Roland Turner

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Festival Montreal En Lumiere, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

To complement its numerous summer festivals, Montreal has added a winter festival. The inaugural Montreal High Lights festival (the literal translation from French looks to me like 'Montreal in Lights', however...) was held from February 11 to March 4, 2000. It includes culinary and performing arts components, but the component which caught my attention was the International Symposium on Lighting of Canada (again, I'd translate this slightly differently) which consisted of seven lighting installations in parks around Downtown Montreal. I had heard that this festival was coming, but as I was focussed upon preparations to move back to Australia I didn't pay it too much attention. Conincidentally, I was walking up Rue de la Cathedrale, alongside the park in front of Place du Canada, on the evening of February 11. I was stopped dead in my tracks by this sight:

This is 'DMX Nebula' by Francois Doyon. It is, as it appears, a large sphere, perhaps 5m in diameter, with coloured lights and a projector inside.

It cycled through a wide range of colours and intermittently projected something reminiscent of paisley.

I was inspired to get a copy of the Festival's program and find and photograph all of the lighting installations. I did so, and this page is the result. My next stop was Place des Arts and the key attraction 'This is a Sphere'. Unfortunately I didn't have a tripod with me, it was dark (so the exposures were long) and I was cold (keeping the camera steady was tricky). I wore more clothing on the following nights and took a tripod with me.

The cube is more than six metres to a side. In addition to lights and projectors, there was a performance twice each evening by four performers inside the cube. It was quite novel.

There was also a giant mirror-half-ball in a nearby pond, rotating slowly with several large spotlights illuminating it.

The following evening I headed up to Parc Lahaie (corner of St. Laurent and St. Joseph) for the most distant installation, and one which I think holds the distinction of being appealing to all people in Montreal at the time, if only they knew. Then again, trying to get even a signifigant proportion of Montreal's population through this installation would have been impossible. From the outside, it looks like a nondescript cylinder which spends most of its time being orange, but for a few seconds here and there turns white.

Approach it, find the entry, enter and follow the winding path. You'll shortly end up somewhere else entirely.

This is Cephee. (I don't know how to translate this. It is sub-titled 'constellation au centre du ciel de Montreal en fevrier' which looks to me like 'constellation at the centre of Montreal's sky in February', perhaps because this structure with no ceiling provides sheltered space for looking at the centre of Montreal's sky.) Don't be fooled by the casual appearance and the naked necks, hands and heads. The still air temperature outside is no higher than -15C (5F), and with wind chill from the light breeze, several degrees colder again. The temperature in the immediate vicinty of the fire is well above freezing, but even at the perimeter of this inner section, it's probably -10C (14F), the lack of a ceiling prevents too much heat build-up. Fortunately the air is still, any breeze outside blows over and around this structure (the winding path ensures this), so it is noticably warmer 'inside' than outside. For those who have made the trek on a cold winter's night, arriving and discovering what's here is a wonderful surprise.

I then returned to Le Parc Des Festivals (corner of Bluery and Maisonneuve) to see Axel Morgenthaler's 'Photonic Playground'.

This is essentially a large fishtank containing a fog machine and lights with a space blanket hanging above it, flapping gently in the breeze. Various pieces of ambient/trance sounds were audible too (nothing that I'd actually call music).

The following evening, I was on a roll. Not only did I visit the remaining three installations, I also visited and photographed the Delta Hotel's 'Le Jardin de Cristal' (The Crystal Garden), an exhibit of ice carvings by Julien Dore.

I was pretty impressed.

Next stop was Place Fred-Barry (St Urbain and Montigny) for Ian A. Donald's 'Bedlam'.

Dozens of cones are covered in small mirrors (think disco ball), suspended on pivots hanging from wires or mounted on posts, and have small cups around the circumference which cause them to spin at the slightest breeze. Coloured lights are focussed on them. They produce an eye-catching display and patterns on the snow. (Note that the patterns on the snow shown here are blurred by the long exposures, in fact I could see fast moving reflections.)

Then, Parc Hydro-Quebec (St Laurent and St Catherine) for Pyer Desrochers' 'Les Etoiles palpitent' (The Stars Beat, better translations are welcome). This is perhaps the world's largest air guitar.

The plaque describes the mirror as the moon, and the light as the sun. It also makes mention of 2000 being The Year of the Dragon, although I didn't grasp the connection.

Finally, Place de la Paix (Place of Peace, St Laurent near Rene-Levesque) for Guy Simard's 'Testament d'une etoile' (will (testament) of a star).

Here, the boundary of the square has had vertical, blue flourescent tubes placed every few metres all the way around. Additionally, three light boxes with text on them were placed along one side. Unfortunately, the text was blue on blue and, with the lights on, unintelligible even to the naked eye. It was pretty cool though.