US BY NIGHT: curated for the hungry
Those who are hungry for creativity will find their appetite more than satisfied at Us By Night. The design & creativity festival serves the most perfect late-night snack for creatives. A three-night feast with the most inspiring artists within the graphic & design industry as main course and a vibrant night market on the side. This is Antwerp sat down with the founder and curator Rizon Parein in hopes he’d spill the beans on the ingredients of Antwerp’s biggest creativity festival.
This is Antwerp: What inspired you to organize Us By Night?
Rizon Parein: “Last year I was asked to be one of the curators for Born in Antwerp and if I’d be interested to vouch for the discipline Graphic Design. As I’ve been going to OFFF Barcelona for 10 years - a design festival that could be considered as the Champions League within our field - my first reflex was to acquire the name via a franchise formula. I contacted OFFF and they were completely down with the idea. With all my enthusiasm and naiveness I immediately contacted friends and colleagues to ask them if they would be interested in being a part of this event. It would be the first time such an event would be organized by someone from within the field. I’ve been working in graphic design for more than 20 years and had the luxury to work for nice brands and collaborate with nice people, thus building an interesting network. After two weeks I’ve managed to put together a lineup of 16 artists levelling the one of a Rock Werchter poster. It would have been quite silly to invite them to the stage of a theater hall and I didn’t want to limit the potential of the event by being OFFF’s little franchise brother. We were aiming to do equally well and thought about the things we felt were missing at these kinds of events.”
TIA: Then, what’s the difference with OFFF Barcelona?
Rizon: “Most of the events offer a program during daytime. You have a keynote stage where artists do their keynote, but the social aspect is rarely facilitated, this is where we want to focus on. In all honesty, I’ve got to admit that each time I went to Barcelona, I only saw 3 keynotes a day and spent the rest of the event drinking with friends and the people I’ve just met. There’s this fun and great energy so you decide to go out for dinner afterwards. Which, to me, is a must but isn’t mostly included in the programs of these events. And so, we decided to turn our event into a nocturnal experience with a night market inspired by the Brooklyn Night Bazaar in Williamsburg. Which is a huge industrial building with concert stages, ping pong tables, graffiti art works, a flea market, food stands and arcade games. When I lived in New York, I’ve spent the most amazing night there playing a life-size Jenga game. It was a new nightlife experience and I wanted to share this vibrant feeling by adding this aspect to the concept of our event. Thus creating a Time-Square-meets-Bangkok-vibe.”
TIA: Last year’s edition was called OFFF By Night, now the festival is going by the name US by Night. What else is new?
Rizon: “Our first edition was a wild guess and since the new format was a great success we decided to explore and focus on the night market even more. The success of our more intimate Q&A stage which blended in with the night market is getting a serious upgrade and is now baptized as the Living Room. We’ve also added a third stage, the Tutorial stage, for which we teamed up with Adobe and MAXON. This stage is all about techniques and practical workshops with big shots like Simon Holmedal, DIA, The Mill (UK) and many others. Also new this edition are the Interventions. We’ve invited dope artists to create installations and surprise us with live performances. Among whom Mode2, who’s one of the founding fathers of graffiti within the Hip Hop scene, who will do a live painting session and Marshmallow Laser Feast who will build a virtual reality installation. With these interventions we aim to give an extra dimension to the night market as well. So, although we’ve started as a franchise, we’ve really set out our own route.”
TIA: What does the Us stand for?
Rizon: “Us… simply because I’m sensitive to community culture. When I used to do graffiti, I loved it to travel from city to city with my spray cans solely for the aspect of community. To hang out with other artists. We’re organizing this event with credit to the creative community. It’s our event, our night, us by night.”
TIA: What’s the importance of the event to the creative community?
Rizon: “It should give young people insights on what they’re actually able to do with their knowledge and show the bridges you can cross to other disciplines. Photoshop for instance, can provide a bridge from graphic design to the movie industry or even fashion. The possibilities are very diverse. The event also promotes collaboration. It’s a great opportunity to network, make new friends and partner up on projects. It used to be the fuel I needed. During these kinds of events you sit down with a little notebook to fill it up with ideas and when you go back home you feel completely pumped up for a whole year. Making all of this happen in Antwerp, must be the greatest satisfaction I’ve ever experienced in my job. Not just because of the success we’ve booked with this event. Watching people enjoy themselves, sharing laughter and inspiring them, makes it very pleasing to organize this event. Us By Night is very non-pretentious. It’s not as elite as the art world often occurs, which makes it easier to mingle. That one artist you’re looking up to, might be a little shy on stage. With everyone being very down to earth, you’ll feel more comfortable to dare a little more.”
TIA: Which keynotes will you definitely be checking out?
Rizon: “Definitely Nike Global Brand with Michael Spoljaric, creative director for Nike Basketball, and Gary Horton, who’s the vice president of Nike Brand Design. Both high profiles in the industry. The kind of guys you’d normally only see on the Netflix show “Abstract”. I also would like to see Jose Cabaco, who’s a big shot at adidas and one of the people behind the Brooklyn Creator Farm where they design the future of adidas. Neville Brody, one of my old school hero’s and the author of the first book I bought when I started doing graphic design… There are so many names! I wish to see everything. However, I don’t want any of the visitors to feel obliged to check every keynote. Relax! Go for a round of ping pong, see a couple of keynotes, have a sandwich. Don’t push yourself to do everything. Do some research in advance, pick out your favorite speakers and take a shot in the dark on the spot to experience the unexpected. Those are mostly the ones to surprise you the most.”
Want more Us By Night?
Check the entire schedule and buy your tickets here.
Text by Laetitia Sabiti
Pics by Sigrid Spinnox, Rizon Parein, Leta Sorbierajski and Wade Jeffree, Nike Brand Design & Felipe