Not all fun and games : Abdel Bounane

April 18th, 2011

Last month, the Gaïté Lyrique digital creation center opened its doors in Paris, after many years of construction.
A companion shop also opened next to the gorgeous building : the AMUSEMENT creative shop.
We sat down with Abdel Bounane, who is in charge of the store but also the founder and editor-in-chief of AMUSEMENT magazine.

abdel bounane
Abdel Bounane at AMUSEMENT gallery, by René Habermacher.

Antoine Asseraf : So where are we, there’s a store downstairs, but this is something else…

Abdel Bounane: This is the space where soon we will offer services and events linked to the store, and to the magazine.
The service part is probably the most interesting, because this is going to be the most original part.
For the store we try to have some original products, but for services, starting in May, you’ll be able to order a tailor-made video game.

You make an appointment, meet with one of our consultants, and give your craziest ideas regarding what you want from a video game, and we’ll be able to materialize it. It can take a few days, a few weeks, or sometimes a few months, it can cost a few hundred or a few thousand euros.

It’s a world first.
It answers the question “if you want to make a space linked to the digital world, how do you offer something original and human ?”

Something that doesn’t lag behind the virtual world.

Exactly. What is the use of being in the real world when you’re talking about the virtual ?
So for me, it is the meeting with people, the ability to explain face to face your ideas, a human and interactive touch, it’s fundamentally linked to a physical place. It wouldn’t be the same thing by Skype.

That’s one part of the services we will offer.
We will also offer a gallery side.
People have been trying to sell digital art for decades now, and they haven’t really been able to, except for installations which hard to sustain. But now tablets are here, and I feel that tablets are a good media for that art, like a canvas.

gaité lyrique
The ressource center of the Gaïté Lyrique. By René Habermacher.

That makes me think of that bloom application for iPhone, by Brian Eno…

Well, Brian Eno’s been here !
What we’re developing is the sell of pieces on tablets, offline, and also an online store of limited edition digital content, with a certificate of authenticity on our servers.

How do you co-exist with the Gaïté Lyrique proper?

Well with the digital art we’re going to be working a lot with artists from the Gaïté, such as Matt Pyke/Universal Everything,
They do a lot of cool particle effects, very pop, very colorful, and they’re don’t want something that is all over the internet, just something that is visible physically at the Gaïté, because it’s a site-specific installation, and potentially sold digitally.

That’s where the logic of the Gaïté comes in, it’s not a museum, it’s a creation center.
So it’s perfect for us, we become the distributors of content that cannot be found elsewhere, and digital limited edition fits the Gaïté perfectly.

We’re not only the commercial arm of the Gaïté, we’re here to play with new ways of crossing art and digital, video games and one-to-one distribution, or take a mass media like video games and make it personalized, how do me make something pop more haute ?
How to legitimize a physical location, with launches, workshops, etc.

gaité lyrique
Gaïté Lyrique communication.


I think it’s perfect that this place was launched now, in 2011, because today there is a mix of the digital and the physical worlds.
We’ve experienced a very de-materialized digital world for the last 15-20 years, through computers only, but as the intelligence of the network become more miniature, we’re going to unperceivably go back into the physical, with walls that give information. Tablets, smartphones, nano-technologies, that’s what they’re all about.

From the 60’s mainframe, to the 80’s Personal Computer, to the connected personal computer with a more diffuse intelligence, to the smart phone and the tablet which are more disseminated… I think think there’s already twice as many smartphones as desktop and laptops combined.
This year is the first where more smartphones are being sold than computers.

All this means that intelligence is more diffused into the real physical world, so if you look forward, it means this place will become even more pertinent.
More experiental, more subjective, about participating in a world that was created for you.
So if you combine that with the more diffuse intelligence, you get a place where you can live unique experiences.


Matt Pyke / Universal Everything for MTV.

Was AMUSEMENT magazine influenced by the 1990’s French mag univers >interactif ?

It’s funny because a blogger asked me that, “do you know >interactif, what do think about it” ?
but in fact I only knew it by name, it knew Ariel Wizmann had made it, and I had seen maybe 2 covers.
But people have told me that Amusement seemed like the >interactif of the 2010’s.

So since then I went back into >interactif, and I can see the connection, editorially, visually…

I remember especially the cover with a chick wearing a Nintendo Power Glove.
Almost all the covers had chicks on them as much as I remember.

interactif mondino w&lt
Left: W< by Jean-Baptiste Mondino for >interactif magazine, 1995?. Right: Excerpts from >interactif magazine.

Actually there was one memorable cover by Mondino with a guy in a W&LT latex suit with some phallic balloons…
The connection between the fashion editorials and the content was sometime a bit forced (laughs).
The funny thing with >interactif is that when it came out, in 1995, no one had internet. Something like 3 people in France.
But did you know WIRED then ?

Yes, Wired I read since the beginning, since 1993/94.

How old were you ?

12 or 13 years old. I used to go to Brentano’s [American bookstore] to get it.
I was also reading EDGE, a UK video game magazine, which back then was a world reference.

Once as a high schooler I bought EDGE and sold the translation to French magazines (laughs).

You’re not the only one, some real journalists got into trouble for ripping off articles from THE FACE.

So WIRED, EDGE… It was complicated, I didn’t really get all of it, but it was like a film addict, you go see it even if it’s in Chinese.
I was fascinated by these magazines even though I didn’t speak English.
The UK press is sophisticated.

The content and the visual as well…

Those magazines had a completely different artistic direction.

How does the AMUSEMENT store affect AMUSEMENT as a magazine ?
By the way I went to your website and I loved that there was no blog, just the best of past issues.

It’s a real question (laughs).
I always wanted to ensure the legitimacy of the paper magazine as a format.
But now, in this post-tablet world, AMUSEMENT will become a bi-annual, because the tablet has further de-legitimized paper.
So we want to make it more high-end, more of an object, a book, 400 pages.
Less of a magazine.

We’re going to create connections between the AMUSEMENT store and the web, in July.
And everything I was telling you about online digital art stores is something we’re also working on, maybe not for 2011, but it’s in the works.

amusement magazine
Amusement magazine.

I think it’s also interesting to go for a book/object format, because it voids the question of the iPad format … you really can’t compare an iPad magazine to a book/object.

I’m very open to the idea of iPad/tablet publication – once it becomes a real business, once there’s a 100 million of them out there.
Right now it’s only something that CondéNast can do, for image.
But how many GQ do they sell on iPad ?? 5000.

So right now, either you’re a huge publisher and you want to show that’s you got it, so you do an iPad version at a loss,
either you’re independent and it doesn’t work.

What about something like Flipboard ?

You become a moderator, aggregator, art-director – you’re creating a moderation platform.
I would love for Amusement to go in that direction as well.
We try to be high-end in the design, but I’m interested in the idea of the opposite, of letting people appropriate the content.
That’s a challenge that I would like to tackle with AMUSEMENT.

Because the richness of internet is not the platform as much as the humans.

In AMUSEMENT, there is one side which is very “we’re speaking to you, you have to listen, it’s our art-direction, our pictures,” there is no feedback, a bit like a dictatorship — that’s actually attractive because it’s megalomaniac.

Then there’s the opposite, which is create a platform and let people move it forward…

Yet I feel that today a lot of the internet, with the advent of blogs/Facebook/Twitter, has become only about discussion, and that very few people have the time to do a megalomaniac project of creation.
With a magazine you make it, you step back, improve it, you don’t have to constantly ask everyone if they “like” it or not.
T his applies especially in fashion.
Every month you were waiting for some new images coming from new issues of magazines.
Now the blogs bring a constant flow of magazine articles from all over the world, self-styling pics, etc – it’s like a deluge of images from which nothing can stand out.
How many articles per day can you stomach on “what to wear” ?

Do you think that nothing stands out, or that different things stand out ? That’s what’s interesting.
What is true is that there is less in-depth reporting, because there are less producers who invest.

But I think there are still people out there who create and innovate, without necessarily a lot of means.

Yes, there is an ocean of repetition – but only because someone created something in the first place.

gaité lyrique amusement
Left: detail of the Gaïté Lyrique entrance. Right: Amusement shop entrance.

AMUSEMENT creative shop
3 bis rue Papin
75003 Paris
Metro: Réaumur-Sebastopol

Matt Pyke & Friends @ Gaïté Lyrique
April 21 – May 27, 2011

AMUSEMENT magazine


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