The Quartier des Spectacles moves to the MUTEK beat

May 25, 2015

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For the 16th straight year, the MUTEK digital arts festival is back with plenty to delight festivalgoers’ eyes and ears. The event is fully in tune with Montreal’s creative drive and the energy of the Quartier des Spectacles, which provides a massive playground for the event’s artists. Indoors and out, MUTEK will make digital art accessible to audiences of all kinds.

We spoke with Alain Mongeau, MUTEK’s artistic and executive director.

What is the state of Montreal’s digital arts scene?

Montreal is doing well in the digital arts, because for nearly 20 years people have been working hard to create a dedicated environment for digital audio-visual performance. Today, with initiatives like the Digital Spring, which help bring everyone together around digital art, we can now say that there’s a compelling critical mass of artists and that audiences have embraced them. There is something really powerful happening in Montreal even if there is still plenty of work to be done. We have passed several important milestones, and MUTEK is representative of that success.

How has the festival evolved?

Every year, we take bigger steps. To give just a couple of examples of how the festival has evolved, there was our first big outdoor concert in the Place des Festivals, by Señor Coconut in 2010; there was our adoption of the Musée d’art contemporain (MAC) as a venue last year during our 15th anniversary, when the museum put us front and centre. We will be back this year, with our festival headquarters in the museum as well as one of our concert series happening there. It’s also worth noting that our A/Visions series used to be held in a variety of venues, but this year it will all happen at Place des Arts. These are all very positive developments! I would say that MUTEK is perfectly in sync with how the Quartier des Spectacles is progressing.

Tell us about the festival’s 2015 program, including the Play series to be presented at the MAC.

For five days, MUTEK will present a huge range of digital audio, musical and visual works organized into several series. There are relatively specialized series like Play, as well as some for more general audiences, including the free outdoor stage on the Parterre and the concerts at Métropolis.

With Play, which is free, audiences will discover new artists who transport us into utterly unique worlds where experimentation rules. After all, one of our mandates is to bring artists and new audiences together.

What can we expect in terms of ambiance and music on the Parterre of the Quartier des Spectacles?

The experience will be similar to what we organized last year on the Place des Arts Esplanade, but on a larger scale. There will be a stage, patios, a bar and food trucks. On Thursday and Friday starting at 5 p.m., the program will feature a concise version of the whole festival experience with local artists like Mathew Jonson, Project Pablo and OJPB. Saturday and Sunday starting at 3 p.m., it will be more of a party atmosphere with visiting artists and DJs like Nortec Collective, Dewalta & Shannon and Kode9 taking the stage. These will be signature MUTEK evenings in terms of the audio and visual environment, and also in terms of the audience, which includes many Montrealers as well as plenty of visitors from Canada and around the world. It’s a uniquely MUTEK atmosphere that people can experience outdoors.

Any recommendations for shows to attend?

Quite a few! I will mention three that represent the breadth of the digital creation experiences people can enjoy at MUTEK.

Nocturne 2

Thursday, May 28, 9 p.m.
Musée d’art contemporain

This evening, which truly embodies the research and experimentation side of MUTEK, will be dedicated to light in every form. Takami Nakamoto will present the world premiere of Reflections, a work combining electronic music, video projections and lighting. The same evening, Atom and Robin Fox will return to the festival with Double Vision, an all-new audio-visual collaboration.

Ballet électronique

Friday, May 29, 7:30 p.m.
Théâtre Maisonneuve

Part of the A/Visions series, Ballet électronique includes two pieces by Japanese choreographer Hiroaki Umeda in which the dancers’ movements trigger lights, lasers and video projections. I am not a big dance aficionado, but Umeda’s work creates a completely novel world that goes far beyond dance and music. It’s a very interesting and interactive form of multidisciplinary integration.

Nortec Collective

Saturday, May 30
Parterre of the Quartier des Spectacles

The Nortec Collective, a Mexican big band that combines Mexican and electronic music will return to the festival for a free outdoor concert. This is the last chance to see them, because they’re on their farewell tour. I hope families and the curious, especially those who are not very familiar with MUTEK, will come out for the show. I’m sure everyone will enjoy this festive hybrid band.


May 27 to 31