Montreal is a fascinating city, the perfect home for Mutek, a festival which I can only compare to Barcelona’s Sonar festival for it unique setting and electronic music focus. The first thing I learned about the city is a key pastime of its inhabitants a hundred years ago was magic shows, having visited the quite amazing illusions show at the McCord Museum of original posters for show for early magicians, a setting I learned where Houdini was in fact thrust the fatal punch that killed him. The AV shows of Mutek were a modern kind of magic not least the giant light string performance which became an illusion of light.
Place des Arts was a fantastic place to have work exhibited at the Subversion of Reality Exhibition. The Mutek team were wholly supportive to my artistic vision for Gendered Voice my binaural radio hats, which many encountered. Full details at this link
It was Montreal’s birthday alongside Canadas as well as the 50th anniversary of Expos 67. Meaning a host of retrospective events and exhibitions meant this was a key time to experience the city from many perspectives, all of which were deeply fascinating. Specifically, new work commissioned by the Museum of Modern art that reflected on the expo some specific favourites were a drone journey that took you around the journey of the original sky train by David K Ross, revisiting highlighted that much of the once futuristic spaces were now derelict non-spaces. I also loved a playful series of photographs of architecture around the city that could have been influenced by the international pavilions. It got me looking for some and I was pleased to find remnants from the expo almost hidden on a metro underpass. Caroline Martel’s remixed collage of 67 expo films were also great to experience in Place des Arts with amazing sound tracks one by Bruce Hack for a film by Jim Henson was great to experience.
My summer has also been influenced by Buckminster Fuller, having lived in a geodesic dome before I arrived, I was very excitement to revisit his expo structure in this light and was amazed to learn about all the environmental damage that was caused when the site was contrasted. That DTT was poured in the river and the air pollution that was caused when its inner structure burned down.
The city buzzed with festivals Pride, Reggae and a fashion festival all occurred whilst I was there and left unique footprints around the city. Talks at Mutek considered the Musical City and what that means.
Whilst exploring the old town, I came across Rufus Wainwright rehearsing in a church, I sat huddled next to prayer candles and was brought to tears by an intimate Lennard Cohen rendition a man who has left an indelible mark on the city. Recent attacks in Europe made Canada feel like a haven and the very fact that a free 80.000 free outdoor concert could occur to celebrate Montreal’s 375 birthday. I strolled up the nearby Mountain, as locals call the very steep hill almost a mountain in the city and watched a full run of the performance with three orchestras the night before with just 50 people watching 300 on stage wonderful.
In a way Mutek is a kind of modern day expo for electronic musicians and creatives from around the globe. They pack so much in it was hard to see it all. I really enjoyed artist Rafael Lozano-Hammer talk about his practice in relation to Mexico technological history. Several female performances stood out to me as they seemed to push the boat on unique performances, especially the Myrian Bleu her ‘Soft Revolvers’ were spinning light discs that sped up and slowed down like records with samples but looked like alien lightships. AV musical performances in the stunning theatre and a 360 projection dome also gave me a unique perspective on this growing art form.
It was also great to meet and talk to lecturers and artists such as Chris Salter and researcher and curator Monika Gagnon from Concordia University. Chris took us on a tour of the research clusters at the Milieux institute for arts culture and technology inspiring to see how they work across disciplines. Milieux institute for research-creation is an umbrella programme at Concordia which brings together researchers from 7 clusters: Post Image, Indigenous Futures, Speculative Life, Textiles and Materiality, Community and Differential Mobilities, Technoculture, Art & Gaming and Media History.
I also loved the botanic gardens which for me is a whole kind of different AV show, and was a very good way to clean my palate for the spectacular final night time shows. I am still absorbing my time in this wonderful city and am sure the myriad of experiences I was lucky enough to absorb will come back in creative and unusual ways and look forward to reconnecting with some of the amazing people I met.