Harmony and Dissonance

SAT Celebrates its 20th Anniversary with—What Else?—Entropy

Photo courtesy Société des Arts Technologiques

Last Friday, St. Laurent’s very own electronic hotspot, the Société des Arts Technologiques—SAT for short—was getting all dolled up to celebrate her 20th anniversary with a bang. My partner in crime and I arrived early, hoping to fully grasp the night’s ambiance as it unfolded and to catch the contemporary multimedia art performance Entropia, showcased at 7 p.m. inside SAT’s most cherished prize: a gigantic interactive dome, allowing for crazy visuals to be projected in 360º, and a complete sensory overload.

We reached the upper floor as the guests began slowly pouring in, crowd-spotting our way to the dome. Young urban professionals were happily enjoying gourmet pork and designer drinks (with assorted price tags) as the sun set warmly on the wooden terrasse, bobbing their heads to easy-listening house. Amidst the flurry of the waiting staff, I grabbed a pair of $10 IPAs and headed back inside the sphere. We were around fifty people inside, breathlessly anticipating the “representation,” as SAT bills the show. To fully appreciate the experience, part of the audience indolently laid on the cushioned floor, staring at the ceiling, as the projections collided and glitched on the walls, following or contrasting with the syncopated electro-noise.

Seated near a wall, we were soon enveloped by the dizzying array of sounds, assembled in a controlled chaos. During the 45 minutes of the presentation, it was as if we’d lost contact with the rest of the mundane world. We left behind the smirks of the professional creatives and their repetitive bass line to enter a realm of stark contrast, walking the tangent between harmony and dissonance. The whole felt to me dizzying and vaguely oppressive, as my mind tried to interpret the abstraction, maybe so that in a way it could still hold onto something. The spherical prism, whose edges lit up, throbbed toward the centre of the room, sometimes emitting smoke, adding a layer of blurriness to our shared instant in time and space. When the edges glowed red, I felt as if I was in some kind of sci-fi first person shooter, half expecting a monster to jump out of the fog, as sonars, sirens, and heart beats could be perceived in the distorted echoes blaring in our sonic space. I was in an uncomfortable place between amazement and fear, an experience both alienating and so very intimate.

The experience stopped abruptly, leaving long seconds of silence before a timid, befuddled applause arose from the crowd. I approached Éric, the sonic-DJ standing in the middle of the spherical prism, to inquire about his intention for the piece. He was amused at my interpretations, confirming that the experience was meant as a journey. He also explained to me that it was conceived as a commentary on contemporary human practices and their consequences, oftentimes unpredictable and ineluctably changing. The project’s page on Vimeo elaborates: “literally, Entropia comes from greek etymology ἐντροπία which means ‘transformation.’ It characterizes the degree of disorganization or lack of information on a system.”

All in all, SAT’s dome really invited the audience to embody and feel the collisions and uncertainties in a really physical way, and I am grateful that we have such a space for intermedia performance in our beautiful city. Most of the attendees, however, were happily expecting the real party that had yet to begin, and they started lining up outside. Two stages and plenty of vibes later, I ended my long evening a little past midnight, swimming in the packed crowd. The music felt pretty tame after the powerful experience I’d lived enclosed in the dome. Though I enjoyed the DJs spinning tight Jersey club, I for one do not care much for reggaeton, so I took my leave, while the ragtag posse—part night owl, part professional, part turtle-necked computer nerds—were warming to the beat, melting away in unison as their hips swayed.

This article originally appeared in Volume 36, Issue 1, published August 24, 2015.