Art & AI : artistic residency in research/creation and artificial intelligence


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The proposed work, L'éclat du rire, by author and multimedia artist Etienne Paquette, multidisciplinary designer and scenographer Mélanie Crespin and clown and street-performance creator Muriel de Sangroniz, charmed the jury with the universality of its artistic statement: laughter transcends borders, spans time and bridges generations.

L’éclat du rire

L’éclat du rire - Étienne Paquette, Mélanie Crespin and Muriel de Sangroniz


L’éclat du rire

L'éclat du rire is an astonishing, contagiously fun experience that reminds us that living together means laughing together. It will reveal the depth, collective nature, liberating power, and different moods, sounds, aesthetics and drama associated with simply bursting out laughing.

During the residency, the collective will explore the role of intelligent systems by training an AI to identify human laughter and respond by bouncing the sound back, or by mimicking it. Is it possible, paradoxically, to bring more humanity and poetry to our cities - or even create spaces for resistance - through artificial intelligence?

« This an exceptional opportunity for us to participate in a research and creation lab using cutting-edge technology, and to work with exceptional researchers. Our experimentation will push AI closer to the mainstream, and add a new artistic and social dimension to AI research. We are very happy, and will undertake this residency with intense interest combining seriousness, pleasure - and laughter ! »

  • Etienne Paquette, Mélanie Crespin et Muriel de Sangroniz


Artificial intelligences may be able to laugh and even cry, but they don’t need to feel amusement or sadness to do it; the sound of emotions is enough. For this artistic laboratory in artificial intelligence, we explored the role of intelligent systems in our cities by teaching an AI to identify human laughter, and to respond by replaying or mimicking the sound. In the wider context of the smart city and its optimized workings, we present the futuristic experience of a sensitive city where AI plays a disruptive role as a catalyst for emotional contrasts and interferences. Each person’s laugh is unique, but what about the laugh of an artificial intelligence taking its cues from thousands of different human laughs? Considered a pre-language vocalization, the auditory phenomenon of laughter – minus humour – has roots in the very earliest human body language. Laughter is an expression of life. What strange feelings are evoked by the laugh of an inanimate system? How does a logical system evolve in relation to what it learns from people’s emotional experience? Our research is aimed at exploring and understanding the aesthetics of laughter, the palette of emotions expressed through laughter, and possibly even the laugher’s infinite solitude. In the coming years, artificial intelligence will no doubt help make our cities more functional and better adapted to each resident’s needs. But art is not optimization; in fact, it is almost the opposite: it is play, accident, surprise, transgression and even, sometimes, subversion. It can bring people together, but it can also provoke the kind of individual self-questioning that forces people to interrupt and distance themselves. In our cities, art creates space for poetry, offers moments of respite, provokes thought about our ways of life and of living together. Can an artificial intelligence also play an artistic role in the city?


Etienne Paquette

Author and multimedia artist


Étienne Paquette takes audiences on fantastic journeys with large-scale, immersive installations that borrow elements from other art forms, such as sculpture. He is also a designer, director, screenwriter and artistic director in multimedia and museum exhibition. He has increasingly taken a transdisciplinary approach to his work, experimenting with narrative to create different ways for audiences to participate in stories, all the while guided by the principle that every work has its own space, materials, technologies, concerns and experiential qualities. Over the years, Paquette has worked independently with organizations like the NFB, the McCord Stewart Museum, Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, Space for Life and the Quartier des Spectacles. Notably, he is one of the creators of Beyond Ice (NFB/Canadian Museum of Nature, 2017), Light Bearers (Montreal Insectarium, 2015) and Megaphone (Moment Factory/NFB and QDS, Montreal, 2013). His work has been discussed in international magazines and scientific literature published by institutions such as the MIT Press, among others. Paquette holds a Ph.D. in Communication from UQAM.

Muriel de Sangroniz

Clown and street-performance creator and artistic co-director of Toxique Trottoir


BIOGRAPHY: MURIEL DE ZANGRONIZ Muriel de Zangroniz grew up in the theatre, after taking up acting at a very early age. She went on to become a playwright and director, most notably with the Théâtre qui monstre énormément, where she came into her own as a creative force. As if she were possessed by a clown, laughter has always been the key element of her work, with a clear purpose: to push art – conceived as a funhouse mirror, deforming by nature – to question our humanity in the here and now. Muriel believes in social and activist art that helps communities bond. Her pieces are situated at cultural and inter-cultural intersections, with a strong feminine element. Muriel’s life experiences have made her a citizen of the world, and she sees the effort to bridge differences, helping us learn to live together, as the wellspring of meaning in her work. After working mainly in social and cultural modes, with organizations such as the Conservatoire d’Art dramatique and the Théâtre de l’Opprimé, she finally found her true calling with Toxique Trottoir and street performance. As the organization’s founder and co-director, since 2004 she has made art that puts encounters with other people front and centre, calling on the audience to transform its reality. Through Toxique Trottoir, she has created multi-form shows for public space. Her work is informed by a desire to transform, provisionally and locally, the way people live in the city; to transcribe, in tangible ways, new resonances to everyday places. She presents shows with powerful visuals that shift our relationship with the city and daily life, opening a creative and inclusive dialogue between artists and their audience. By building a unique relationship with the audience through interactivity and audience participation, she makes art for all. Art that promotes social, cultural and generational mixing to audiences who, for the most part, rarely or never engage with the cultural sphere.

Mélanie Crespin

Multidisciplinary designer and scenographer


Mélanie Crespin is an interdisciplinary artist and designer specializing in exhibition design. For more than ten years she has been contributing to exhibition projects of every scale, touching on a wide range of subject matter.

Through her design experiences, professional relationships and sensitive nature, Mélanie has developed an original approach to scenography, centred on an exploration of the boundaries between scenography, design and art installations. Each work’s statement is subtly enriched by her contributions, encouraging visitors to read and interpret objects, spaces and artworks on multiple levels. Her work is infused with metaphor and lyricism, embodying ideas through each spatial gesture. The resulting works are immersive and emotionally rich, inspiring visitors to reflect on what they are seeing and experiencing.

During her training in applied arts and her education at the École européenne supérieure d’art de Bretagne, in France, Mélanie began her installation-based research. Her initial focus was the art of gardens and landscapes, which gave her a wealth of inspiration. While creating a garden/exhibition, she discovered the vast creative and educational potential inherent in exhibition scenography. After moving to Montreal in 2008, Mélanie refined her approach with her work with local firm gsmprjct°. She has been working independently since 2011, contributing to exhibitions that combine installation and museum design elements. She has worked with several Montreal museums, including Espace pour la vie, the Montreal Science Centre, the McCord Museum and the Montreal Archaeology and History Complex at Pointe-à-Callière. The latter two institutions won awards of excellence presented by the Société des Musées du Québec for exhibitions designed by Mélanie (“Notman, a Visionary Photographer,” McCord Museum, 2017, and “Where Montreal Began,” Pointe-à-Callière, Montreal Archaeology and History Complex, 2018). The latter exhibition was honoured this year by the Grands Prix du Design in the “exhibition design” category. In addition to her museum work, Mélanie contributes to art installations, including pieces produced by the NFB and the Quartier des Spectacles Partnership.