Gravitation: the generative work now illuminating the Quartier des spectacles

January 11, 2024

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Luminothérapie remains in full swing in the Quartier des Spectacles until March 10 this year, lighting up the neighbourhood in thousands of dazzling colours. Among the works in this year’s event is a video projection called Gravitation. The world-premiere work transforms itself based on weather data from the previous 24 hours. We spoke with its creators, visual artist Céline Bellehumeur, a.k.a. Féline B, and programmer Samuel Tremblay of Rodeo FX, who told us all about the futuristic work.

By Sébastien Tétrault

Gravitation brings a dash of sci-fi to the Quartier des Spectacles. Was that your original intention?

Féline B: I wanted to create an atmosphere, and in fact I did take inspiration from the aesthetics of retro-futuristic films and science fiction movies. That was already part of my artistic approach to creating fictional and imaginary environments. So I was able to use my usual process while working with this year’s Luminothérapie theme, the cosmos, without changing my usual approach. I had all the creative freedom I needed for this project.

Did the project evolve much from original concept to final work?

Samuel Tremblay: At the very beginning, space and gravitation were not part of the plan. Our basic idea was to use Féline B’s compositions as the basis for a projection. The theme of the work emerged through our discussions, when Céline and our team started talking about the cosmos and the idea of a transition from chaotic space to ordered space.

F.B: Yes, the process was fluid. But I feel that the final result is consistent with what came out of our very first brainstorming session at Rodeo FX. We came up with the core ideas quickly, and when we did final testing back in mid-November, I was surprised to see how quickly our work had taken shape and come to life. The result is just what I was hoping for!

S.T: My impression is that a new work came out of the process, and even if we weren’t expecting it, I would say that it emerged on its own in a sense. That, to me, is the most astonishing part of the project.

Can you briefly describe what the public can expect from Gravitation?

S.T: Gravitation is a projection that lasts six minutes, during which we see a constant transition between order and chaos. What’s fascinating is that the elements that generate chaos are also those that eventually re-establish order. The sudden passage of moving background elements to the foreground changes the viewer’s perception of the work by creating a visual surprise.

How did you perfect that effect?

S.T: It was our first time working with an artist’s “authentic” content and we had to go through a number of steps: from arrays to vectors, to 3D, to animation, to the generative element, to the large-scale projection. Gravitation was made from the original creations of Féline B, but it’s also a generative work that changes based on data from a pair of weather stations, one in Esplanade Tranquille and the other in Place des Festivals. The compressed data influences the colours displayed, the motion of the elements and even the oscillating perspective. So even though the work plays in a loop throughout the day, it is also ever-changing. No two viewings are the same.

Is that what makes it a “generative” work?

S.T: Typically, a generative work relies on artificial intelligence. Gravitation might better be described as semi-generative, because it is based on the creations of Féline B. We transposed her images into a 3D world, then used software called Touch Designer to create the algorithms we needed. While we use weather data to shape the final presentation, we also maintain significant creative control.

What were the challenges facing the project?

F.B: My first challenge was to harmoniously adapt my compositions to a very specific and distinctive architectural setting. The façade of UQAM’s Pavillon Président-Kennedy is atypical in that it has numerous elongated windows. Colour is also an important part of my compositions. For this project, I had to create an interesting palette based on three different core palettes – cold, hot and warm – and that was not easy.

ST: For me, the big challenge was the complex transition from the infinitely small to the infinitely large. We work on small, 14- or 15-inch screens that don’t give you at all the same impression as a building-scale projection. So the compositions, as well as the movements more generally, are hard to “feel” before we see them on-site. That’s why we did so much testing. Fortunately, software like Touch Designer allows us to make adjustments in real time, so we were able to make a co-creation very quickly.

FB: I was used to painting on canvas or paper, using digital tools only for preliminary sketches. When I think about the extreme simplicity of the sketches for this work, I can say that the Rodeo FX team really did an incredible job of bringing the piece to life! The collaboration was amazing. Our particular talents complemented each other every step of the way.


Part of the 14th edition of Luminothérapie

Until March 10, 2024
Façades of Pavillon Président-Kennedy at UQAM and the WILDER Building – Espace Danse