Over 12 editions now, Quebec city's Mois Multi festival has been revelling in the crossbreeding of contemporary sights and sounds
Deanna Radford - March 30, 2011
Just over a decade ago a number of festivals began to emerge across Canada that were dedicated to presenting burgeoning and longstanding forms of exploratory and electronic music as well as multidisciplinary art, sound art and electronic art. Rooted in the artistic and musical experiments carried out at the beginning of the twentieth century, this particular wave of festivals is dedicated to showcasing art in all these different forms, both high- and lo-tech. Some of these festivals include New Forms in Vancouver, send + receive in Winnipeg, Sound Travels in Toronto and in Québec: Elektra, MUTEK, Suoni Per Il Popolo and Mois Multi. Fulfilling a need for dedicated presentation spaces for artists to experiment, these festivals are integral to the work of local and national artists. Simultaneously casting an international net to bring artists and opportunities for exchange and collaboration, these festivals most commonly run on surprisingly modest budgets.
Enter Recto-Verso's - Mois Multi, a twenty-five year old Québec City arts organization whose aim “is to support and promote the research, creation and dissemination of multidisciplinary” art. Mois Multi is its annual festival, which celebrates its twelfth year in 2011. Artistic Director Émile Morin explains that one of the challenges in presenting a multidisciplinary festival “...is to still be good! <Laughing> Because you know, I'm doing [this] job for twenty five years. I know the ground, I know the Québec ground, and the practice [has seen] really many things happen. There's really talented young people around and I believe to merit the money we get, the existence we have now, is to continue to have to prove yourself.” Cross this challenge with a modest budget that you are “trying to grow with this and evolve with,” and you've got a recipe that will keep many festival organizers on their toes!
Speaking to the heart of Mois Multi’s operations, Morin also says; “You have to have a reason that reflects not that you [exist] for twenty years; that you have to stay. If I was feeling that I had nothing else to show, I would be the first to pull the plug.”
Photo by Caroline Gagné
Defining another component of what makes his festival tick; Morin explains why festival programming is named each year: “It's a conceptual approach around which all the projects are for me related. All the projects - I like to think that they talk to each other, really.” In 2011, the theme is Sonoptique. “It talks about l'art hybrid. Hybrid art. What we describe is what we show over the years and the idea, that deep multidisciplinary approach that artists have.” With that, the 2011 festival line-up includes innovative artists from Québec and around the world: Cod.Act, Jean-Francois Cote, Robin Dupuis, Takayuki Fujumoto, Tsuyoshi Shirai and Takeo Kawaguchi, Caroline Gagné, Herman Kolgen, Lemieux/St-Onge/Parent/Tellier-Craig, Philippe Leonard et Else, Martin Messier, OAO, John Oswald, Chris Salter, Atau Tanaka and Adam Parkinson, Takao Kawaguchi, Verdensteatret and Zimoun.
Underlining the importance of maintaining production values and innovation over the notion of exhibiting high tech works simply for the sake of high tech, Morin says; “a good amount of work that is presented in the same time that are, for me, really avant garde work. Some of them [are] really new technologies. Maybe a bit less, but it doesn't really matter with me but I feel that new approach, new works, a new way of doing things and inviting people approaching art so, it's a good gathering of pieces.”
Looking back at the history of the festival, Morin explains the evolution of the multidisciplinary at Mois Multi. “The place we gave came really fast and it became really fast the festival for multidisciplinary art and electronic art. So, it has evolved in our way of presenting it and we think the field of electronic art is also, it's crossing, quite easily the field of what we call multidisciplinary art. In a sense [the] artists are working and mixing language and understanding what language tells when they have a subject. They have a tool [and] they cross those languages already.” Says Morin, multidisciplinary art is “really strong in Québec - the production of that approach of interlacing media and art.”
Returning to Mois Multi festival programming and its 2011 namesake (it was Ahr.ki.tek.to.nik last year), Émile Morin and his team of staff like to think of “art as experience.” He says; “it's not all immersive work but in what they see, we think that they have kind of really strong experience with what they witness and it's something else that just being [a part of] a museum piece. We like to think it that way. And Sonoptique is that. What we propose is an immersion. But, immersion in a sense, not immersive art all the time, but immersion of the public in what they see, what they think when they are here and that experience that makes the projects we do are quite special too, so we try to surprise [audiences] and create the good condition for them to be with us within that piece.”
Further building the concept of Sonptique, Morin explains that the notion of immersion adds to “creating new parameters of presentation.” He says; “It's an experience of the art of vision and the sonic experience. [This] is quite strong in the event this year. Often artists, knowing or not, they refer to cinema in some way – the mechanics of cinema. This is what we describe as Sonoptique. If you talk about [Herman] Kolgen, it's new cinema. It's a new approach. It's photo that goes to cinema. It's quite easy to make the link. If you talk about Martin Messier, for example, and his eight old sewing machines that make an orchestra – if you look at it, it is related to the mechanics of the projector in the cinema that we know. The rhythm of - the mechanics of it. People love that here. So, there's a link, but a non-direct link. For me, that strong sonic space, that trait, a space that you are within. And over the years I am fascinated by the experience of when we go to the cinema. We are captured by it, even if it's a bad film, we kind of believe everything. It's in our genes now, I don't know what happened there but, it's there.”
Mois Multi's first collaboration with L'Orchestre Symphonique du Québec took place on the final night of the festival this year as they performed the 1988 Steve Reich composition Different Trains, with video accompaniment by Herman Kolgen. The piece deals with the memory of Jewish people deported on trains to concentration camps during World War II and is a direct example of the cinematic experience that Émile Morin describes. This collaboration blends the traditional artistic form of string quartet and tape along with moving pictures as articulated by Kolgen. The ability for this emotional composition to captivate audiences is a powerful example of the kind of immersive experience Morin speaks of.
The collaboration between Herman Kolgen, Mois Multi and L’Orchestre Symphonique du Québec is a nice example of showcasing the multidisciplinary. By providing a place for this to take place, something new is made to blossom. In branching out to different communities to present innovative new works, Morin explains his philosophy; “It's a question of thinking that art should be, it's a cliché, but seen by many and I believe that the art that we try to present is the one of this period, of this era - you know, artists working with the tools of now and that's what we present. And we get a growing audience and people who don't normally go to museum, who don't normally go to art events and we get them and slowly we build that. We win ground. This is good for me.”
Moving from the experiences of audience members to those of the artists programmed on the festival, Recto-Verso and Mois Multi offer artists a residency program throughout the year out of their home-base, which is housed at Méduse in Québec City. The program allows artists to develop works as well as being given the resources needed to make it happen. Says Morin; “We have two black box rooms. One of them is about 40 feet by 40 feet, really high and they can do everything there and we try to use it as a production space. So, for example, during the festival there was a project called Mue by a trio called OAO.” And, to be able to do this, “you need a really good team. We have a great team. I mean, what I like is artists telling me “you have a really good team.” They feel that they, we do everything to present the best of their work, so this is something really, really important for us.”
In an ongoing process of invention and self-evaluation, Mois Multi responds critically to its environment of artists and attendees every year; its community. Going all out with each edition of the festival, Morin stresses that; “Every few years we question ourself; is it necessary to continue what we do, how we can do things now with what's happening around us and what we want to do. So, for me it's really important for every group to understand what they do and change over time, it's a good thing.” In the end, Morin says; “I hope [the festival] nourishes the artists in Québec City and the people who come from Montréal or elsewhere. It's the idea of the festival; it's not just showing the festival again, it's nourishing the practice of the community in some way. So all of it for me is important.”
The next dozen years or so will be an exciting time as exploratory, electronic music and art festivals like Mois Multi and others come of age. In the meantime, Artistic Directors like Émile Morin are continuing to push the envelope as an organization and in festival programming. “Every few years we question ourself, is it necessary to continue what we do, what we, how we can do things now with what's happening around us and what we want to do. So, for me it's really important for every group to understand what they do and change over the time, it's a good thing.”
Deanna Radford is a freelance and creative writer living in Montreal. She maintains her blog here:http://deannaradford.blogspot.com