Please wait a few moments while we process your request
Please wait...

Contemporary Digital Art

Conservation, dissemination and market access

Rhythms of the Imagination, Technological Tools and Works
An Exhibition presented as part of Molior’s 15th anniversary

David Rokeby, Machine for Taking Time (Boul. Saint-Laurent), 2007
Jean-Pierre Gauthier, Stressato : Les serpents samouraïs (2010) Luc Courchesne, Sublimations : Homme-Femme (2014)
As part of the events surrounding Molior’s 15th anniversary, the exhibition focuses on the works of artists who develop and appropriate technology, such as it as been brought to view by the organization’s activities over the last fifteen years.

The first intuition for the exhibition was triggered by a major research project led by Greg Lynn at the Canadian Centre for Architecture about the impact of the digital on architecture, both on the production and the final works and on the conservation of works presenting a challenge for museum institutions. (1) The dynamism of Quebec’s digital art scene over the years is also worthy of a systematic study by way of an examination of the whys and wherefores of its emergence, its development and its incorporation in the contemporary art field. (2) However, the anniversary of a dissemination organization like Molior does not seem to be the appropriate occasion to do so, though we nevertheless hope to soon have the opportunity to take up this task. Meanwhile, a look back at its activities highlights the work components that it has given priority to and defended over the years, and an examination of the works’ exhibition history, including their acquisition by private collectors or museum institutions, makes it possible to understand the specificities of disseminating contemporary digital art and to identify current and future challenges.

Molior’s activities were initially based on the presentation of works by one or two artists, often working outside the established networks, but they rapidly developed into curatorial propositions, in collaboration with dissemination partners, both locally and internationally, thus opening its events to other networks beyond those specifically dedicated to digital art, a niche sector that these works are no longer necessarily confined to.

In this context the works selected by Andrée Duchaine, the founder of Molior, and Sylvie Parent, a guest curator and subsequently the organization’s artistic director from 2009 to 2014, and by other occasional collaborators, opened ways of thinking that went beyond the at times spectacular effect of technology. There propositions were more rooted in a reflection on the role of digital tools in our lives, as well as their structuring and dynamic action in a reciprocal relationship, in other words their agency. In this regard, the body, interactivity, spatial perception and duration emerged as favoured aspects of the production; the works gathered here respect this stance.

As part of the presentation of À l’intérieur/Inside at the Third Beijing International New Media Arts Exhibition and Symposium in China in 2006, Sylvie Parent selected the work Tact (2001) by Jean Dubois. As in the work Syntonie, exhibited here, this interactive video unfolds on a touch-screen interface that facilitates an encounter between a viewer and a character. In Tact, in reaction to the viewer’s tentative steps, the face of a woman becomes more defined and freezes as it squashes against the inner surface of a touch-screen embedded in a round mirror, thus exposing her to our exploratory gestures. In Syntonie, also from 2001, the gestures trigger a more narrative interaction that is not limited to an encounter brought about by the touch-screen interface, since it prompts the protagonist to make inviting gestures and expose some parts of his body in a game of erotic allusions. Moreover, the display apparatus underlines the general set up of the technical relays, notably the cables and the computer tower, which support this exchange but are in contradiction with its intimate nature.

Likewise taking an interest in the body, Ingrid Bachman showed Symphony for 54 Shoes (Distant Echoes) as part of B/R/T Le corps habité curated by Andrée Duchaine in Montréal in 2007, the same year that the work was created. By way of a mechanism, the artist here animates a set of 27 pairs of used shoes to a random rhythm controlled by a computer. The everyday movements that wore out these shoes are echoed by an absurd mechanical activity that results in an unusual sound choreography. In Family (Anxious State) shown here, the shoes’ movements intervene in reaction to the viewer’s movements, thus creating an equally strange sound ambiance, but they more directly evoke the role of the individual in a group and the at times ambiguous ties linking members of the same family.

The work Stressato: Samouraï Serpents (2010) by Jean-Pierre Gauthier, presented by Sylvie Parent at the FILE festival in São Paul in 2012, (3) is part of a similar viewer-activated sound register. As the curator states, the recourse to movement introduces new behaviours into the material world and endows matter and ordinarily immobile things with a dynamism, thereby associating them with living things, notably in regards to elements that escape our control. In this sense, the work has a disquieting character. Despite the playful aspects, the use of technology awakens, or rather reveals our anxieties before a world that appears to be in the hands of a sorcerer’s apprentice. It thereby embodies both the promises and threats that are often attributed to digital technology and tools.

On an entirely different note, as in Chevalier de la résignation infinie (2009) presented by Molior in 2011, (4) Mandala Naya of the series Le déclin bleu (2002) by Diane Landry creates a play of shadows and lights that induces a state of meditative contemplation. The circular movement of a mechanism here moves a light source to the centre of a laundry basket lined by empty plastic bottles. The shadows and light interferences created by these objects alternately unfold and retreat to a meditative rhythm in keeping with the overall composition which imitates a mandala. The motor’s perpetual movement refers to a different perception of time, one that points to a spiritual dimension. In this context, technology, the laundry basket and the empty bottles stimulate reflection on our everyday life, the place that the machine plays in it and our routines, as well as on the reduction of personal satisfaction to consumerism.

Furthermore, Molior’s various projects have also addressed the issue of our surroundings’ computerization. Luc Courchesne’s Sublimations: Homme-Femme (2014), also selected here, refers to this media environment. Between an LCD screen suspended from the ceiling and another one placed on the floor, plastic disks reflect coloured swarms of changing images of men and women. Sublimation here both refers to the transformation of the men’s and women’s respective bodies into evanescent ethereal displays and to the diversion of the sex drive, recalling the workings of advertisement. Contrary to the interactive portraits of his early career, Luc Courchesne here focuses on the opacity of the communication media. In addition, the display recreates the immersive effect of the artist’s other media environments and associates mass communication with the panoramas that these works unfold, thus inviting us to also reflect on this reality.

Much like Diane Landry’s, Machine for Taking Time by David Rokeby also has an evident meditative character that is buttressed by the fade-in-fade-out of images, randomly selected in databases built up with the input of two cameras respectively scanning Montreal towards the east and the west. The city panorama is expanded through references to various moments of the day over the course of the seasons, which modulates the colour and texture of the image. This reference to natural cycles evokes a different timeframe, one that is inscribed in the constancy of duration and is the opposite of mass communication’s media effervescence that the ambition to grasp everything from the originary device represents. The allusion to this profusion and to our image-obsessed society is also at work in Taken (2002) shown by Molior in 2007 and 2008.

Furthermore, as an introduction to the colloquium, organized as part of Molior’s 15th anniversary celebrations, exploring the specificities of disseminating contemporary digital art, the exhibition and acquisition history of the works constitutes a concrete of example of their singular path, one that is distinct from the traditional artistic path. However, preparatory research revealed that over the years large institutions have increasing made acquisitions of works with a technological component and that private collectors are also taking an interest in this art form. The works Mandala Naya by Diane Landry and Machine for Taking Time belong to museum institutions, the first to the Musée national des beaux arts du Québec since 2008, and the second was recently acquired by the National Gallery of Canada. For its part, Luc Courchesne’s work is part of the collection of Debbie Zakaïb and Alexandre Taillefer. Digital art is thus no longer confined to specialized events, on the basis of their technical components or specificity. In fact, works that involve technology form an important part of contemporary art and are now incorporated, even recognized, on equal footing with other practices by institutional exhibitions.

In regard to the development of tools, software or technology, or prototypes, which are an integral part of digital artwork production, the history and conservation of these works remains singular, particularly due to the eminently variable character of their display. This is the case for Syntonie by Jean Dubois, which adapts itself in a very particular way to its presentation context. Likewise, the work Family Anxious State by Ingrid Bachmann is also displayed in separate parts or as a prototype. The series Le Déclin Bleu by Diane Landry comprises a monotype of Mandala Labrador and an edition of three of Mandala Naya and Mandala Perrier. For its part, Machine for Taking Time by David Rokeby is embodied in another iteration, which has a different database, in such a way that the artist’s signature applies both to the apparatus under development as to the final work. The interactive installations, such as Taken by Rokeby also required monitoring software development and video processing, which are put up for sale on his website.

All these examples speak to the necessity to hold the colloquium that will follow this exhibition and set off another cycle of independent activity for Molior.

Marie Perrault © 2017 FDL

(1) The results of Lynn’s work were presented as part of a three part exhibition at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, which ended in October 2016, as well in the form of textual and audio documents which are still accessible on YouTube via the institution’s website ( and This approach has also served as a testing ground in order to develop methods and procedures to guide the incorporation of this type of work in a museum collection.

(2) Regarding the documentation aimed at the conservation of the works, the Research alliance of the DOCAM initiated a reflection, developed research avenues and trained personnel, some of who are now working in museum institutions.

(3) Festival Internacional de Linguagen Electrônica, São Paulo, Brazil.

(4) On the occasion of TransLife International Triennial of New Media Art in China.