Summarize the past year of activity (Sept. 2007-Sept. 2008). What did you think were your main accomplishments? What you did, how, with whom, what were the results? Please be detailed.
UpgradeMTL was far less active this year, the last local activities of the node having taken place in the Fall of 2007.
In September through October 2007, tobias c. van Veen curated the espaceSONO :: audio.listening.lab at the SAT (Society for Arts and Technology) Gallery. The lab consisted of a headphone listening environment designed to facilitate different bodily responses to sound-art. EspaceSONO brought together forty artists from ten countries, each of whom offered a unique foray into sound. Many of the artists were affiliated with a local node of the International Upgrade network, and the exhibition followed from the ‘audio.listening.lab’ presented at UIOC 2006.
At the end of October 2007, UpgradeMTL organized two events in collaboration with Artivistic 2007, “un.occupied spaces." The first was a roundtable discussion at OBORO’s media lab on the theme “What is Natural Space?” Five artists discussed how their work opened up a space to critically reflect on the relationship between the environment and technology. The artists were Susan Coolen (CA), Jean-Pierre Aubé (CA), Andrew Chartier (CA), Peter Cusack (UK) and Kayle Brandon (UK). The panel was mediated by Anik Fournier and tobias c. van Veen.
The second collaborative event was a collective sound jam at the SAT presenting the results from a three-day workshop during Artivistic on sonic ecology. The local and international artists were Chris Delaurenti (US), Peter Cusack (UK), Eric Powell (UK/CA), Humdinger (Mik'mag, Listuguj), and esther b (CA). Both events were well attended by both a local audience and the international participants from the Artivistic gathering.
For the remainder of the year, UpgradeMTL went into hibernation mode at the local level while continuing to be active in other projects and at the international level of the Upgrade network. Studio XX hosted UpgradeMTL’s participation in the Économie 0 event, which was organized by the Paris node. The participants in Montreal were Crystelle Bédard, Grégory Chatonsky, tobias c. van Veen and Cato Pulleyblank.
Finally, UpgradeMTL participated in Chain Reaction, the 3rd international gathering in Skopje, Macedonia through an installation and series of workshops and parallel events (with co-participants in Budapest, Belgrade, and Warsaw) organized by members of the Imaginary Boarder Academy, and coordinated by Sophie Le-Phat Ho and Anik Fournier (Accustoming Canadians to Sublimation). Tobias c. van Veen participated remotely through a video installation and intervention carried out by his colleagues on site (Chain Letters of Reactionary Love). With hindsight we have decided that for future international gatherings we will exhibit work or plan one event on a much smaller scale in order to better participate in the many activities organized by the other Upgrade nodes at the gathering.
Compare it to your last year plan. What challenges did you encounter?
If we compare this year’s activities to the previous years, we were far less active in number of events, though quite active in engaging a wide range of artists on the international and local levels. Due to other projects undertaken by all three organizers we did not have the time nor the energy needed to organize events on a regular basis (i.e., “collective burnout” after organizing consistent events for four years running). We also felt the need to step back and rethink what format and mandate the UpgradeMTL node should take in order to contribute in a productive way to the rapidly developing scene for art and technology in Montreal. With monthly gatherings and discussion platforms being organized by Dorkbot and Share, among others, we discussed the possibility of moving towards a more intervention-like format based upon the success of the yearly involvement in Art’s Birthday on January 17th. We also wanted to see how we could engage further with the international aspect of the network by offering UpgradeMTL as a window onto the wider network for local artists, given the success of espaceSONO. Yet, again, due to time constraints and other projects, as well as a lack of sustainable funding and changes in staff at the SAT, these two ideas were not fully explored in practice in 2008.
Have you contributed or developed the international network? If so, how did you do it?
In 2007-2008, UpgradeMTL brought together international artists through espaceSONSO audio.listening.lab, participated in Économie 0 and the international Upgrade gathering in Skopje. Ana Valdes, who participated in the Imaginary Border Academy project in Skopje, joined the international Upgrade Network.
Would you consider changing the format or way you are running your node?
Yes, as explained above, we are currently thinking about what needs or gaps exist in Montreal with regard to the art and technology scene that UpgradeMTL could work on or help to bridge.
Are you planning to run it next year?
No. The local activities of the node will go into hibernation.
Do you still feel at home at the institution that is hosting the node?
The Society for Arts and Technology [SAT] was UpgradeMTL’s first host venue. Venerable staff member Hughes Monfroy, who has been with us since the beginning, moved on from SAT in 2008, providing something of a closure with the space. In the last couple of years we have enjoyed moving around and exploring new sites and audiences, including OBORO, Studio XX, La Centrale, McGill University and Hexagram (an inter-university research platform). When we start up again, we want to continue exploring different spaces and publics.
What kind of scenes did you tap into in the last year? What else would you like to explore?
Last year, we participated with local events that we felt had overlapping mandates and interests. In general we like to work thematically for each event and this has lead to collaborations with university departments, artist-run centres, various cultural communities, and activists. As stated above, in the future we aim to undertake interventions in alternate spaces in order to map out new trajectories and publics for the technology arts in Montreal.
What are your goals for next year?
As stated above, we have no immediate plans for the coming year. We’d all like to get some more sleep and finish our degrees.
From all corners of the planet,
Anik Fournier, tobias c. van Veen & Sophie Le-Phat Ho