Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Polaroid Story - Elisabeth Ouni @ A&Gallery

A&Galleryfounded in March 2011 in Ghent, Belgium stands for Angels & Ghosts. Over the past year, this art gallery exhibited the work of Moby, Sophie Van der Perre, Frederik Buyckx, Jessica Yatrofsky, Storm Thorgerson, Athos Burez and Angels & Ghosts (the black & white portrait series of the owners: Wouter Van Vaerenbergh and Ben Van Alboom). 

Pharrell Williams
From October 11th 'till 27th, Elisabeth Ouni was exhibiting her work there: A Polaroid Story. She is a Belgian model/Polaroid photographer. She basically travels around taking polaroids of her favorite artists...most of them being hip-hop artists! 

“It’s about chasing instant moments in time – a journey I embarked on a few years ago out of my love for music first, my love for Polaroid second and a healthy dose of curiosity for the music industry. Behind every Polaroid there is a story – sometimes funny, sometimes sad, sometimes hilarious. With every story I try to explain to my readers why I love this artist, producer or personality so much. And if I’m lucky enough, the story is topped off with a pretty Polaroid. This exhibition is the next chapter of the journey I want to take. You might call it The Bigger Picture. I will put as much love in it as in my stories. I hope you will too.”
- Elisabeth Ouni 

Terry Richardson and his mum

On the last day of the exhibition, I visited A&Gallery and I really loved A Polaroid Story. Elisabeth Ouni makes it very clear that she is not a journalist, photographer or groupie, but her thrill merely comes from being a fan who is able to capture private moments with her favorite celebrities. Since Polaroid instant film and cameras have been defunct for more than 3 years now, this makes her photo series even more precious. When she is not chasing down one of her favorite emcees, she uses her skills learned as a former model to build her blossoming business Ouni Inc., where her various roles includes photographer, art director, producer and videographer. Check out Elisabeth's last updates on her blog or facebook ;) 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

La femme (FR) @ Vooruit

 “Sur La Planche has shades of Stereolab and Ladytron, but also of UK new wave.”
- THE GUARDIAN: La Femme as 'New Band of the Day'

La Femme is a French band from Paris, Biarritz and Brittany. They already completed a crazy U.S. tour that should lead to a short film. They're now getting ready touring in Europe. Cool kids of 17 years old and more, that the record industry is already fighting to sign them behind the scene; which made their freedom, their most valuable asset. 

The electro music with pop melodies is in between the 80's and 90's. Their songs recall the Taxi Girl, the Drums, the Young Marble Giants as well as the early tracks of Diabologum. Their first EP called Le Podium no.1 (which the cover is a tribute to The Origin of the World by Gustave Courbet) has been released by the Third Side Records almost two years ago. Then they released another EP called Paris 2012 one year later.

Their album should come out in early 2013. In the meantime, they were playing for free at Vooruit last Wednesday. There was a really chilled atmosphere going on during the concert. La Femme played famous and unknown songs for a bit more than an hour (encore included) and everybody seemed to like it ;)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Almost Cinema @ Vooruit

Vooruit is a famous historic art complex in Ghent, Belgium. Built a century ago, it witnessed the socialist revolution going on at the time, adding symbolic value to the architectural monument. Literally meaning forward in English, it is used for any artistic purposes: concert, exhibitions, projections, debates, parties, etc. and there is even a trendy café, frequented by the coolest people in town.

From October 8th to 20th, the Film Festival Gent was having its 39th edition. Each year, about 130'000 spectators watch 100 features and 30 shorts films from all across the world. Since 2001, it is organizing  the World Soundtrack Awards for the best compositors.
Twelve days on the border between film, media art and music. - Almost Cinema
Almost Cinema is a co-production between Vooruit and the Ghent Film Festival for 12 days. It starts where traditional film stops. The artists are influenced by the cinematic medium but leave the beaten track, opting for new unknown paths instead. They play with elements of the cinema in an unexpected way in different installations, projections, exhibitions, etc. which challenges the visitors to take a look at the cinema from a new point of view.

Yesterday, October 20th was the closing party of Almost Cinema and ESN invited us for a visit together with other students there. It took us about 1h30 to go through a only few artists exhibits. Among the most interesting pieces, a few deserve more exposure:

Tranporter by Lawrence MalstafThis was two conveyor belts running very slowly in opposite directions. Rolls and wheels hidden underneath add a tactile dimension to the experience. I got my back massaged during the 3 rides I took on his machine. This large mobile environments dealing with space and orientation use the visitor as a co-actor. Great!


Solace by Nicky Assmann. This is an installation that creates crazy patterns and colors via giant soap films. The visitor can interact with the colors by softly blowing on them. The soap refracts the light as the water from the mixture rolls down, creating a fluid vision mostly reserved for hallucinations. Gravity eventually pulls the liquid downward, creating a dance of color and light until the film eventually breaks apart (or when some ignorant children barely barely touch it).

In Transit by HC Gilje. It's a 15 m long animated light installation, located in the Vooruit's attic. It's composed of a series of identical white frames and a white light moving over them across the space, over and over again, lighting them up but also animating their shadows.

Yesterday, the Ghent Film Festival was closing with 'Passion' by Brian De Palma. lberto Iglesias was chosen as Film Composer of the Year 2012, for his soundtracks for ‘The Monk’, ‘The Skin I Live In' and ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’ (film which also gave him the Best Original Film Score of the Year award). In the meantime, Almost Cinema threw its own closing party with a projection of the documentary Sound of Belgium, and live music by De Ledebirds and the French touch of the Mireilles

Saturday, October 20, 2012

BIRDY NAM NAM - Live in Brussels

Birdy Nam Nam
Friday night is the best day to go out. Even more as I'm talking about going out of town, heading to Brussels for a concert! Festival des libertés is an anti-crisis event composed of debates, concerts, theatre, films and exhibitions, taking place in Brussels National Theatre. For 10 autumn days, it mobilises all forms of expression in order to offer an overview of the state of rights and freedoms around the world, to point out lurking dangers, to bring people together in a fun, relaxing atmosphere, to encourage resistance and to promote solidarity.

« Festival des Libertés 2012 will invite citizens to view the multiple crises not just as paralyzing and blinding catastrophes, but also as opportunities to refine our critiques and to become aware of how our economic, political, social and cultural systems are running out of steam, opening up the field of possibilities for other ways of seeing, doing and articulating liberty, solidarity and equality. It's an invitation to take the risk of novelty, complexity and uncertainty in order to escape the dead ends, the tensions and the denials. »
Impressive light show!
I know Birdy Nam Nam since a few years. DJ band among others from the French electronic music scene I care about: Air, C2C, Laurent Garnier, Daft Punk, Vitalic, David Guetta, Breakbot, Wax Tailor, Chinese Man, Brodinski, DJ Mehdi, Beat Torrent, etc. Composed of four great talentuous French dudes DJ Pone, DJ Need, DJ Little Mike and DJ Crazy-B; they are quite famous as they won the DMC world DJ championships in 2002. They also won a Victoire de la Musique in 2010 (beating David Guetta). This last summer, the very famous DJ Skrillex released a remix of Goin' In, which made Birdy Nam Nam even more popular worldwide. That's why yesterday was a great opportunity to see them again. I bought my tickets with some friends and we decided to spend the night over in Brussels...

The concert was great! Deep music. A unique mix of jazz, hip-hop, groove, rock and techno. The light show was emphasizing every drop in the song. We really enjoyed it, and the rest of the crowd as well, the theatre was boiling from the inside! The walls were trembling even more when Lil'mike said "You like that? You want more? We'll continue and smash your heads!".

And so they did.

1h30 of intense live music, I loved it.

After that, we enjoyed the photography exhibition Congo in Limbo of Cedric Gerbehaye, whose photos were hanging on the walls while the Wax Dolls were playing.

All in all, this night turned out really well!

PS: for our Spanish friends, check out my friend Cristina's blog and her video:

Friday, October 19, 2012

Belgian Cuisine: French Fries at De Gouden Saté

"The inhabitants of Namur, Andenne, and Dinant, had the custom of fishing in the Meuse for small fish and frying, especially among the poor, but when the river was frozen and fishing became hazardous, they cut potatoes in the form of small fish and put them in a fryer like those here." 

In the XVIIth century, the French fries as we know them today, were invented by Belgian fishermen used to fry their food. When American soldiers arrived in Belgium during World War I, they tried the fries and they called them 'French Fries' because the Belgian army was speaking French at the time. Meanwhile in Dutch, it's called FRIETEN!

In Belgium, the place to buy some fries is called 'Frituur' (Dutch) or 'Friteries' (French). You get them with a large variety of sauces and eaten either on their own or with other snacks such as frikandelle or burgers. Traditionally, they are served in a 'Frietzak' (Dutch) or 'Cornet de frites' (French) which is a white cardboard cone, then wrapped in paper, with a good spoonful of sauce on the top. 

In Ghent, De Gouden Saté is the most popular place among the locals and the students to get their snacks. Open everyday for lunch (11am-2pm) and at night (5pm-7am), there are some folks queuing at any time! I guess it takes time to make good food. Usually, there is a 10-15mn waiting time.
"Ask anybody to bring you to Julien's and you'll get there real quick!"                           - Belgian student.
Julien & Peter are the owners and a third staff member allow them to open that long. They ask orders one-by-one in the queue, while strategically frying different stuff at the demand. Nothing is ready in advance like at McDonalds!
Me and Hugo Claus.

Among the wide variety of sausages and other strange meat, perhaps the most popular ones are the Bicky Burgers. Created in 1981, they are sold in every kinda snacks like De Gouden Saté. It's a fried burger (a mix between chicken, pork and horse meat) topped with three sauces (the yellow Bicky Dressing, the Red Bicky Ketchup and the brown Bicky Hot Sauce), crispy onions and pickles served in a sesame sprinkled bun. But don’t be fooled. It’s still a snack and not a Michelin star experience. 

Another dish is the Hugo Claus. Really popular among the locals, it's a big pack of fries, drawn in stew sauce with mayonnaise and satay seasoning, topped with dried onions and fried meet. 

It even has a Facebook page.

Once the order is ready, you gotta find a less frequented street and if possible, a rain shelter. The best option remains a nice bar with friends to help the digestion with a good local beer!


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Hogeschool Gent - Faculty of Public and Business Administration

Even though I already selected my courses and the modification period was over; my request to change one more course has be accepted. I decided to quit the class on Analytical Customer Relationship Management. Instead, I enrolled at Hogeschool Gent a partnered university of UGent.

Founded in 1995 when 14 institutions merged together, Hogeschool Gent is now the largest University College Institution (kinda Business School) in Flanders, Belgium. There are 18.000 students divided in eight faculties. The faculty of Public and Business Administration provides one of the five English-taught Master programmes at Hogeschool, the International Management Programme (IMP). 

My schedule (updated)
Part of the IMP, the course I follow is Strategic Human Resource Management (HRM). It takes place once a week (Tuesday morning) and is worth 6 ECTS credits. That's why I still keep a total of 34 ECTS credits for my Erasmus semester. The course shifts from operational HRM to strategic HRM by looking at it through a four dimensions framework:
- Instrumental dimension: rules, procedures, work systems, administration, paperwork
- People dimension: motivation, working conditions, leadership, internal communication
- Strategic dimension: strategy, goals and objectives, measurement, added value
- Organizational dimension: structure and culture, organizational design, organizational development

We're quite a number of students in the classroom, but most of them are Belgian and I didn't meet so much Erasmus. Sometime in November, I'll come back on this class because of a 1 day-seminar in Nieuwpoort on the Belgium coast, at the Hotel Cosmopolite.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Student Opening of Ghent University

Yesterday, the UGent Communication department organized the Student Opening of Ghent University at the student house De Therminal. They invited all students of UGent for this free event, so I went along with some Erasmus friends.

UGent rector: Paul Van Cauwenberge
We waited 45mn outside with a lot of other students (mostly Belgian), but it was worth the champagne we received at the entrance. The evening started with speeches from, among others, rector Paul Van Cauwenberge and Ghent mayor Daniel Termont, unfortunately, everything was held in Dutch. So I didn't get anything of what was going on. Instead, I was looking for the sexy girls with the food trays! The usual tasty snacks and small portions served at formal receptions.

Stand-up comedian: Koen Dewulf

The other good thing was the free drinks: six beers and one cocktail for each of us. Of course, everybody was suit up, there was a nice work on the lights and students staff were handling the evening. That's when the stand-up comedian Koen Dewulf started his Dutch. When I asked him about an English version, he said that it was very Flemish jokes so it won't be funny anymore. Well, I still gave some hypocrite applause with the rest of the room!

Acoustic band: Trio Bluf
Around 23 p.m. it was time for the acoustic cover band Trio Bluf to start playing. It actually turned the evening into a real party! The three guys were motivating the crowd by moving among us the whole time! This gave enough incentive to the bartender for some bottle jugglery (see video below)! Later on, we left the reception and we continued the party elsewhere, let's say, less formal.
                   Kasim from Bartenders on the road.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Hiking trip in High Fens - GR 573

The natural parc of High Fens is located on Belgium and German lands. Both countries collaborate to preserve the authenticity of its nature and its landscapes, in accordance with the inhabitants. Unfortunately, in April 2011, a fire led the parc authorities to close down some parts of the nature reserve.

With some Erasmus friends, we planned a hiking trip over a day: from Eupen (near Liège) to Signal de Botrange, the highest peek of Belgium. It should be a 22km hike. Last Sunday we left Ghent by train (2h30) and we started our walk around 10 o'clock from Eupen's train station.

The plan was to follow the GR 573 trail from Eupen. But it took us almost an hour to find it, in the border of the city. The trail follows the Hill River, through forestry tracks and woodland paths in the forest. As always in Belgium (I've been told), it was very humid. Luckily, it didn't rain.

GR 573 stripes
However, when we met other hikers in the forest, they told us different discouraging stuff:
   - Signal de Botrange? Sorry I don't know.
   - You go there on foot? I'll take you 3 days!
   - You cannot go there. But you can go to Ternell if you take that way. 
   - Signal? Oh it's about 50kms from Eupen!

We hiked for 5 hours in the forest, trying to follow the red/white stripes of the GR, the feet covered with mud and having no idea where we're heading. Then we left the trail and walked one more hour towards Ternell. We didn't know what it was until we arrived to some kinda farm, with a restaurant and a small information office.

That's when we figured out we shouldn't have left the trail for Ternell but continued straight South to Signal de Botrange. But it was still 2-3 more hours of hike. Instead we were stuck 8km away from Eupen where we had to take the train. Eventually, we also missed the last bus by 20mn. That's why we decided to ask the restaurant clients to take the three of us by car to Eupen. A German drove us downtown in 10mn.

Hill River
We got back in Ghent at 20.30 after a fun day in a Belgian forest hiking for 7 hours! Next time, I wanna do it straight until Signal de Botrange, even though the other Erasmus students — that actually did it the same day — said it wasn't worth it at all. Maybe some early winter snow will enhance the scenery a little :)

PS: live webcam of the High Fens:

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Guest Lecturer: Thomas Bonte from MuseScore

During my Friday morning class on Technological Innovations Management, the teacher welcomed a guest speaker: Thomas Bonte. Almost graduated from UGent, he stopped his engineering program to pursue his entrepreneurial idea. At first, there was a problem that most of musicians experience when they look for new songs to play: they would buy a big expensive book which is not really practical and not really the format they need — music scores are different for piano, guitar, flute, etc. Thomas' idea was to provide an online database of music scores for piano players, based on the exchange in between users.

In 2006, the entrepreneur in collaboration with others from Ghent institutions created Wikifonia. It was an online sheet music database using the Wikipedia system of sharing knowledge, where users could upload, collaborate, comment and download music scores for piano in Pdf or MusicXML formats. Even though this website is still running and users still register to share their music, Thomas Bonte continued to pursue his idea further. He wanted to design a software where it could be possible to edit the music score.

Thomas Bonte (BE), Werner Schweer (DE) and Nicolas Froment (FR) launched MuseScore in 2008. This free open-source musical notation program (available on Apple, Windows and Linux OS) revolutionized the music score writing market, previously divided between Sibelius and Finale. These softwares allow the users to create, edit and print various types of musical scores. The sheet music can be played back by the user through the built-in sequencer and sample library. It is also available for tablets and smartphones. Of course, everything can be exported, shared over social networks and played back by anyone. Finally, MuseScore is available in 48 languages.

With almost 4 millions downloads over 5 years, MuseScore became the leader of the industry.
In 2011, a project was launched to create high-quality print and audio versions of the Goldberg Variations — composed by J.S. Bach. A Kickstarter campaign was launched and they got the necessary $15 000 to develop the project. Thomas Bonte and the rest of MuseScore developers collaborated to create both an engraved score and an audio recording of the song performed by the musician Kimiko Ishizaka (see video below). The final engraved score was created entirely in MuseScore, and is available for download free of charge.

Thomas Bonte

Money wise, the developers are still a small team of 3 and they get their salaries from the users upgrading their account to Pro for $49 a year. This is necessary to go beyond the limit of 5 uploads if the user wants to share more music scores. Now, MuseScore 2.0 is under development and Thomas Bonte is still raising funds to continue the projects.

MuseScore, a really interesting entrepreneurial and technological innovation that I'll keep track on!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Video on the SMIO Master Program at Linköping University

A few months ago, a video-crew followed one of my SMIO classmates at Linköping University over a few days to gather footages on every-day activities (class, social gathering and even football game) as a student in this program. In short, that was my daily routine for one year as well:

It's also a very good explanation of all these French words ;)

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Business Administration courses at UGent

Yes, that's my schedule. It shouldn't change so much from now on, as the deadline to change my courses was 2 days ago. From my initial Learning Agreement, I only changed one course: Market Research Methods became Business to Business Marketing; and I also have the Dutch class. All the classes started, some sounded very interesting, others not... 

The UGent Rector, alias me.

Marketing Communication (6 ECTS credits) - Based on the book Marketing Communications (written by the teacher), the course is evaluated on group-work / case studies (50%) and on a final exam (50%). We will talk about integrated communications, branding, communication models, the instruments of marketing communication and the measurement of marketing communications effectiveness.

Analytical Customer Relationship Management (CRM) (6 ECTS credits) - Representing the last part of the supply chain (contact with final customers), this course introduces us to the analytical tools to carry out projects in CRM. These tools are part of the analytical software SAS, which we will be evaluated on (twice). I'm a novice with SAS, so I'm still struggling a lot with it! 

Financing High-Tech Entrepreneurial Companies (4 ECTS credits) - Understanding, analyzing and making financial decisions in entrepreneurial, unquoted companies. Given the large information asymmetries, uncertainty and potential agency problems, traditional financing methods are often inappropriate. The class is based on the book Financing Entrepreneurial Companies (written by the teacher) and 80% of the grade is on the final exam, while the remaining 20% are given on a case study.

Managing Service Organizations (4 ECTS credits) - We'll learn how to perform an in-depth analysis of a service organisation in terms of strategic as well as operational management issues: it is important to acquire a good feeling of the specificity of service delivery processes. Based on the book Services Management (written by the teacher), there is a final exam (60% of the final grade) and a business game called ServiceSim (40%) which is a business simulation where we'll have to take strategic/operational decisions in group over two months. Finally, each of us has to make a case study report, only once:

Innovation and Technology Management (4 ECTS credits) - Based on the book Strategic Management of Technological Innovations, this course tries to integrate different views into one concept in which innovation is represented as a strategic process. The course deals with three different components: the industrial dynamics of innovation; the strategic choices which have to be made by organisations in this environment and the implementation of these choices. We'll be evaluated in a final exam (50%) and by group on case studies and class discussions (50%).

Business to Business (B2B) Marketing (6 ECTS credits) - Based on the book Business Market Management, the course is organized around three core business market processes: understanding, creating, and delivering value. More specifically, we'll learn about: market segmentation, customer value management, building customer value models, understanding customer firms, constructing flexible market offerings, pricing, business channel management, and E-business. Divided in groups of 6 students, we'll have to report on 3 case studies (30% of final grade). Of course, there'll be a final exam (70% of the grade) as usual!

These courses are either part of the Master in Business Engineering or the Master in Business Economics. All in all, this should give me 30 ECTS credits (+ 4 with the Dutch course) at the end of the semester! From my Swedish Master program, there are quite some organizational changes, mostly due to the fact that at UGent, all the courses are taking place over the whole semester, whereas I had one course after another at Linköping University. But I'll get used to it I guess :)

PS to my French friends in Brittany: the first crêpes session took place! 
We cooked about 3 kilos for the International Dinner of ESN, everything was gone quite quickly :p