The Art of Collective Co-Construction with Iregular Studio

Cover Image: OUR COMMON HOME premiered in Montreal at Quartier des Spectacles. In this chapter, Icebergs appear on a façade as users interact with their bodies.

The Art of Collective Co-Construction with Iregular Studio

January 3, 2022

When we look to the future of public art, what do we anticipate? While technology, form, and materials change, one unwaverable characteristic is that art is here to serve, challenge and enrich the culture receiving it – and in turn, improve the field itself. Iregular, a new media studio out of Montreal, stands at the intersection of large-scale public art, software design, immersive aesthetics, and the city. Creating high-concept pieces with cutting-edge technology designed to knit physical and virtual interaction, Iregular Studio represents the high caliber of storytelling we can look forward to.

In the last few years, the outdoor public space has become one of the safest places to experience art. It opens up access so that people might happen upon a work naturally, while influencing the way that space and surrounding area is engaged with. It presents art in context with life. It creates joy, meaning, reflection, and critical thinking. Premiering this past October in Montreal, on display in Chicago, and opening in Dubai in January 2022, Iregular Studio’s “Our Common Home” brings the exhibition to the neighborhood, across four separate buildings with city-scale interactive works.

Highlighting the universal and pressing topic of global climate change, “Our Common Home” asks observers to consider their individual impact through four key perspectives. Viewers do so exploring relationships of power in the human/animal kingdom in “Creatures”; owning and playing with the reality of consumption in “Products”; linking action and consequence to the melting of the “Icebergs”; and interacting with the global feed of images and information in “Telescopes.” All together, these storylines offer a playful, illustrative way to consider topics of gravity, linking the individual actions of the viewer/participant to a sense of responsibility and co-creation.

Our Common Home” is made possible through Iregular Studio’s unique in-house software “Cursor,” a long-range tracking system used for crowds, combining artificial intelligence and optics, software, and physical objects such as the crowds themselves. Participants interact touchlessly and at a distance, through their bodies and phones, led by intuitive instructions. Cursor allows the team to program and isolate specific features of their audience (ex: hands, body, face, etc) for up to 50 people simultaneously. It’s a robust technology designed for long-term use, creating a “permanent” installation that is always changing in relation to its public. Iregular Studio centers the narrative power in the viewer, framing a concept and story, creating a metaphoric structure that the public inhabits and influences to create the “final” piece.

CONTROL NO CONTROL is a big LED cube that reacts to everything that touches it and every movement performed on its surface.

Characteristic of Iregular’s style, pieces like Balance (2015), Control No Control (2012) and Points in Common (2020) have a signature minimalism in form and color, with sharp graphics and rich textures, creating a visceral pull that at times emphasizes the linearity of the built environment, and at other times mimics organic forms from nature. “Points in Common” is perhaps a meta example of how the work points back to the subject of interaction in technology itself.

POINTS IN COMMON projected on a building in Montréal.

Using the flashlight of their smartphone, participants can trigger real-time sonic and graphic responses on the big façade in front of them, moving through a collection of experiences created to observe how large groups engage with digital public art. There is a drawn quality to the linework and illustrations that give a sense of the humanity at play, the imperfection that creates a different sort of beauty to contrast technology’s cold perfection. Fundamental to any given piece is the element of chance and open-endings, narratives that are built up and erased, only to be re-written by the next participant. As the company has grown to exhibit in some of the larger spaces in the world, their aesthetic has evolved. Examples like “Our Common Home” and interactive mural “Puzzles” showcase brighter, more figurative and concrete graphics, as well as more humor.

RIVER is a permanent installation in a Desjardins Branch located in Downtown Montréal.

Folding inward again towards topics of the environment, and demonstrating the relevance of permanent new media work, “River” (2018) alludes to a water stream that is influenced by the activity of the building’s inhabitants, raging or calming with the flow of human presence. Spread over an LED mesh sculptural screen and an infinitely generative software linked to microphones, this piece is visible from the outdoors, processing the sounds inside the bank during the busy days, and venturing outdoors in the street surroundings at night. It reflects nature, seen through the eyes of technology and human movement, producing a meditative “third space” to observe and reflect on, much like a natural stream, or the changing of the seasons.

FORWARD is a generative video projection using software that computes probabilities every single second.

Opening this January in Dubai at the World Expo, “Present in the Future” features dual pieces “Omnipresence” and “Forward” extending the conversation of where humanity sits in relation to the trajectory of technology. “Forward” presents a series of tunnels, infinitely changing pattern and direction, questioning the futility of anxiety over the future which has yet to be shaped. “Omnipresence” creates a digital infinity mirror where one’s split-off and multiplied reflections gain a life of their own, complicating our sense of autonomy over representation and digital existence. By building work that utilizes the tools of tracking, Iregular Studio positions its audience in a place of creating with, but also questioning, technology and its role in our futures, as well as our individual feelings toward it.

OMNIPRESENCE is an audiovisual interactive mise en abyme that highlights technology’s ability to curate our digital persona using camera and movement sensors.

It’s easy to see how this work is influenced by sculptors and immersive artists like Olafur Eliasson, James Turrel, Anish Kapoor, Ryoji Ikeda, and Jesús Rafael Soto, with their attention to subtleties of the environment, light, viewer and sensory experience. Iregular Studio’s visuals reach for a similar scale of impact, working in a way that greets the viewer where they are, at the moment they arrive, in the city itself. Images and objects diffuse into the body of the participant, their hand-held devices, their physical response to the metaphor proposed between the environment and themselves. By creating open-ended, person-centered narratives that we can build on, Iregular Studio bridges complex and nuanced cultural topics, generating a platform to model collective creation.