters.

Part immersive virtual urban walk with great sound and visual effects, part video game with a territory to explore and treasures to discover, part interactive tourism trailer for Marseille, this first Promenade Nocturne is a captivating experience with many layers to explore.

The walk is available in French and English


“An atmosphere of enormous goodwill”


I haven’t been writing about festivals for a little while, for the good reason that I was actually neck deep into one myself. I’m just emerging from a few intense weeks of planning that culminated in the 7th Luminato Festival, a multidisciplinary arts festival in Toronto for which I coordinated the volunteer programme.

While I will no doubt come back to volunteer management, a topic that I have addressed before, for now I want to get back into contemplative mode and to admire other festivals from a safe distance.

As I was busy training and scheduling 500 volunteers in Toronto, 200 horses and 3,000 sheep and goats were arriving in Marseille, this year’s European Capital of Culture. TransHumance, a flagship event of this year-long celebration of culture, was a huge participatory effort offering many ways to get engaged, from walking alongside the herds to contributing to the land art creations. The project still continues with some exhibitions and talks, and a book is due to be published, but right now the many photos and videos of the arrival into Marseille are beautiful to watch.

TransHumance, Marseille, 9th June 2013

The crowd assembling and waiting reminded me of another large-scale street spectacle I had seen during Liverpool Capital of Culture 2008, a giant spider called La Princesse created by French company La Machine.

La Princesse, Liverpool, 5th – 7th September 2008

To conclude, here is a quote by an audience member in Liverpool (found on Artichoke’s website, the creative company behind La Princesse and, perhaps more famously, The Sultan’s Elephant in London, in 2006).

I have never before witnessed an event on this scale which set out to, and manifestly achieved, the sole intent of making the world a slightly better place. No requirement to buy anything, no commitment to a cause, no politics, no promotion, no underlying propaganda. Just hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world gathered in Liverpool in an atmosphere of enormous goodwill.

Mike Kinley, audience member

Art and Animals 1: Collective Learning


“Perhaps art begins with the animal”, ask Deleuze and Guattari in What is Philosophy?

And perhaps recent examples of participatory experiences involving animals is a good starting point to explore new ways to engage and develop audiences.

As a first “Art and Animals” entry, I wanted to come back to TransHumance, a large-scale participatory experience hailed as the highlight of Marseille 2013 European Capital of Culture.

Transhumance – from the latin trans – across and humus – land: the seasonal movement of people with their livestock between fixed summer and winter pastures.

Transhumance is a century-old practice, developed on all inhabited continents. In Provence, it has shaped the landscape and created exchange and circulation, of people, animals, stories and seeds.

After a sharp decline in the 20th century, it is currently garnering a new surge of interest in France.  As herds of sheep, cows or goats are guided along well-defined routes – that need to be carefully negotiated with local authorities and landowners – villages along the way celebrate this seasonal event with festivities and educational opportunities about pastoralism.

Théâtre du Centaure, a Marseille-based company working exclusively with horses, have conceived TransHumance (note the emphasis on the Human) as a vast participatory experience for Marseille European Capital of Culture 2013. Starting on 17th May in Italy, Camargue and Provence, 3 groups will converge near Marseille, gather for a transcultural celebration, and walk through Marseille on 9th June.

TransHumance features horses and their riders, livestock, land art, animal choreography (for which the term animaglyphs was coined) and village fêtes.

Audience participation is encouraged before, during and after the experience, offering different ways of contributing to the work, but also of learning:

While these opportunities are open to everyone, TransHumance is also working closely with the Academie d’Aix Marseille (regional school board), which represents about 200,000 pupils, from elementary to secondary schools, to embed arts, sciences, philosophy and digital skills projects into their 2012-2013 curriculum. Suggested pedagogic projects are outlined here. TransHumance is also featured in the free collection of “dossiers pédagogiques” (learning files) called Pièce (dé)montée, offered to teachers to prepare their class for a touring play.

The TransHumance trail starts on 17th May – a free app is available to follow the live journey, and active phones on the sponsor network will be visible on an augmented-reality 3D map – but audience engagement starts much before: the calendar on this regional school board document states that the first call to schools was scheduled for January 2012.

One class has taken the project at heart: the “classe d’accueil” of the Vieux Port secondary school, in Marseille, open to children learning French as a second language, coming from Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Bulgaria, Romania, Russia and many more countries. They are writing a year-round blog inspired by the project: poems about identity, visits to exhibitions, and other ways to help them discover their new city and culture, learn French and develop friendships and common points of interest.

Not all learning opportunities are aimed at schools: in conjunction with TransHumance, free workshops are offered in Marseille to train to be a dance “guide” for BalBêtes, the giant ball organised where the three trails meet, before the Great Crossing of Marseille. As several thousands of people are expected for this evening of traditional dances, each “guide” has to commit to train ten “mirror dancers”, who will in turn help participants to follow the steps and enjoy the choreographies.

And to finish, here’s the teaser video created by Théâtre du Centaure, marrying the strange and the mundane with its centaures visiting the busiest train station in Marseille.

Festival City 2: Marseille (2013)


European Capital of Culture’ is a roving title that cities bid to hold. The chosen cities – 2 per year since 2000 – organise an intensive series of cultural events and artistic experiences for a full calendar year. It’s a bit like a Cultural Olympiad, which I introduced previously, but just for one year, and without any javelin or fencing in sight. And not unlike the Cultural Olympiad, it is meant to act as a catalyst for the cultural development and the transformation of the selected cities, which tend therefore to be selected because they’re in need of a bit of cultural policy magic.

The European Commission has conducted substantial research on the effects and legacy of Capital of Culture, and has a report available for download that examines the organisational and financing aspects as well as the social, economical and cultural impacts in 29 cities that held the title from 1995 to 2004.

But enough about numbers – time to indulge in some programming envy. Here’s a look at what’s going on this year in Marseille , European Capital of Culture co-title holder with Košice, Slovakia. Bear in mind that these are just a few highlights!

  • One of the flagship events is TransHumance, developed by Marseille-based equestrian experience-makers Théâtre du Centaure, which will unfold from 17th May to 9th June. It’s a huge collective experience drawing on the century-old tradition of transhumance – walking alongside cattle between their summer and winter pastures. The trailer video is absolutely stunning.
  • On the urban regeneration front, 15 Creative Urban Projects (Quartiers créatifs) are “encouraging residents to appropriate public spaces and contribute to their transformation”. A local community radio is producing a documentary to support and further these initiatives.
  • Participatory and local are big keywords: Chercheurs de Midi is a project gathering photographs by local residents, on public display throughout 2013. Histoires Vraies is a multilingual digital library of ‘real stories’ – text, sound or video recordings, bringing ‘real people’ from Marseille, Provence and beyond to the forefront.
  • New Patrons (Nouveaux Commanditaires) is an innovative way of commissioning art: “Giving to all people – independent of financial means, educational or social status – the means to assume responsibility to commission the work of an artist for the general good.” It’s a European-wide scheme, not exclusive to Marseille 2013, and the 3-step process is explained on the official website: (1) an individual or group identifies an issue, (2) is put in contact with a mediator/curator who helps them to connect with an artist to respond to their brief and (3) supports them through the fundraising and production process. The 9 Marseille commissions are placemaking and public space intervention projects “for the general good”, by artists such as Lucy and Jose Ortega, Krijn de Koning, Tadashi Kawamata and Berdaguer & Pejus.
  • An online zine, written by students ranging from about 13 to 20 years old and mentored by professional journalists, follows the events and activities all year.
  • And there’s even a Fringe – or as we like to call it in France, “un Off – with its own currency, a giant garbage bin, bizarre shop windows interventions and much, much more. It’s an artist-led programme with a tongue-in-cheek attitude that acknowledges the contradictions and contrasts that make up the ‘real’ city – ugliness, intolerance, bad art… – and provides an alternative to the official discourse. The Fringe is an autonomous and spontaneous response to the official project: it’s already a sign of vitality and dialogue. I’ll come back to this phenomenon in a later post.