Talks, experiments and a new working group – highlights of the third colloquium on public space

Press release - For immediate release

Montreal, March 1st, 2018 – On February 22, the I.A.rt Colloquium brought together more than 300 people to discuss and reflect on the ways in which big data and artificial intelligence can lead to new artistic and creative experiences for public spaces.

Presented by the Quartier des Spectacles Partnership, Illuminart during MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE, the Université du Québec à Montréal and the Montréal joue festival, the I.A.rt Colloquium: artificial intelligence and data serving creative work for public spaces featured talks and project presentations that demonstrated the possibilities and potential for these new technologies. Participants also had the opportunity to try interactive experiences based on big data and artificial intelligence (AI).

“The I.A.rt colloquium shed light on new artistic and technological approaches that the Ville de Montréal will now follow closely, because of their great potential to enrich public space. Our city is already positioning itself as a global hub for artificial intelligence and data science. By learning to use these technologies in creative and positive ways, Montreal will continue to stand out as a leader in both fields. It is also in our community’s DNA to bring together seemingly distant fields, resulting in significant innovations,” said François William Croteau, member of the Ville de Montréal Executive Committee responsible for the smart city, information technology and innovation.

“The I.A.rt colloquium is proof of Montreal’s incredible dynamism in the artificial intelligence field,” said UQAM rector Magda Fusaro. “The role of universities in this burgeoning area is a crucial one, and UQAM is pleased to have been able to lend its researchers’ creativity and expertise to new explorations in art and public space. The discussions during the colloquium gave us a glimpse of promising possibilities for the future, and our university is eager to pursue its work and dialogue with its partners.”

“We are particularly pleased to have brought together so many experts from such a wide range of backgrounds to discuss the creative possibilities for public spaces and the ways in which we use them as programmers, promoters and producers of cultural events, and also as citizens,” said Pierre Fortin, executive director of the Quartier des Spectacles Partnership. “The high quality of the presentations and discussions allowed us to advance our exploration of installations designed using large datasets and AI, and sparked new collaborations for future projects. The formation of the working group is particularly important to us as a way to contribute to collaboration between the industry and artists, while making the audience central to the approach. by Element AI. Photo: Victord Diaz Lamich

In all, there were 20 guest speakers, local and international experts from a wide range of backgrounds – producers, artists, developers, researchers, designers, programmers, creative studio directors, writers, engineers – who gave 11 talks and speeches on four themes: the history of AI and data used creatively; the art of data visualization; collaborative creation: the intersection of art, research and entrepreneurship; and challenges and reflections on creating with AI. The moderator for the day’s activities was Matthieu Dugal, who hosts a show about digital culture, La Sphère, on ICI Radio-Canada Première.

During the event, several displays illustrated the reach of AI in different settings. SpeechViz, a digital art installation presented by Persistance Studios, using the PopcornFX real time visual effects editor, eloquently illustrated the words and ideas discussed during the colloquium. Thanks to by Element AI, attendees were able to see a visual style of their choice applied to a video in real time, as if the AI were seeing the world through the eyes of a street artist. Lastly, Quick Draw and Sketch-RNN, two interfaces by Google, made it possible to explore machine learning and neural networks through photo and drawing recognition.

The complete program is available here.

A summary of the proceedings will be posted to our website in mid-March.

Continuing dialogue and reflection: a new AI and art working group is formed

Valérie Bécaert, research group director at Element AI, and Pascale Daigle, programming director at the Quartier des Spectacles Partnership, announced the formation of a working group aimed at strengthening collaboration between the AI industry, the arts and the creative industries. With a dozen members drawn equally from the AI field, the arts and the creative industries, the group is intended to foster reflection and discussion on ethical concerns and the challenges and possibilities suggested by this interdisciplinary collaboration. One of the group’s mandates will be to support work on the Montreal declaration on responsible AI development to ensure that it includes ethical guidelines specific to the arts and the creative industries.

The Declaration is aimed at opening a dialogue among the public, experts and public officials with the goal of quickly establishing guidelines for AI development to ensure that it remains consistent with community values and leads to true social progress.

HUB Studio and Civilia, winner of the Creative Challenge – Data Visualization for Public Spaces

During the colloquium, four finalists presented proposals for sound-and-light based art installations using datasets from the BIXI bike-sharing network and the city’s public transportation service, the Société de transport de Montréal. The challenge was hosted by the Quartier des Spectacles Partnership and Illuminart. HUB Studio and Civilia were awarded a commission with a production envelope of up to $75,000 for the creation of an installation to be presented during Illuminart 2019.

“Discussions around the use of big data and artificial intelligence as creative tools have entered a new phase thanks to the establishment of a working group that will enable productive dialogue between creators and AI specialists. Starting in 2019, as part of MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE, projects based on these new tools will be produced and presented in public spaces. We are proud to provide a showcase for artists and to contribute to the success of innovative new projects, while promoting our local talent across Canada and around the world,” said Mikaël Frascadore, vice president, production for l'Équipe Spectra and artistic director of Illuminart.

Influx, Hub and Civilia, by Jeremy Fassio, Antonin Gougeon, Thomas Payette, Xavier Prudent.

Influx is a living sculpture based on analysis of data generated by the BIXI bicycle sharing service. The luminous installation is a system that visualizes trips made with the system’s bikes. Viewers can see how people get around on two wheels as the installation’s pulsing lights provide a dynamic, energetic picture of human movement in Montreal.

The finalists:

Voxel, Studio Studio et cie
François Antonin Gaud, François Guinaudeau, Pierre-Luc Lecours, Sarah Ouellet, Tyler Sloan

Rayonnement, Ensemble Ensemble
Jonathan Bélisle, Franck Desvernes, François Pallaud, Marianne Prairie

Frédérique Beetz, Christophe Godon, Nathanaël Lécaudé, Aurore Leloup, Olivier Maurice, Camille Renaud, Chloé Wong


The Quartier des Spectacles is Montreal’s cultural heart, boasting North America’s most concentrated and diverse group of cultural venues. The district is the year-round host to countless festivals and events, many of which include free outdoor shows and activities. The Quartier hosts innovative urban installations involving cutting-edge lighting design, immersive environments or interactive digital spaces. Year round, the Quartier presents artistic video projections on several building façades.  The Quartier des Spectacles is a showcase for new multimedia technology, making Montreal a global leader in the urban exhibition of digital content.

The Quartier des Spectacles Partnership, founded in 2003, is a non-profit organization with more than 60 members active in the district. It is responsible for animating the Quartier des Spectacles by programming cultural activities, managing and animating public spaces, providing distinctive illumination, and promoting the Quartier as a must-visit cultural destination. The Partnership is supported by the Ville de Montréal and the Secrétariat à la région métropolitaine of the Ministère des Affaires municipales et de l’Occupation du territoire.

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