Sensory Sonnambulists: Cave Entertainment for an A/V People at ARPRIM

Philippe Blanchard at Arprim

With his immersive audio-visual installation New Troglodytes, Toronto-based artist Philippe Blanchard has transformed Arprim into a techno-primordial cave, one that both hearkens to our prehistoric past and our techno-bricolage present.

Visually, it’s a little like entering a big-pixeled and brightly-coloured video game from the 1980s. The entire space is wrapped in screen-printed paper in varying zig-zagging dimensions and colours. Slender pyramids affixed to both floor and ceiling suggest the simplified forms of stalactites and stalagmites (I will never be able to remember which is which). The space is lit with strobe lights and projectors, whose alternating red, green and blue lamps react with the spectrum of coloured paper: the whole room is in motion. It’s mesmerizing: like my eight-year old self hypnotized by the formally simple yet inexhaustible worlds of those 80s video games, here I was wandering around the space grinning like a fool, marveling at the magic of this simple technology.

The strobes and projectors have been synchronized with an electro soundtrack composed by Fan Fiction (the stage name of Toronto-based artist Steph Davidson). The borders between entertainment—shows and clubs, electronic music festivals, after-hours—and art—this is still a gallery—happily blurred.

I liked that the word I was left with was “surface.” This is not a criticism. The walls and sculptures were animated surfaces. I thought of the surfaces in my eye that were inundated with this information: the colours were dancing on my retina. Even when I closed my eyes, they were there still: as Goethe discovered in his famous after-image experiments, a surface can be virtual, conjured by the visual apparatus alone. Viewers seem intended to walk around and inspect all areas of the space, not to try to penetrate any volumes with our eyes or thoughts. The music was good, I liked the feeling of being part of this little trip away from the grey light of February.

On March 2, as part of Nuit Blanche, Arprim invites the public to come visit New Troglodytes on its last night of captivating animation, where it will be joined in rhythm by Montreal musicians such as Dranolith, Hobo Cubes and The World Provider.

Arprim, space 426
Philippe Blanchard
New Troglodytes
January 25 – March 2, 2013



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