Last night I saw Martin Messier’s Projectors at Montreal’s annual Elektra festival. The festival “unites creative media, such as music, video, cinema, performance, design, gaming and audio or interactive installation combined with the latest digital technologies.”
Messier is one of the ambassador of the Montreal Digital Spring (Printemps Numérique) and he dares to rescue older technologies from the junkpile, in order to treat them as accomplices in his work. The Elektra program describes the show as « a surgical work of art…offbeat, unfamiliar and incongruous, this performance leads the public to a timeless universe, somewhere between dialogue, confrontation and technological contrast. »
Projectors is strange, interesting, self-conscious, overwhelming. Martin Messier has created a symphony using layers of sound, his own movements, and projections. He appears to be operating the projectors, but it all comes from the men in the back pushing buttons and twirling knobs. And so his trajectory between the projectors – and the sometimes dramatic moves are as much part of the performance as the sounds they appear to make. It’s quiet, then overwhelmingly loud. Grrrrrrrinding sounds of construction drills, the sound of the gumball machine, the whine of what sounds like a massive bee – we the audience are immersed in it.
For me this is an art that is focused almost entirely on form and process – about pushing the boundaries of the way we see and treat objects by manipulating them into uses they never had. That in itself is interesting, given that we live in a culture of buy-it-use-it-break-it-throw-it-out. After all, don’t we look down on old technologies, almost embarrassed at having relied on them at all, given the coolness of our latest new toy? It isn’t necessarily a pleasant experience. It assails the senses, demanding to be experienced, and heard, paid attention to. It’s a modern, technology-soaked pantomime of 3 projectors and a man.
The Elektra festival is on this weekend, until May 17th.