As I walk through the center of Montreal’s largest arts and culture bug “Place des arts”, also known as “Quartier des spectacles”, I see rays of light, paint, moving shapes and colors projected onto tall buildings in the vicinity. Bleak buildings that may appear as less than enticing during the daytime hours seem to undergo a nocturnal metamorphosis by transforming into impressive arrays of color and light.
Proceeding further towards Montreal’s Mile-End borough, I see increasingly dynamic ensembles of figurative birds and leopards jump from building to building,reminding me of a sci-fi scene drawn from classics such as Blade Runner or Minority Report.
As a significant contribution to the bubbling arts scene this year, Montreal hosted the world’s first ever video mapping festival called MAPP_MTL, so as to demonstrate with confidence the richness of its multimedia scene. The co-founder, Thien Vu Dang, has claimed that he strongly believes video mapping will become increasingly used throughout the globe due to the primordial reason that this technique allows the artist to throw interactive projections onto any surface, ranging from buildings to the human body. Further, video mapping can allow the audience experience any environment at a multisensory level.
This leads us to the following question. Precisely, how has Montreal become such an impressive multimedia hub, adorned with countless studios such as the SAT and Moment Factory to international festivals like Mutek and Elektra, dedicated to engage the audience in ambitious audiovisual projects?
Multimedia represents a large part of the city’s identity, where there breeds a strong desire to create, innovate and incorporate art seamlessly into Montreal’s rich nightlife.
Moreover, if we look into recent history, we can note that there was also a boom in the VJ scene in the early 2000s that aimed to complement the local rave scene by projecting visuals in sync with the music. The well-known SAT (Société des Arts Technologiques) played an immense role in this development. Even today, the SAT functions as a multidisciplinary center for digital artists, entrepreneurs, music producers and VJs. It is also recognized by its reputable dome-shaped concert venue that attracts famous acts from around the globe. Apart from the surreal and jaw-dropping parties that the SAT hosts, It is also a school that teaches students the art of video projection mapping (VJing), as well as music production, graphic design, 3D printing and web design.
Moving along, Mutek, a platform dedicated to promoting electronic music and digital arts has certainly provided one of the most significant contribution to Montreal’s visual performance scene. Over the years, this popular festival has gathered renowned electronic musicians such as Monolake and Richie Hawtin, as well as the revered Amon Tobin who blew his audience away in 2011 with a groundbreaking audio/visual performance during the promotion of his seventh full-length studio album ISAM.
Last but not least, a prominent part of Montreal’s audiovisual scene would not have come to light without the birth of Moment Factory, one of the largest multimedia entertainment studios in the world. With its headquarters located both in Paris and LA, Moment Factory employs the world’s most talented visual artists to produce gorgeous immersive environments that leave a lasting impression on the audience. Moment Factory’s roster of household names include Madonna, Bon Jovi and Justin Timberlake, and their surreal work does not simply stop at designing concerts. The Montreal-based company designs everything from stores to product launch events, including theatres for juggernauts such as Microsoft, Disney, Cirque du Soleil and many more. Catherine Turp, an employee of Moment Factory, has firmly stated that “Montreal is a dynamic cultural city full of talented, passionate and curious artists. It also has an active underground and electronic music scene, as well thriving multimedia studios, the perfect context to present ephemeral audio visual projects”.
With all of this in mind, we can be confident in claiming that Montreal’s digital art scene is here to stay, and will continue to develop as the city becomes the cradle for the multimedia industry.
Credits: All images and videos courtesy of MAPP_MTL.