Laboratory for Digital Writings
The Montreal artist-run centre TOPO is a laboratory for digital writings and creations for web, performance, and installation spaces. Its mandate is to incubate, produce, and circulate original multimedia artworks that explore interdisciplinary and intercultural hybridizations through the digital arts.
TOPO’s creative, circulation, training, and mediation activities contribute to the development of its disciplinary field, at the crossroads of the visual arts, literature, and digital media. The centre guides, supports, and produces interactive projects, receives artists in residence, and offers specialized workshops. Its dissemination component explores innovative modes of presentation for digital artworks through exhibitions, performances, publications, and circulation on the web and in local, national, and international networks.
A member of the Pied Carré group, the centre occupies a multifunctional production space open to the community and has an exhibition showcase on the ground floor of the Pôle de Gaspé, in the Mile-End neighbourhood of Montreal.
TOPO was founded in Montreal on 1993. The centre grew out of the will of its founding members to develop a structure for the organization of collective and multidisciplinary projects that integrate the disciplines of photography and literature.
With the development of digital technologies, TOPO’s mandate has naturally grown to occupy the Web as a territory of creation and dissemination. In 1998, TOPO co-produced “Liquidation, a web-audio fiction” and started its Web activity. From that point on, the organization became active in an ongoing manner in the media arts sector. Since then, TOPO has created and produced Web art projects, most of them collective, with more than one hundred artists from the fields of visual and media arts, theatre, audio, and literature.
While aiming to produce more original content for the Web, TOPO is also interested in presenting and distributing independent multimedia artworks on the Web and on disks (CD, DVD-ROM, and video). In 2001, the centre launched the “Electronic Showcase” as a space for the promotion and presentation of artistic and experimental multimedia works. In 2005, TOPO began to disseminate its Web works through publication, exhibition, and performance activities. In 2007, in partnership with Laboratoire NT2 of the Université du Québec à Montréal, TOPO initiated the “Sortir de l’écran/Spoken Screen” series, which presents media works with a performative dimension. Finally, in 2013, the organization published a major book on .(La Société de Conservation du Présent), a Quebec collective that prefigured the use of electronic networks and computer programming for art and was active from 1985 to 1994.
In Québec, TOPO is a pioneer in the field of interactive fiction and has served as an incubator for a number of visual artists, performers, and writers who want to experiment with the Web and interactive devices. TOPO occupies a unique niche in the digital arts network, distinguishing itself, notably, for its exploration of new forms of narrativity.
In spring 2014, TOPO relocated into the Pôle de Gaspé and took advantage of the move to open a new exhibition space on the ground floor, the Vitrine, where it presents media installations on a regular basis.
The Conseil des arts de Montréal recognizes the excellence of the center by naming it a finalist in digital arts for its 2015 Grand Prix.
TOPO is actively involved in its community, and the years to come offer both promise and challenges.