Set The Mood

Montreal-based multimedia and graphic design company Baillat, Cardell & fils sets the mood for MUTEK_IMG , transforming the event's main space at the Phi Centre.

Robyn Fadden - November 16, 2013
Set The Mood
Montreal-based multimedia and graphic design company Baillat, Cardell & fils sets the mood for MUTEK_IMG , transforming the event's main space at the Phi Centre with multicoloured light projections and lasers, and geometric shapes layered over organic animation. The result is an immersive zone as suited to discussion as it is for dancing. 
Company founders and creative directors Guillaume Cardell and Jean-Sebastien Baillat admit that MUTEK — the music, the culture, the innovative perspective — courses through their veins. As designers and artists dealing in light, contrast and colour, they’ve always drawn inspiration from electronic music, and while their aesthetic style and technological scope has evolved over over the past six years of the company’s existence, they’ve never given in to popular trends or approaches that didn’t ring true to their vision.  
That vision has come out to play in projections, live video and light installations for MUTEK in Montreal and in Mexico over the past several years (including as a spectacular addition to performances by Robert Hood, Âme, John Roberts and Efdemin at MUTEK 2013), as well as for the C2MTL conference, Elektra festival, Place des Arts, and numerous other venues. For the premiere of MUTEK_IMG, Baillat, Cardell & fils aim for an immersive peak at the event’s EXTRA_VISIONS 2 performance, alternating live visuals with fellow designers APM300, in tandem with the music of Brooklyn producer Ital .
“Even though we’ve worked with MUTEK and performed as visual artists during the festival, it always  represents something pretty big for us,” says Guillaume Cardell. “We’re coming out of a period of time in electronic music when smoke, strobe and lasers were the main visual options, and we do still like to use those, but in quite different ways. And because this is MUTEK, something different is just expected. We’re not only going for the ‘wow’ effect here, as we always do, but we’re also paying a lot of attention to the event’s context, content and, even more practically, the intimate space of its location.”
After discussion about the aesthetic and themes of MUTEK_IMG, Baillat and Cardell were given carte blanche for the space, the opportunity to be part of building an entire environment. “We’ll be using lasers throughout the room in a different way than expected, merging the video projection content with the lasers themselves, taking digital visual mapping to another level,” says Cardell explains. “One of the main key words for this project is immersion. The room isn’t huge and will be full of people, hence this combination of with light projections and lasers — the result is bright, efficient, effective and graphic.”
In setting the tone for the event, Baillat and Cardell draw from a wealth of experience: their approach to every project begins with their design team and the creation of visual mood-boards packed with artistic and architectural references, media images and doodles. “We all have specific artists we love and consciously or unconsciously reference,” says Cardell. “Graphically speaking, an inspiration to my work is [Danish-Icelandic artist] Olafur Eliasson . He takes light to an unexpected place, and though he almost never uses video, that light is always in motion. I also look at the work of Briget Riley, who was one of the most prolific and influential artists of her kind in the ‘60s and ‘70s, using black-and-white patterns and developing her craft to truly invent optical illusions.” In their own work, Cardell and Baillat choose straight and simple shapes that are recognizably strong and compelling, “but in the animation we love the randomness of the organic,” says Cardell. 
Baillat and Cardell consistently employ an approach that is both artistic and technically-minded, even in their more technologically simple but mind-altering mirror-and-light box installations. “We understand that everybody’s perception is different and we like to play with that,” says Cardell. “That stems out of exploring optical illusions as seemingly minor as a black-and-white spiral spinning: you look at it for two minutes and then look at something else and the world warps. Our brains make that happen — it’s interesting to see what our minds are capable of.” 
Their door-like installation at MUTEK 2013 appeared to open into an infinite tunnel of light. “As soon as people walked around the installation they saw that it was only 10 inches deep. Seeing and hearing them wonder what was going on in their heads, that’s when you see a smile on my face.” That love of  altering perceptions comes through in live and video performances that use stroboscopic lighting and other techniques to hypnotic effect. 
“Last year we created an audiovisual installation for the 360-degree dome at SAT and a similar dome in Mexico City,” explains Cardell. “It was only 10 minutes long, but you’d come out of the room and couldn’t quite walk straight, your eyes and your brain are trying to talk to each other but not quite connecting. With all our work, we’re not necessarily trying to transport people somewhere else, but to show familiar objects and spaces in a different way, no matter how simple or complex the tools we use to do that are.”

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