The Symposium de la jeune peinture au Canada was inaugurated in 1982. The year 2022 marks the fortieth anniversary of the event, now known as the Symposium international d’art contemporain de Baie-Saint-Paul. Initially devoted to painting, the event opened up to other art forms, closely following the metamorphoses of artistic production and the introduction of new means of expression. This 40th edition, on the theme Connected-Interconnected: The Digital World in Question, interrogates the impact of digital technology in the world of art but also perception and lived experience in the world today. The event will bear witness to both artistic and social reality in the present by highlighting more than ever before the impact of technology on artistic creation, on the collective imagination and on society today.
Our age is not the first to undergo major change as a result of a technological revolution which throws ways of life into upheaval and changes people’s conditions of perception, sensory experience of the world and vision of the future. The invention of the printing press (in the 1400s), the combustion engine (1700s), photography (1839), the electric light bulb (1879), the automobile (1886) and the airplane (1903), to mention only these few, has helped shape today’s world. In the same way, with the appearance of micro-computers and then the Internet, the digital revolution, which began quietly in the 1960s, definitively took root in the 1990s in (almost) every aspect of our lives, from everyday acts of communicating, learning, working and shopping to the way we now imagine the world in which we live and increasingly experience it through the many digital tools now at our disposal. In the past few years, the virtual has attainned unprecedented importance. The immaterial nature of invented spaces and the dematerialization of objects call into question our relations with the tangible world and modify our view of it. The unlimited connectivity in which we are immersed has literally changed human relations and our relations with things, space and time. Profound changes affecting every sphere of existence, from how young children learn to cutting-edge scientific discoveries, are taking place before our eyes.
In his book The Art of the Observer, the art historian Jonathan Crary writes: “Vision and its effects are always inseparable from the possibilities of an observing subject who is both the historical product and site of certain practices, techniques, institutions and procedures of subjectification.”1 Artists, in this respect, are “observing subjects” par excellence, by virtue of the attention they pay to underlying movements and to the telling signs of their culture and environment. In this spirit, the theme of this year’s Symposium invites thirteen artists to cast their eye on the world today to underscore the structures, features and possibilities offered by technology and the questions it inevitably brings in its wake. In these artists’ projects, the digital world is addressed in different ways. Technological tools are often a means of creation which lead to immersion in virtual spaces – imaginary mises en scène or projection spaces which make possible unusual visual or auditory experiences. Other participants use these means to interrogate and explore different statuses of the image, from impressions of the real world to digital syntheses to purely virtual existence. Elsewhere the natural world, through technology, finds a kind of prolongation, a juxtaposition which gives it back its importance by means of close and tangible contact with the materiality of things. Finally, without using these tools in fabricating the work, some projects interrogate the structural aspects of the way today’s world is organized, aspects which are tied up with globalization, power and ecology.
It will be of great interest, throughout the month of August, to see these projects grow in form and conception, to see them be transformed from day to day, drawing on exchanges between artists and visitors. These works will outline, for our individual and collective memories, the contours of a portrait of our present age, one no doubt incomplete yet nonetheless eloquent.
1. Jonathan Crary, The Art of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1990), 5-6.