Eastern Bloc’s strong comeback showcases interactive technologies

Quebec City screen-based artist Baron Lanteigne’s Nature Morte 7 in 2022. In the background, artist Xuan Ye presents ERROAR!#1, a large artwork inspired by the AI Go player AlphaGo.

Technology fuses with physical interactions in Eastern Bloc’s most recent exhibition titled Techno//Mysticism. The show features four works from emerging artists who explore new possibilities for technology in their artistic practices. It is the first event to take place in the art gallery’s new space. 

“Ultimately, technology may never provide the transcendence we seek, instead operating as a pixelated reflection of our enduring quest for meaning, both inside and outside of the digital realm,” reads the opening statement of the exhibition. This excerpt sets the tone for a show that leaves visitors with unanswered questions and reflections on their relationship with the digital world. 

Located on Louvain St. in the industrial area of the District Central, the Eastern Bloc gallery is not exactly the type of business that one would expect to come across in the neighbourhood. With windows offering a view of the surrounding concrete buildings and parking spaces, the art hub feels like a little world of its own. 

Catherine Averback, production coordinator for Eastern Bloc, described the pieces of the show as “very physical, both in terms of their actual scale, and in the way that the audience is asked to interact with them.” Xuan Ye’s work ERROAR!#1, placed beside the entrance, particularly speaks to this statement. The piece is a large-scale representation of an artificial intelligence brain that has been printed on a two metre square vinyl sheet. 

The artist was inspired by the defeat of one of the most talented players of the board game Go, Lee Sedol, against an AI adversary called AlphaGo in 2016. The piece presents the immensity and complexity of AlphaGo’s brain. Ye invites visitors to get close to the work and even walk on it. A QR code grants access to an augmented reality website. Visitors are then able to experience the work and see words appear on top of it through the platform. 

By this point, visitors might have noticed constant rumbling sounds playing in the gallery. They get louder and louder when approaching the work titled O )))) Ghost Echoes ; Where Pathways Meet. The high tower-like creation features small windows to look into. To see what is presented, one must step on the sand surrounding the piece. The closer visitors get to the installation, the more the volume increases. 

Marilou Lyonnais A. created this sound installation with Etienne Montenegro. O )))) Ghost Echoes ; Where Pathways Meet is equipped with a system that detects human presence and distributes sound accordingly. The videos featured in the art creation present internet archives gathered by the artists. As explained in the presentation of the work, the piece considers the relationship individuals have to technology since it “evokes the echoes of virtual solitude and media feedback,” reads the text accompanying the art piece in the gallery.

For Averback, another aspect of the show is that “all of the works in there physicalize technology in a way that the visitor […] becomes very aware of the container and not just the content.” This reflection especially relates to Baron Lanteigne’s work, Nature Morte 7, which first shows the insides of an electronic system to the audience. 

Lanteigne assembled seven screens in a visually striking sculpture. The main piece hangs from the ceiling. Viewers first see its electronic inner workings highlighted by fluorescent lights. It features colourful digital videos at the front of the exhibit, and on the floor six illuminated screens are placed on top of a pile of cables. An abundance of bright green plastic leaves complements the work. Their presence enhances the piece title’s play on words, being Nature Morte 7, as digital representations of nature are contrasted with fake physical plants.

The Scryer, an intriguing art creation by Nicolas Lapointe, also requires visitors to get closer to experience it fully. A long and thin white marble piece catches the eye. On it are minuscule inscriptions. A microscope slowly scans the line of the text which is transmitted on a screen beside the work for viewers to read. Lapointe’s creation presents excerpts of advertisements on Kijiji that were engraved with a laser on the marble. The art piece presents an interesting duality between the meticulous work of the creator and the absurdity of the words featured in the work.

Lapointe’s work, The Scryer, features a marble piece engraved with kijiji advertisement retranscritions. VERONIQUE MORIN/The Concordian

In Techno//Mysticism, Eastern Bloc has brought together a small group of artists who all question the place given to the digital aspects of our society. As explained by Averback, the show reflects on “the ways that technology and our lives are sometimes confusingly interlinked.”

This exhibition also speaks to Eastern Bloc’s larger mission, which is aimed at supporting emerging artists and their experiments with science and technology. The art hub’s new spaces provide creators with more possibilities for workshop spaces and artistic residencies.

With this new show, the gallery offers a unique experience by balancing discoveries, curiosity, and absurdity.

Techno//Mysticism is presented until Feb. 26 at 53 Louvain St. W.


Visuals courtesy Véronique Morin

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