Clockwise from left: Eye of Mexico, Mexico City. Collaboration of curator MASSIVart and studio Ouchhh. LAPS: a journey through time – here and now in Montreal, Quebec; toured by public art agency Creos. As Water Falls displayed in Bracknell, England by art studio Iregular.
Quebec Arts: Creating the Future of Audience Engagement through Multisensory Experience
August 1, 2022
Quebec is known around the world for its exceptional approach to public art and the high level of artistry it generates. In recent years, art has been impacted by new ways of being like “social distancing”, shifting priorities and shape. Increasingly, art that appeals to viewers through multi-sensory experiences is being used to entice audiences back to city-centers, revitalizing urban areas and encouraging safe, immersive, social experiences to re-frame the way we live now. Quebec-based companies like MASSIVart, Moment Factory, Creos, Iregular, and Wireframe collectively represent new pathways forward, new ways of interacting through sound, light, motion, and participation in community.
Re-inventing production, Montreal-based Wireframe is poised as a distributor supporting a catalog of artists. Curator Alice Berthault speaks of a pre-pandemic demand for art that was tactile, which has shifted toward kinetic art and works that influence embodied experience and state of mind. With a greater awareness of the impact of stress and anxiety on human health, there has been a move toward art that helps us access emotions, that encourages mindfulness, and that eases collective anxiety and distress. At a time when experiences are over-saturated with visual stimuli from devices and social media, Wireframe supports work that re-integrates the body in space.
Works such as “Light Orchestra”, supported by Wireframe and created by Atomic3 and Ottomata, provide a moment to experience the sublime in a grandiose ballet of light beams and sound that pierces the night sky. 15-motorized projectors, each with its own music sequence, adapt to the movement of the audience as “conductors”. “Light Orchestra” transforms the public space, becoming an instrument of self-expression for visitors. It creates a place for people to come together and connect where everyone is invited to play, creating a symphony that visitors can both see and hear. It satisfies the deep human need for communal experience that involves presence, mindfulness, beauty, and co-regulation. Technology-based interactive works like this have environmental advantages as well. Wireframe works to reduce transportation costs, while rentals and labor are sourced locally, supporting local economies and leaving a low carbon footprint.
Picking up on similar themes of beauty, conservation, participation, and collective movement, Montreal-based Iregular’s “As Water Falls” examines life’s most precious resource, water, as an element of calm and as a complex metaphor. As a symbol, water stands for human emotion, vitality, continuity, sustainability, purification, and growth. This virtual, interactive waterfall reacts to mobile phone flashlights, with additional mirrors, real water, and vibrating motors that enhance the immersive experience. Iregular is known for creating high-concept pieces with cutting-edge technology designed to knit physical and virtual interaction. At a time when we are coming to accept social distance as the new norm, Iregular’s interactive work allows for connection and independent experience, prompting intuitive participation and providing aesthetics that maximize the creative potential of the participant. Typical of the studio’s work, audiences can influence, write, and re-write open-ended symbols that expand the complexity of our responses, inward and outward.
Creative placemaking, public art consulting and production firm MASSIVart seeks to create destinations that result in more substantial and authentic connections between their clients and audiences. This can be said of the recently installed sculpture “The Eye of Mexico”, curated by MASSIVart and created by studio Ouchhh. Located in the heart of the capital, the surrounding development is an unprecedented mixed-use complex that has been designed to redefine the concept of community, generating a positive impact on the city’s inhabitants. For that, the complex centers on mobility, art, urbanism, design, efficiency and community creation. The “Eye” expresses through audiovisuals a performance with data referring to the way in which the residents of Mexico City move. It represents a portal through which we might see and create the future of mobility and urban life, through art, science, and technology.
Creos is a Quebec-based family business that offers a diverse portfolio of participatory installations, drawing audiences back to the city through their playful interactive installations. Producer Init chose Creos as a partner in touring LAPS (2022), created by Olivier Landreville in collaboration with Serge Maheu, debuting at MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE this winter. The installation allows audiences to stretch and extend their definition of time by manipulating larger-than-life hourglasses. These 6 modules, nearly 8 feet tall, evoke the past and associations with antiquity and cyclical renewal. In LAPS, “time catchers” operate a steering wheel controlling pace, receiving a sound and light experience that integrates time, perception, and the body. Creos creates turnkey solutions to public art installation, leaning into intuitive engagement and whimsy, having traveled over 275 projects worldwide since their inception in 2016.
Among many other projects and ways of working, industry heavyweight Moment Factory infuses environments with painterly color, light, and sound, beautifying typically functional, unadorned spaces like public transit, education, corporate offices, and building facades. We see this in the example of Japan’s Shinjuku Station, made in partnership with Sony Music Solution Inc. and the East Japan Railway Company. Lighting, video, and sound transform the world’s busiest subway passage at the heart of Tokyo into a calming environment, offering wonderment and peace of mind. Counter to the speed of the railway and the pressures of schedule and timing, “The Colour Bath” provides an immersive passenger experience of shifting colors across a 45 meter LED screen, light boxes and numerous complementary screens. Synchronized ambient videos change and evolve over the course of a day and with the seasons, having the impact of re-connecting us with natural cycles. Harmonious color transitions model the ease of change, softening the edges of our transitions from one place to another, from one way of being to another.
Exemplified across companies and sectors, Quebec arts model the transformation of our future through aesthetics, embodied participation, and a re-weaving of our sense of community. Through artful concepts, collaboration, new technology, and new pathways of production, these companies model a way forward, not simply for the arts but for the social fabric itself. If you’d like to see more examples of projects, or to get in touch, please check out L’Effet Québec.