Digital art events in Montreal II

August 10, 2012

It’s about time for a review of the digital wave that hit Montreal this past spring. The Elektra, Mutek and the Quartier des spectacles, and the collaboration of top-notch cultural venues like SAT and Espace Belgo, to name just two, show a definite desire to take digital to the next level in Montreal. As a result, the seeds of digital culture, although they may be invisible, have begun to sprout in this city’s fertile grounds of technology, the arts and the virtual arts, ever more positioning Montreal as a leading digital metropolis in North America.


The headline event for the 13th edition of the Elektra festival featured a lineup that increased in intensity from one artist to the next. The first performance, lo-fi, by the Italian duo Schnitt, got the audience to meditate on a moving grid of criss-crossed vertical and horizontal lines that served as a backdrop for the 678 video files synchronized by the artists. Another duo, this time German, followed, plunging us into a visually microscopic universe accompanied by upbeat sounds with a deep, underlying bass. Seriously good energy! The high point was definitely the Sirens event, featuring the much-awaited Ryoichi Kurokawa. His five moving tableaux were hypnotising for their vibrant density, finesse and unparalleled Japanese precision. He moved us from the abstract to the concrete, slowly revealing the inner meaning of his visions. An electrifying experience. Too bad the volume got so high…

Not surprisingly, this year’s theme for Elektra was the invisible, as digital procedures are now integral to artistic creation. When executed well, these intense artworks leave an imperceptible mark in your memory, forever changing the way you perceive the world.

Parcours numérique

This art installation in the Quartier des spectacles inspired the public to explore new digital trends in the city, some of them interactive and some of them in video form ingeniously combined with architecture.

Fun and family-friendly, the Parcours lineup – from Vincent Morrissette’s Bla Bla to the mind-blowing Epiphaneia, a video-mapping project by Refik Anadol, as well as Daily tous les jours and the insular Choses – offered a new interpretation of urban spaces and architecture, which was oftentimes used to bring digital creativity and the viewer closer together. Overall, compelling proof that we can dive into a digital experience beyond the confines of the small screen: Parcours brought digital outdoors and in the process, opened our eyes about our city and its potential.


Kudos to Naut Humon, who presented the compelling story of Recombinant Media Labs during a projection of the Panorama series – which also included artist Ryoichi Kurokawa. If you like the SATosphere experience, then listen up, because the video quality is astounding. And even if the surround sound got a little too intense, you could just make use of the Quiès sound protection they kindly distributed at the door. The live performances were well worth the detour, especially one by Marsen Jules, a master of contemporary ambient sounds.

Out of the Blue / Into the Black

This exhibition, which took place in an old school of fine arts, lived up to its name: in each room, visitors were plunged into total darkness to rediscover the power of light through the city, science, the cosmos and our own perceptions. There was something a little kinetic and Tron-esque about it, but totally made to feel fresh and relevant. Conclusion: a delight for the eyes and the neurons.

Ryoji Ikeda

Montreal’s International Digital Arts Biennial (BIAN) has a long list of artistic works worth discovering, but I want to talk specifically about the Ryoji Ikeda exhibition, running until November 18, 2012. If you have never seen his performances in previous Elektra festivals, no worries: DHC/Art was designed, with the artist’s usual finesse, to explore Ikeda’s works in a progressive and increasingly more intense fashion. Visitors step into the universe of this “troubling poet of the digital age” to experience an exacting mathematical precision, and discover works spanning from the microscopic/static to the infinite/animated.

What most struck me about this exhibition was the extent to which the artist can exploit the digital materials at his disposal (sound, images, data, light) and create colossal works that delve into questions about the human ability for abstraction, manipulation of knowledge and control.


Wake up your neurons with a visit to the following exhibitions:

See you next spring for a new wave of digital art installations and in two years for the second edition of BIAN. In the meanwhile, prepare yourself for a boom in digital creativity. Not only are these artists reawakening our senses, they’re also paving the way for unimagined future uses of technology.