A Language of Light and Liquid

Multimedia Art Piece Miscible Connects Audiences 6 Hours Apart

photo courtesy by Manuel Chantre.
photo courtesy by Manuel Chantre.

Montreal’s Society for Arts and Technology is launching Miscible, a mix of audiovisual performance and interactive experience in telepresence, presented by Manuel Chantre on Oct. 16.

Participating audiences at the SAT and the Festival Maintenant in Rennes, France, will interact with each other by creating audiovisual work in real-time. To create the artwork, they must manipulate multimedia devices and chemical liquids to create sounds, musical notes and visual components.

Chantre and his French co-worker Mathieu Le Sourd, also known as Maotik, have been working together over the past year to create a presentation that would allow audiences to transcend current modes of communication.

Their goal was to bring two locations together despite the difference in time zone, distance and culture.

“The use of water and liquids as a medium for communication, and telepresence, is one step further than Skype,” Chantre said.

Inspired by water and raindrops, Chantre expanded on the notion that all bodies of water move and flow into one another, providing humans with a means of transportation.

Boats on water were one of the first forms of transport, allowing for humans to connect and trade with each other across the globe, he said.

Similarly, with Miscible, “humans are connecting with water and liquids, but in real-time,” Chantre explained.

The three tables that are set up for the audiences have separate functions.

“The first table combines the sound of drops, the second multiplies that sound and becomes the river, and the third is like the ocean, stronger and more powerful,” he added.

One table provides sound with the liquid drops; another provides a visual component, with a large projection of a chemical reaction; and the last is the interactive component, which uses Wi-Fi to transmit the audio and visual aspects to the audience in Rennes.

The installation in Montreal will be set up in a giant black dome at the SAT, roughly nine metres in radius and 13 metres in height. The tables are designed for audiences to manipulate chemical reactions and create different shapes, colours and sounds to be projected to screens in Rennes.


Drops of liquid running through chemistry jars will hit wires that create musical notes to be picked up by microphones. Additionally, six circular video projection screens, a video projection screen on the dome, ultraviolet lights and video cameras will be present. The video cameras project audiences’ faces in 3D-like computerized figures.

“The biggest challenge was to ensure a clear connection between both locations,” said Chantre.

That’s why the installation includes several computer monitors and a wireless Internet connection. There was also the issue of the six-hour time difference between the two locations.

“We had to find a way to keep people interested. How do we keep people interested from different cultures and at different times of the day? While it’s 6 p.m. here, it will be midnight over there, and people will be more tired.”

With so many elements to manage at the same time, both teams in Montreal and in Rennes need to be working on their end to ensure that everything runs smoothly on the technical side.

The project was developed with two chemistry researchers and an electronic engineer from the University of Rennes, as well as a team of researchers at the SAT here in Montreal.

Chantre often focuses on light and energy, because he believes that when humans are immersed into technology such as screens, the material surrounding them becomes obsolete.

“They are not tangible things,” he said. “You [forget] why you’re doing something. Being on social media is like being nowhere.” Miscible mimics this form of communication, highlighting concrete locations and commenting on the reality of society in relation to technology—creating an alternative version of the telepresence experience.

*_Miscible_ by Manuel Chantre // Oct. 16 // Satosphère at the Société des Arts Technologiques (1201 St. Laurent Blvd.) // 6 p.m. // Free admission but on reservation (limited space) *