September 26, 2019

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Are you ready? This fall, a stroll through the Quartier des Spectacles will put you up close and personal with three interactive installations that will change the way you see the city – and yourself.

The first stop is Wind Instrument at Metro St-Laurent, next up Spectrum at Place de la Paix, and lastly, Place des Festivals for The Compassion Machine . Check them out!

Wind Instrument: a gentle musical giant

Are the sounds of the city just a cacophony? Not if you’re talking to Étienne Paquette, who’s figured out how to expose the deeply harmonic character of ambient noise. This giant instrument, made of large, colourful tubes installed outside Saint-Laurent metro station, captures the ambient soundscape and transforms it into a soothing melody. Passers-by are also invited to contribute something of themselves. They can sing into the tubes – or make simple sounds, recite Shakespeare, anything! It’s a way to “develop awareness of our impact on the urban soundscape,” as the artist puts it. In 2018, Wind Instrument won the Numix award for in situ interactive installations.

Spectrum, making your voice swirl

With this installation, which transforms each word into pulsing waves of sound and light, the artists at HUB Studio prove that speech is much more than just words. Spectrum makes the movement of sound visible, and underlines the importance of communication by restoring its concrete, tangible dimension. How does it work? It’s simple: just stand at the end of the spiral tunnel and say something. Your voice produces a wave that’s transformed into countless luminous variations that travel to the listener at the other end of the tunnel.

The Compassion Machine: generating goodness

Cities are dotted with surveillance cameras that track our every move. They record our crimes and misdemeanours, and help the authorities catch and punish us. What if we stood that on its head? That’s the idea behind The Compassion Machine, which subverts surveillance-system algorithms to analyse your predisposition for doing good and altruistic things, gauging your level of compassion. “You are 62% compassionate,” the machine announces, then invites you to improve your score by doing something empathetic in the city.

Cutting-edge artists

HUB Studio specializes in the design, staging and production of multisensory experiences. The studio creates interactive experiences leading to a new understanding of the city. While the members like to do a bit of everything, they are first and foremost storytellers who want to tell good stories. With Spectrum, first presented in Manchester in 2018 and now for the first time in Montreal, their raw material is the grand narrative of our endless communications.

Interdisciplinary artist Étienne Paquette, the creator of Wind Instrument, is passionate about the “sensitive city” concept. The what? It’s away to observe urban life through its social interactions, in their most organic form.

The five members of Ensemble Ensemble – Jonathan Bélisle, Franck Desvernes, Sylvain Dumais, François Pallaud and Marianne Prairie – are the brains behind The Compassion Machine. What makes them tick? Repurposing technology for the benefit of city dwellers, and creating spaces that encourage people to connect with each another. The Compassion Machine earned them a Numix Award nomination.

Did you know?

Wind Instrument comprises six steel ventilation ducts, up to 28 metres tall.
• The work produces 5 notes on a pentatonic scale, without semitones.
• The installation includes a microphone that captures audio at the bus stop at the corner of St-Laurent and De Maisonneuve. The instrument responds by sounding a note in the same key.

• The rings of the Spectrum installation create a tunnel effect that inspires a sense of intimacy even though users stand 14 metres apart.
• Short words are more effective than long words or sentences. Avoid “antidisestablishmentarianism.”
• In the UK, the work was installed outside Manchester United’s stadium, so most of its users so far have been soccer fans!

• The collection of videos used for measuring the user’s attitude to others includes footage of 79 people aged 5 to 90, from every part of the world.
• Ensemble Ensemble consulted a body-language specialist to refine the device’s interpretation of behaviours and facial movements detected by the algorithms.

Three interactive installations
Until October 14, 2019