12 February 2024

Nostalgia, ecology and simulacra

An Overview by Stéphanie Morissette

Artist in the visual and digital arts and a member of TOPO’s board of directors.

TOPO issued a call for proposals for its 2024-26 programming in June 2023, window display exhibition projects, co-production projects with or without an exhibition component and longer-term projects with public participation. The call was open to both emerging and established artists. The selection committee decided not to impose a theme in order to broaden the range of proposals and to take the pulse of artists exploring numerous fields of interest with a great diversity of technological tools.

The themes that arose in the fourteen projects chosen from among the sixty-four received fall under the categories nostalgia, ecology and simulacra. Several projects go beyond more than a single theme, sometimes with humour, poetry or the use of artificial intelligence.

Nostalgia is found in three projects whose starting point is an aesthetic of a 1980s arcade game. “Brume,” by Pixels Collectif, reflects the eco-anxiety of its creators. Players must put out devastating fires with a misty cloud. A kind of nostalgia is also found in the poetry translated into ASCII code in the work by Pascale Tétrault, “Je t’écris.” Finally, in “Soba’s Corner: A Chinese-Canadian Cooking Show – Snack Witch Joni Cheung,” the artist uses the humour and irony of television cooking shows to fill the gaps of a culture which has not been transmitted from one generation to the next. We will be expecting you in September 2024 to prepare dumplings.

Humour returns under the theme of simulacra in the fake documentaries by Dominic Lafontaine and Léa Boudreau, in which conjecture and a change of perspective force us to think about our relations with the other. This nostalgia and the use of humour arise in reaction to the growing presence of AI, which opens new avenues and creates anxiety at one and the same time. What does it have in store for us? What will it replace? Technology can lie, it can bring back the dead, it can keep us alive in a creative manner and leave in limbo phantoms which have only ever existed on screen, as in the work by Alfred Muszynski, “The Dynamic of No Solace.” In “Murs de chair,” Léonie Bélanger and her associate Éloi Angers-Roy seize in suspension traces of movements which give form to digital space.

AI has made it possible to create a fake documentary on a conjectured city with the work “La ville Tolédère” by Dominic Lafontaine, as well as a fake animal documentary by Léa Boudreau, which uses the perspective of small machines to observe humans. AI has also made it possible to create fake news and fake archives in the work by Stephanie Creaghan, “The Dailies 2/ Au re-voir au quotidien (2).” “Cerebellum,” by the collective CÏO, is a still life depicted as a fake depressed ecosystem with the addition of emotional and anxious artificial intelligence. AI can create images and replace artists, and can replace itself, in the video essay “Revision: Dream State” by Mick Sand. Video and AI take the form of an ouroboros. All these works make it possible to think about the value of truth and community.

Other works explore the presence or absence of humans and how they affect their environment. In their absence, we discover the fascinating behaviour of animals and plants in “Un jardin la nuit,” by Caroline Hayeur and D. Kimm. With their presence, temperatures are rising, ice caps are melting and the seasons are turned upside down in the interactive work “Écosystème Alpha” by Aude Guivarc’h. “Mirages,” by Emmanuel Jouthe, uses dance to explore the distance and disconnect we have with living things by projecting choreographies onto wooden and ceramic objects. In “Ces objets qui m’entourent,” Ann Karine Bourdeau Leduc employs everyday consumer objects she has reproduced, like vestiges of another age. These latter projects raise questions about what humans leave behind them as destructive processes on our ill-used planet accelerate.

On the program

pixels·collectif - Brume

→ Window display exhibition, March-April 2024

Art video game which casts a critical but benevolent look at our ways of life through the creation of a dystopian future.

Aude Guivarc'h - Écosystème Alpha

→ Window display exhibition, May-June 2024

A living and interactive sculpture of a mountainous relief. A portion of a terrestrial ecosystem affected by its visitors.

Dominic Lafontaine - La ville Tolédère aime ses enfants

→ Web co-production residency, April-June 2024

An episodic virtual fiction created with AI via the site of the imaginary city Tolédère.

Mick Sand - Dream State

→ Creation residency with closing performance, July 2024

A video essay which reflects on artificial imagery, combining jazz and installation props.

Snack Witch Joni Cheung - Soba’s Corner: A Chinese-Canadian Cooking Show

→ Window display exhibition, September-October 2024

Video installation and performance on the connections to one’s roots through the Canadian reinterpretation of Chinese food.

Léa Boudreau - Unusual Critters : A Remarkable journey through life as we think it is 

→ Window display exhibition, November-December 2024

A multimedia installation constructed around a fake documentary on the survival of non-human beings in an anthropocentric environment.

Pascale Tétrault - Je t'écris

→ Window display exhibition, March-April 2025

Sculpture in motion, exploring the possible links between the literary and the programmed, the poetic and the technical.

Ann Karine Bourdeau Leduc - Ces objets qui m'entourent 

→ Window display exhibition, May-June 2025

A sculptural and multimedia installation of objects and three-dimensional photographic reproductions. Thoughts on over-consumption.  

Léonie Bélanger, Éloi Angers-Roy - Murs de Chair

→ Creation residency with closing performance, July 2025

Installation-performance blending dance, performance and digital art to erect fragmented anatomical frescos out of our multiplied virtual presence.

Collectif CÏO - Cerebellum

→ Window display exhibition, September-October 2025

An immersive, interactive installation featuring depressive artificial intelligence equipped with a bi-directional human-machine conversation system.

Emmanuel Jouthe - Mirages

→ Window display exhibition, November-December 2025

An augmented sculptural installation blending video and dance. Choreographic solos on organic matter.

Caroline Hayeur, D. Kimm - Un jardin la nuit

→ Window display exhibition, January-February 2026

A video installation and black and white poetry on the animal and vegetable world through nocturnal footage using infrared hunting cameras.

Stephanie Creaghan - The Dailies, 2 / Au re-voir au quotidien (2)

→ Window display exhibition, March-April 2026

A poetic and visual installation. Questioning the authenticity of television news programs and their effect on individual and collective points of view.

Alfred Muszynski - The Dynamics of No Solace

→ Window display exhibition, May-June 2026

Multimedia paintings on myths, hyper-culture and the way death is treated through new technologies.