SIGHT+SOUND: a festival that expands beyond linear definitions of art

Dancing While Waiting (for the end of the world): an exhibit that makes you question the intermediate between one’s body and the inevitable apocalypse

The 12th edition of the digital art festival, SIGHT+SOUND, took place at the Eastern Bloc from Oct. 26 to 30, and performances will continue until Nov. 12.  It’s a festival that primarily aims to provide a platform for emerging artists.

The curators of SIGHT+SOUND are Sarah Ève Tousignant and Nathalie Bachand. 

After two years of moving to an online format during the pandemic, this edition of the festival comes in full force as people are able to interact with the artwork in-person once again. 

The Eastern Bloc was founded in 2007 and is an art center that brings together technology, art, and science. It provides a laboratory space, proposes workshops, and hosts exhibits. SIGHT+SOUND’s theme this year is Dancing While Waiting (for the end of the world). 

The festival is composed not only of an exhibition section but also of a series of dance performances and musical and audio works/installations. It plays between the grounds of definable and uncategorizable artwork. Venues are located all across Montreal. 

The main exhibit was packed into a small rectangular room. Upon entering, one was immediately drawn to a table on the right side of the room that was organized with a series of pillow computers and screens. 

Table at entrance of exhibit – ESTHER MORAND/THE CONCORDIAN

On the left, visitors could raise a tablet over hanging clothes, and view a green body shaped into a dress through the screen. 

Screens were installed at either end of the room, displaying videos of artists’ works. People could use headphones to listen, which created a sense of isolation from the rest of the exhibit as visitors’ eyes and ears were entirely fixated on the short video. Strange and almost human-like figures appeared on the screens. 

In the middle of the room, two large panels perpendicular to each other showed two video screenings simultaneously, while a TV lodged at an angle displayed a TV prompter. One video, tinted in red, showed a woman racing, while the other displayed dancing bodies — some drawn, and some in live-action. 


The sharp contrast of black words on the white screen offered a clear reflection of the seriousness of the statement. The text was set as a sort of conversation, discussing climate anxiety and the inability of humanity to focus on saving itself. 

The festival sought to retract individuals from their preconditioned lives surrounded by technology, and allow them to reflect on their states of servitude. It was intended to bring awareness to social spaces, and reappropriate what it means to be in contact with one another.


MURAL Festival became an “Estival” during COVID-19

Even in the midst of a pandemic, art prevails

Montreal’s MURAL Festival was founded in 2012, beginning as “a love letter from Montreal to the world” with a goal to democratize street art. It is known for its celebration of the arts, with renowned artists from all around the world contributing and showcasing their live art, music, and exhibitions.

“We are the meeting place of creative minds and we represent the festive and innovating soul of a booming artistic scene,” its website states.

Whether you’re a tourist or a Montreal native, this annual 11-day event is an excellent way for people to discover great art and artists. During a normal summer, these festivities would consist of huge crowds attending music shows, talks, performance art and more. However, this isn’t a normal summer, and the MURAL Festival adapted accordingly.

Although the usual festival was cancelled, the Estival, derived from the French word for summertime, was created in its place. The MURAL Festival believed that even with this past summer’s conditions, it was important that people still had the freedom to express themselves and for others to take time to relax and appreciate the art. Only this time, safe distances were mandatory.

So, instead of an 11-day festival, the Estival would take place during the three months of summer, without gatherings of any kind. There would still be physical street work going on, but many of the music performances and conferences were streamed online so that citizens could watch their shows safely. Guided tours of the artworks were available as well.

Towards the end of August, I picked up my camera and explored the streets of downtown Montreal in search of large, beautiful murals. As a Video Editor for The Concordian, I decided to check out murals from MURAL Festivals of years’ past to make a video, but I also went to satisfy my own curiosity. I started on St-Laurent Boulevard .

Most of the art I encountered was in great shape; they were huge, bright, and beautiful. Some artworks, like Daniel Joseph Bombardier’s Denial, just off of Prince Arthur Street, had powerful messages embedded in them. Other artworks, likely because of their age, were damaged or covered up with graffiti in some way. Zilon, which was named after the artist, created in 2014 and located at the corner of St-Dominique Street and Marie-Anne Street, was covered in white and black spray paint, leaving only small parts of the image visible.

One thing I realized while documenting all of these pieces of art was the importance of street art. The MURAL Festival itself is a celebration of art in all its forms, but the murals that remained served as a subtle reminder to appreciate the art that we’re surrounded by. Street art is a way for people to enjoy cities and neighbourhoods, whether foreign or local to them, and, especially now, admire artwork safely outside.

Murals fill city streets with colour and life, and as someone who hasn’t lived in Montreal for long, murals help me see the beauty in the ordinary; a normal walk to work can turn into a walk through culture and art. Even amid a pandemic, the MURAL Festival was able to maintain its yearly tradition and add more art to the city. So, even though the Estival is over, and past Festivals are long gone, their stamps on the city remain, and it makes the world a slightly brighter place.


Photos by Christine Beaudoin


Please DO touch

Photographer Sydney Pine explores Phil Allard and Justin Duchesneau’s installation Forêt, as part of the Festival International Les Escales Improbables de Montreal, an interactive art festival running from September 2 to 14 at locations in and around Montreal.

See the photo gallery below to learn more about this installation.

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