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Previously: Elektra festival - part 1

The Elektra festival which closed a few days ago in Montréal might have a website design which i find difficult to explain in 2010, but that didn't prevent its programme to be remarkable. The agenda of live events was particularly outstanding with performances by Aoki Takamasa and Edwin van der Heide for example. I wish i could have seen Blake Carrington's Cathedral Scan which scans, analyzes and reveals through sound the architectural structure of the buildings (usually gothic cathedrals) where the event takes place. I missed it courtesy of my inseparable friend the jetlag. What no desynchronosis could prevent me from seeing though was the festival's selection of installations and sculptures.

Exhibitions were all over the city center and that's probably one of the major strengths of Elektra. Its collaboration with fine art galleries and art centers helped spread media art outside of its tightly-knit family and bring it to a larger audience. I'm going to highlight the artworks i found most interesting - either for their quality or simple because i had not written about them before. Many of them could be found at the city's hotspot of contemporary art: the Belgo building.

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The exterior of the former industrial building doesn't betray its conversion to a place of glam and culture. Facade is rather plain. Ground floor is all blah shops and Starbuck's coffee. But if you get inside and hop on one of the freight elevators, you'll soon realize that Belgo is packed, floor after floor, with white wall galleries, dance studios teaching capoeira, and photo studios

My first stop was at the Galerie PUSH to seeZimoun's quietly buzzing 216 prepared dc-motors

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216 small motors aligned against a white framed wooden canvas, activate a rain of metallic wires. The ensemble functions as an instrument both artificial and organic in nature.



Next stop was for the Joyce Yahouda Gallery to see Pascal Dufaux's photographic automaton. Le cosmos dans lequel nous sommes (The cosmos in which we are) captures and transcribes images and video-kinetic sequences in real time, following a continuous hypocycloidal motion, inside the gallery. The images are projected on one of the walls of the room. The artist is also showing a series of stills taken with the automaton.

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During his presentation at the festival, the artist explained how the work is Inspired by the now almost ubiquitous surveillance cameras. According to Dufaux, surveillance cameras have something in common with the daguerreotypes of the 19th century: both have been a bit of a shock to the public because it confronted them with a reality which had never been so blunt before. CCTV images reflect a rough and unfiltered reality. Le cosmos dans lequel nous sommes offers an experience of visuality where mediatized and immediate perceptions play with one another. The spectator and location become the object and subject of a singular "mise en abyme".

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Drop frame, Visage dans la nuit, 2009

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Drop frame, Dos aux miroirs, 2009

Dufaux comes from a fine art background which probably explains why Le cosmos dans lequel nous sommes functions so well as a sculpture.


Video by Eloi Desjardins

The work is on view until May 29 at the Joyce Yahouda Gallery.

Adad Hannah didn't have any work exhibited in the festival (unless i've missed something) but he gave an engaging presentation during Amplified Spaces, one of the festival's conferences. He shots videos which are more animated than the tableaux vivants that inspired them but are nevertheless almost totally silent and almost totally still. the Burghers of Seoul for example takes its cue on Rodin's sculpture The Burghers of Calais (1884-1895). The artists cast motorcycle couriers, the fast and humble messengers who keep the South Korean capital working, and recreated the poses and drama of the famous sculpture.

The last project he presented is the antithesis of all this patient and quiet work. It's the International Dance Party he developed together with Niklas Roy. I tried it a year ago in Amsterdam. Worked flawlessly and thank god, there was no one in the room at that time of the day to see me use it.

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Just back from the 11th edition of Elektra, Montreal's digital art festival. It's been quite an adventure to spend hours on the plane, land on a country that looks and feels a bit like the United States and hear people around me speak a very creative and poetic but sometimes difficult to grasp version of my mother language. Add to that the fact that my Summer clothes followed me right from a sunlit 25° C Tuesday to a freezing, windy and snowy Sunday. The festival itself had its surprises, starting with a full day of International Marketplace for Digital Arts at the Cinémathèque québécoise. The professional networking event consisted of 24 actors from the world of digital art giving 15 minute presentations about their practice, festival, or organization. In two sets of 3 hours and a half. Maddeningly long but worth it as i made a few great finds. First a post dedicated to 3 organizations i discovered at Elektra's Marketplace (and very soon another one about some of my favourite artworks at the festival):

Images from the city:

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Even bought me some new shoes.

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Back to business:

Irwin Oostindie presented W2 Community Media Arts, a huge media arts centre being developed in Vancouver's poorest neighbourhood. W2 hopes that technologies of creation will give a voice to and empower marginalized individuals and communities.

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Isabelle Hayeur, Fire With Fire, 2010. A video installation projected from the windows of Vancouver's W2 culture + Media House (Art Threat has a video)

Unsurprisingly, erecting a technology center right in the middle of an area that counts a high concentration of low-income families, one of the highest rate of child poverty in Canada and countless homeless people and drug addicts is a big challenge.

By breaking the digital divide, W2 also hopes to creating a platform for cross-cultural dialogue, with first nations peoples for example.

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(image credit: Cam in Van)

The center is located on the ground of Woodwards, a Vancouver landmark. Before its demolition, the famous department store in Canada was recognizable from afar by the big red "W" that topped its building.

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Right now the organization is distributed over a series of sites. One is used as a festival and conference venue. In September, W2 is opening a 8,800 sq ft community media arts centre with a cafe, community FM radio station, cable TV station, fibre optic streaming web channels, printing press, media labs, performance space, open web, mobile and networked culture projects.

More images and information in the W2 video:

Wayne Ashley introduced us to FuturePerfect, an initiative that explores hybrid performance practices, media forms, and artistic ideas. Big artillery for maximum impact. Ashley is also the founding director and organizer of FuturePerfect 2011, a performance festival and exhibition, planned to take place New York City during Spring 2011.

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Kurt Hentschlager, ZEE (image)

FuturePerfect's inaugural event stared ZEE, by Kurt Hentschlager. The work immerses visitors in an enclosed space filled with a dense fog that completely blurs their environment. Stroboscopic- and pulse light filters through the haze, inducing hallucinations and sensory distortions within each viewer, resulting from light (wave) interference phenomena. A droning soundscape accompanies the experience, shifting according to changes in the color, frequency and intensity of the light.

Magid Seddati presented the fantastic work he's been doing at Irisson The Center of Visual, Electronic Arts & Multimedia in Casablanca. Founded in 2006, the independent center is also organizing the International Festival of Visual Arts and New Medias (FAN), video competitions and a series of workshops for young artists. The presentation of Seddati was eye-opening. Most of us tend to assume that new media art is part of our culture but the perception and recognition of the field is very different in a country like Morocco. Despite its dynamism and energy, the festival is still in search of a public. But they're getting there!

Image on the homepage: W2.

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