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Yacine Ait Kaci and Naziha Mestaoui are a couple of new media designers named Electronic Shadow. I often heard about the Yacine’s intitutionnal’s work but today I am discovering his interesting and innovative experient that he does with Naziha, so I interview them.

Can you introduce yourself and Electronic Shadow?

I’m a new media designer for six years, After a graphic design degree, I begun my carreer by working in cultural multimedia, such as Yves Saint-Laurent, as art director, or recently the DVD-Rom of the Museum of Louvre (produced and sold in Japan by Shogakukan), as conceptor, designer, and director.
Two years ago, I met Naziha Mestaoui, a Belgian architect who worked on the matter of new media in architecture and we decided to found Electronic Shadow. This is a totally independent agency where we combine our expertise to create a new field – hybrid design. Our work is based on various areas of creation, from architecture to new technologies, as well as design, graphic design and video. These fields come together to articulate the relationship between the physical world and new electronic territories. Our main theme is to design a hybrid area between the physical world and the digital one, which explains our name.

What’s means Hybrid design?

Hybrid design is the word we use to define our activity. The new media have modified the traditional activities, a lot of them have now with computers very similar tools, that permitts a new real pluri-disciplinary approach. Hybrid design is also the idea of designing subjects between their physical existence and their digital extension to create a new hybrid

Can you introduce your differents projects?

We split our activity between a research / artistic work that we integrate in real contexts, to create innovative productions and propose them to the partners or clients.
We developed in 2000 for FranceTelecomR&D a communicating scarf, with Crstof a fashion designer, which was exhibited last year in New York at the MOMA in the “Workspheres” exhibition. L’echarpe communicante is a communication clothing conceived as an extension of our senses through communication devices: Watch, Listen, Speak, Touch. Each function corresponding to a simple gesture. This functionnal prototype expands our senses and think the clothing as a second skin for communication.

After that, we went in Palermo in Sicily to totally design and build the new french cultural centre. That was for us a huge opportunity to concretise our themes by creating a hybrid architecture between real and virtual.
We exposed our ideas by creating an interactive installation, “V-Med 2.0“, that we mounted simultanly in Palermo and in Helsinki, building between the two physical spaces a digital sea of memory, extended on the internet in what we call the 25th time zone, the time
zone of internet.

For the web, we recently designed Palimpseste 3D Navigator 1.0, an interactive tool that builds a 3D navigable space from the information of any content, including a website, showing the links depending to themes or categories. The system is also totally generative. This is an exemple of what is called “information architecture”.

All our projects with or before Electronic Shadow can be seen on our website.

Can you explain us yours activities about the “French cultural center of Palerma” building?

We were in charge of all the aspects of creation, from the architecture to the design, graphic design, lights, and the virtual space, on the Internet. The idea was to create a real space, totally communicating with its numerical double. The structure of the space is common to the
physical space as well as to its digital extension. People will interact with the real space as well as on the website. We developped the concept of the 25th time zone to let the visitors imagine that when they are in this space, they may virtually be in other spaces or times. The architectural part is done and will be opened on May 2002.

What are you currently doing?

We’re actually working on new projects, and we’re searching for partners to develop it with us.
That’s generally the way we work to develop our concepts and themes, all our projects represent a personal investment. And that’s what we made in Palermo and we search now new places to develop those concepts. We also develop a project about hybrid identity, that could be used by museums, cities, or why not, games. We’re actually working on hybrid applications for the new generation of mobile phones.

What are your objectives?

Our activity doesn’t really exist until we develop it. This is why we work so much and have to find partners who would realize our propositions. Our first objective is to communicate about hybrid design, so that this new field is recognized and may be developed.
Our main objective is always the same, creating new kind of interactivities between real world and the networks, forget the computers and make them invisible to see what’s really important, which is not only the technological part, but the human exchanges and interactivities.

What inspires you?

It’s hard to say. As we have several activities, we have multiple references, but no direct inspiration for our main work. We like to be nomadic workers, to discover other places and ways to work. We have both multi-ethnic origins. What Internet finally permitts is what we’re
developping with this concept of hybrid spaces, crossing geographical and political spaces.

What do you think about multimedia creation, today?

We’re today in an area of changes. The multimedia I have known five years ago no longer exists. It’s exciting because we don’t really know what tomorrow will be and we want to take part to it. The most important is not the technology itself but the usage we have of it. I’m glad the technologies are no longer new, so we can see through them the essential of the creation.

What do you think about Japan?

We never went to Japan so the image we have of it is certainly virtual. What is really attractive is this permanent relationship between art and technology, between experimental research and industrial developpement. Those are the real conditions to design the future.

Electronic Shadow

Text: Jerome Lacote from 6um

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