Montreal is made beautiful by its network of people

Founder and president of the SAT and rewarded with the Bâtisseuse du XXIe siècle award by the city of Montreal, Monique Savoie is one of the major influencers in the world of digital art.

Could you please remind us what the Société des Arts Technologiques (SAT) (Digital Arts Society, T.N.) is? How did it contribute to make the digital art popular ?

It all began in 1994 when Montreal decided to host the ISEA 95 (International Symposium of Electronic Art). At this time, digital art was something very much talked about in Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Finland as well as the Netherlands. All these nations decided to meet in Montreal (more than 1,200 people in total). This is when we realised that a decisive change was occurring. ISEA 95 allowed for this international interest to become more and more real and therefore to catch everyone’s attention on what was happening in Montreal. SAT was born from the will of making this moment last longer and to create an anchor around this event. Back then, people didn’t understand how culture and digital technology could work together. This was a pioneer work because we needed to birth this discipline. Today, digital artists are supported (financially but also through programs), there’s a real interest and impetus around this kind of art.

Quebec is like a survival laboratory. The oral transmission and networks culture is very strong. This isn’t surprising to see Montreal being at the forefront of new technologies. Montreal is also a very tolerant city. These elements put together partly explain how Montreal has become an incubator for real talent and ideas. The SAT is contributing to it a lot as we help launching both careers and concepts.

Each year, nearly 130 international delegations (some of them being cities) come to see you. As if something political was at stake within the digital art. Why do cities have such a strong interest in the digital art?

How can you stop young people from migrating to bigger cities? How can you create a sense of belonging? How can someone not originally from the city where he/she lives feel at home? How to use a heritage without turning it into a museum? These are very concrete problems faced by cities such as Nice and Amiens. The SAT is there to answer these questions.

Since the beginning of this world tour, we often talked about durable cities, smart cities or inclusive cities but rarely about beautiful cities. How can digital art help us create beautiful cities?

Montreal is made beautiful by its network of people. We can think about how the AI technology will be able to help us nourish these human networks. We say we have “library networks”, “artistic center networks”, etc. but in reality nobody is truly part of a network. At the SAT, we just connected 22 Quebecker theaters together. We can therefore work on new scenographies and on other ways to be together. We often ask ourselves how we can use augmented reality to meet each other in virtual places. We therefore think about the Web 3.0. Since its creation, the Web has barely changed. It still is hypertext. However what would the next Web generation be? How will we be represented? With a body? Emotions? Here are the questions that peak our interest.

I’m also very interested in the way we can make a city’s history come to life. By mixing AI technology with Virtual Reality, could we see or relive a part of our history again? There’s a wonderful project from la Pointe-à-Caillère, the city of archaeology and Montreal history where AI technology is used to bring the past of Montreal into its present.

One last question: what would you ideal city look like?

My ideal city is the World, it’s the Earth. It needs to be a tolerant city. There’s a bit of tidying up to do in some corners of my city!

With the SAT, we’re working with countries such as Cuba (where we train people) as well as Mongolia (where we sent immersive movies they watched in yurts). As I’m saying, my ideal city is the Earth because we’d like to create a Hub where it would be possible to share with people from all around the world – with that in mind for some communities to meet one another so that borders could no longer exist.

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