Fêting our Future Past and the Future of the Future

September 25, 2019
Fêting our Future Past and the Future of the Future

Two decades of pursuing and lauding the presentation of live electronic music and real-time audiovisual arts felt like a roll of the dice in 2000, but now, these forms have matured into vibrant, dynamic and truly contemporary sounds and sights. MUTEK’s unwavering commitment to this milieu has gone on to spawn a constellation of other editions, while establishing Montréal as a nexus for local talent and international rendezvous.

We are already anticipating our next chapter, and invite you to join us, August 25 to 30, 2020—as we chart a new course for the future of the future!

Edition 20 By The Numbers

  • More than 65,000 festival entries during 6 days 

  • 153 artists from 26 countries involved in 90 live and audiovisual performances, across 17 different programs, including 13 Canadian, 18 North American and 17 world premieres

  • Over 300 industry professionals, promoters and festival directors in attendance

  • More than 3,000 entries and 116 speakers for the 37 professional activities of the Forum IMG program

  • Over 1,800 entries for the 37 daytime activities part of the free Digi Lab program and Sonic Circuits Showroom

  • 30 digital and analog artworks spread over four venues, for our first exhibition, including the ISM Hexadome installation at MAC

Program Highlights

Every year we are honoured and humbled by the artists who rise to bring their finest, and often most unique performances to MUTEK. There were so many highlights communicated to us—and so many different predilections and preferences among festival-goers, that while it’s impossible to be definitive or thorough, we did want to point out a few things that popped for us. 

Opening concert

Taking control of the audiovisual machine that is the PY1 Pyramid at the Old Port, Robert Henke aka Monolake and Montréal’s visual wiz Diagraf plunged festival-goers into a bath of surround sound vibration and dazzling hi-tech laser and video for two performances that launched the 20th edition.

A/Visions

Tim Hecker and Konoyo Ensemble haunted the Place des Arts' Theatre Maisonneuve with a harrowing mix of ancient Japanese court music wrapped in 21st century electronic tapestries; Ryoichi Kurokawa mesmerized with his meticulous and moving 3D renderings of ruins, Loscil drew us into his atmospheric terrain with deep ambient and monochromatic visuals inspired by early 20th century photographer Alfred Stieglitz; while Italian collective fuse* conjured spells that produced a moving and poetic narrative with their mix of music, projections and the otherworldly motions of their dancer. 

Nocturne

Alternating venues between Agora, MTELUS and 7 Doigts Studios, the Nocturne series—the backbone of the festival’s exaltation of live contemporary electronic music in its multitude of forms—Tuesday’s program was a pop-electronic cabaret that welcomed the once-shrouded-in-mystery Lithuanian duo Domenique Dumont whose live versions of their beloved balearic songcraft charmed everyone. On Wednesday the focus shifted to audivisuality, and local artist Lucas Paris debuted a brand new work that fused perfectly the self-programmed genetic codes of his music with a unique new visual signature. American duo Matmos owned the stage to close the night, with their animated, joyful and profound performance based on sampled plastics, with all the political and climate-focussed implications very much intact.

Crédits: Bruno Destombes

Filling the MTELUS on Thursday night with 6 continuous, all-improvised hours of live electronic jamming, Circle Of Live with Dorisburg, Johanna Knutsson, Mathew Jonson, Matt Karmil and Sebastien Mullaert provided an ecstatic, undulating techno-dream-soundtrack. Thursday night, Gudrun Gut stole the show with her charismatic presence and performance— and this following a deep lesson in texture and composition from Jan Jelinek. Techno reverberated through the auditorium on Friday night, with Lotus Eater (Lucy & Rrose) delivering a ferocious live set, and Veronica Vasicka, pinch-hitting for a last minute cancellation brought a set that rose well beyond the call and sent festival-goers into another realm altogether. 

Crédits: Bruno Destombes

Gene Tellem’s debut live set opened the floor for beats from all angles Saturday, including Jlin, Nicola Cruz, and the show-stealing, energetic funk of Wajatta (Reggie Watts & John Tejada). Canadians and local heroes dominated Sunday’s denouement—with the debut performance of Guillaume Coutu-Dumont’s polyrhythmic almost-jazz ensemble Auflassen, the vivacious betwixt-techno-house closing set from ex-Montréaler, current Berlin-resident The Mole downstairs—and precocious local artist Priori wrapping up the night upstairs with his playful and snappy grooves. Abtracted breakbeat and reggaeton from Beta Librae and the extended, techno-esque techniques of Norwegian sax player Bendik Giske also distinguished themselves.

Motion

Red Bull put their heft behind two programs that brought a panorama of sounds from around the world: Sinjin Hawke & Zora Jones mixed their glossy new audiovisual concept with their hi-tech club-derived dynamism and Ouri laid down a live set of her soulful, musicianly new songs. On Saturday, Rashad Becker and Ena delved into mesmerizing and minute sonic details and Overmono’s modular tinkerings burst into a frenzy of ingenious rhythms.

Play

The place for imagination to run wild, the Play series hosted unique and adventurous sets from Stephanie Castonguay and her hacked digital scanners, CLON X NWRMTCC performed their cyberpunk, simulated world A/V, Meta, Kathy Hinde enchanted with her Twittering Machines and eco-themes, and Ben Shemie took off in directions that harnessed voice and feedback to arresting effect.

Expérience

The outdoor stage exploded on Wednesday with a full menu of Latin flavours, culminating with a big congregation for the free DJ set of Ecuador’s Nicola Cruz. A 20-year circle was closed with the brand new set from Montréal’s microhouse genius Akufen, Dust-e-1 and Pick a Piper picked up accolades for their spirited beat-work, and Johanna Knutsson brought a full arsenal of ambient weapons to Sunday’s opening spot. 

Crédits: Myriam Ménard

Forum IMG

Integrating the fifth edition of IMG into the festival week for the first time—rather than as an off-season event, proved to be an enriching and expansive decision, concentrating wide-ranging content, and audiences inside the whole MUTEK framework. Douglas Rushkoff’s standout opening keynote set the table with his candid and humanistic prescriptions for living in these digital times; social and ethical revelations behind artificial intelligence came from Rumman Chowdhury and Jason Lewis & Suzanne Kite and HOLO’s critical panels and workshops gave voice to urgent political and environmental issues. Lively discussions around innovation and digital art in museums stood out, and the XR Salon with its panels on mixed reality creation, funding and distribution proved the relevance of this ever-evolving new medium.

Crédits: Bruno Destombes

Amplify

We were thrilled to host the second cycle of the British Council initiative dedicated to women in digital arts and electronic music during the festival.

28 women from Canada, UK, Peru, Argentina, Mexico and Japan comprised the Montréal cohort—as performers, exhibition artists and conference participants. The project goes on, with stops for several of the cohort in Argentina and Peru this fall, and then on to Somerset House in the UK in the spring.

Exhibition

Imagining Our Digital Futures was the most expansive and realized exhibition of audiovisual works ever mounted by MUTEK, and we were thrilled to host the North American premiere of Robert Henke’s Phosphor installation, a series of VR works including the award-winning Ayahuasca by Jan Kounen, and ISLAND by Olivia McGilchrist, the commission of Allison Moore’s Cloud Bodies, the very first video mapping work in Joanie Lemercier’s new series Rooms, and Vincent Morrisset’s interactive Vast Body. The audiovisual installation ISM Hexadome that ran for 3 weeks at the MAC allowed for the creation of an original commission and live performance by Herman Kolgen, while also hosting experiences by a number of well-known sound and visual artists.  

 
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