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.


Climate change in the context of mental health

As an avid consumer of media, the knot in my stomach continues to tighten every time I see “climate change” in a headline.

There seems to be one heartbreaking news story after another, whether it is the fires in the Amazon or the floods in Sudan. This makes me think: I’m not the only millennial with a metal straw, reusable grocery bag, and a deep fear at the back of my mind regarding the doom of our planet, right?

I wish I could say that every news headline made me pick up a picket sign, donate to the World Wildlife Fund, and compel me to eat a vegan diet – but often it just makes me feel like a sack of potatoes. So if I care ‘so deeply’ about the environment, why is my anxiety not motivating me to do anything about it?

In hopes of validating my own anxious thoughts, I started doing some research and I found that I’m not alone in my woes. In fact, this is not a new development by any sort. According to, feeling desperate and helpless when it comes to environmental issues is a common psychological disorder called “eco-anxiety.” The American Psychological Association explains that this anxiety focuses on the feeling of doom and a chronic fear regarding environmental problems.

Thomas Doherty, a clinical psychologist in Portland Oregon, explained to that people are not taught how to talk about the climate issue.

“Up to a certain point, arousal — how alert or worried you feel — leads people to take action and perform better, “ said Doherty. “But overly high levels of anxiety can become paralyzing.”

As Doherty said, anxiety can cause avoidance. For me personally, I often shut down the conversation about climate change because on a global scale it feels like there is nothing I can do to help.

Susan Clayton, one of the lead authors of a climate-change guide by the American Psychological Association, told CNN that our human tendencies towards avoiding conflict and to feel fear, helplessness, and resignation in response to climate change is growing. She continued by explaining that this is limiting citizens from developing “psychological resiliency,” meaning they are not able to handle and conceptualize the reality of climate change.

I am slowly learning that the more dialogue we create regarding our own panic and uneasiness, the less alone we will feel in the world of climate anxiety.

“Treating climate anxiety in children is very similar to treating general anxiety,” said Rhonda Matters, a Child Psychologist in PEI, to CBC – she stated that acknowledging the anxiety goes a long way.

In an interview with CNN, Wendy Petersen Boring, a professor from Yale University, has said she has expanded her climate anxiety curriculum from one week of lessons, to two full courses. She now addresses the emotional and psychological toll of activism in 2019 with greater depth, as we continue to uncover the urgency of the situation.

I also think it is irresponsible to talk about climate change without talking about privilege. Although I’m aware this issue affects us all, I have to acknowledge my avoidant anxiety as not only an issue I have to actively work on, but also as a privilege. My socio-economic environment has protected me from many repercussions that other countries, cities and neighbourhoods are dealing with on a direct and daily basis. I am also privileged to live in a country with news outlets sharing truths about the state of our environment.

Well, as cliche as it sounds, “knowledge is power,” but learning how to cope with our own discomfort is also power. I must continue to voice my anxieties in the hopes they will lead to fruitful discussions with others, but most importantly I must stay aware and informed. As a society, we are blocked by the immensity of the situation. We need to continue to learn how to approach this issue in a productive and sustainable way. Perhaps Susan Clayton said it best, “We can’t just curl up in a ball and wait for the end of the world.”


Graphic by Victoria Blair

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