Digital arts in Montreal I

April 27, 2012

Barely out of winter and we’re already heading straight for Montreal’s non-stop festival season! Before the Jazz Festival even starts though, there are a myriad of other festivals that are smaller, but just as compelling and just as media-worthy on the international scene. Especially the digital festivals. We at TP1 thought it only natural that we introduce you to a few of the best!

But before I get too far, I just want to underline the importance of this art form as a coming together of numerous disciplines, including science (in the larger sense, not just technology), culture, communications, design, architecture, language and psychology. Whenever there’s talk of how creative this city is, we can’t forget that digital plays an important role in this dynamic. In fact, Montreal owes its growth in part to the creative energy of an emerging social group that is cultured, informed, technologically savvy, and excited about sharing their knowledge and our collective expertise.

“It’s hard to say where the wired world starts and where the real world ends.”

Digital art was born in the 1960s, thanks to artists who began to digitize their work with the help of computers. This digitization enabled the creative process to be amplified by providing greater freedom of expression. Today, digital artists have the important role of defining the possible worlds of tomorrow. They stand at the dawn of innovation and work tirelessly to push the limits of creativity with bold new artistic and technological expressions that know no limits.

Digital is all around you

In truth, as mentioned in the International Digital Arts Biennial (BIAN) editorial, digital has infiltrated our daily routine so subtly, that it’s become an extension of the self. It’s certainly become an extension of the digital artist’s brush. It’s an amazing breakthrough – not only can artists share their art with spectators, but the spectators can also interact with the work and become part of the creative process. Digital has become an unparalleled source of inspiration for the artists and Web artisans that we are.

The presentations coming up this festival season touch on the relationship between man and technology (biotechnology, nanotechnology, etc.), networks, encoding, abstraction, liminality, all that is extreme, the continuous – almost random – flow and distribution of information, and synesthesia (or mixed perceptual sensations). I would like to linger on this last theme… More specifically, in our interactions with the web (net art, streamed video, MMO games), the combination of images and sounds change our perceptions of the outside world. It might even be suggested that the widespread use of touch screens has created a seventh sense… There are numerous experiences that use the throbbing beat of the bass to provoke physical sensations, test our perseverance and shake up our routines. Appropriately, Festival Transamériques quotes John Cage, who said, “If a sound disturbs you, listen to it.” These extreme sensations are frequently used precisely because they crack open new perceptual experiences.

The mainstreaming of disciplines that break with and transcend easy definition – that plot a new constellation of media – ends up creating a new aesthetic, a new language and a new code of behaviour. As for the meaning, you’ll have to discover that for yourself. And because Montreal offers a vast range of pleasures that gravitate around the digital arts (cafés, restaurants, and public and commercial spaces) and are rich with interactive possibilities, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t just dive into the unknown to see what can be discovered.

Here’s a list of upcoming festivals, along with my suggested must-sees:

TEMPS D’IMAGES – until April 27

For seven years at Usine C, the TEMPS D’IMAGES festival has initiated and sparked meetings by investing the boundaries between genres, disciplines and medias. Little inclined to restrict themselves to a sole genre, they have revisited the links between stage, hall and screen, continuously disrupting them.

  • Kiss & Cry by Michèle Anne De Mey and Jaco Van Dormael
  • Whitebox by Purform
  • Peptone by Departement

International Digital Arts Biennial – until June 13

Art, culture and digital technology are the three main ingredients in the International Digital Arts Biennial (BIAN), the new event created by Elektra Festival organizers and taking place for the first time in Montreal from April 18 to June 13, 2012. Exploring the theme PHENOMENA, the BIAN will bring together works that reveal or question how the phenomenon of digital technology is perceived today, becoming, given its development, “indiscernible from magic”, as Arthur C. Clarke wrote.

  • Fragmentation by Robert Lepage, Sarah Kenderine, Jeffrey Shaw
  • Ryoji Ikeda exhibition
  • Parcours Numérique: BLA BLA by Vincent Morrisset, Epiphaneia by Refik Anadol, 21 balançoires by Mélissa Mongiat and Mouna Andraos

Elektra – from May 1 to 6

Fifteen partner venues have come together to present the 2012 programming line-up, which includes video music, concerts, audio-visual performances and architectural video projections juxtaposed with hybrid performance, robotic and immersive installations. Elektra is a can’t-miss opportunity to discover original works and experiments that bring together cutting-edge electronic music and visual creations born from new technologies. This year’s theme is “The Invisible”, touching on how digital processes – whether they be audio- or visually-based – are becoming increasingly more discreet in the creative process.

  • Synchropath by SCHNITT
  • univrs (uniscope version) by Alva Noto (Carsten Nicolai)
  • Sirens by Ryoichi Kurokawa

Festival Transamériques – from May 22 to June 9

An international event celebrating new works in contemporary dance and theatre, the Festival TransAmériques combines disciplines and artistic trends under cohesive programming. The Festival presents exciting forms of the art in our era, featuring works by choreographers, writers and directors. The only criterion is to present strong work, regardless of theme or place of origin.

  • Dance With Me by Gregory Chatonsky
  • Le Corps en Question (s) by Isabelle Van Grimde

Festival Sight and Sound – from May 23 to 27

Sight & Sound is an annual festival aimed at bringing together Canadian and international New Media artists. The festival, currently in its fourth year, showcases the efforts of sound and video artists, as well as other digital modes of production with a focus on live A/V performance, A/V installation and interactive art practices. The theme of Sight & Sound 2012 is “Systems of Symmetry.”

  • Layers by Nohista (member of V-Atak)
  • Thomas Bégin
  • Zach Gage
  • the label Artkillart

Mutek – from May 25 to June 3

MUTEK is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the dissemination and development of digital creativity in sound, music, and audio-visual art. Its mandate is to provide a platform for the most original and visionary artists currently working in their fields, with the intent of providing an outlet of initiation and discovery for the audiences we seek to develop. Over the years, the MUTEK festival has presented a considerable number of renowned artists while simultaneously providing an important showcase for up-and-coming talent.