XX on the WWW

Feminism and Digital Art Collide at Montreal’s HTMlles Fest

Get ready to learn what the oft-used but rarely defined term “digital art” really means.

HTMlles started in the year 1997, when the Internet was still dialing up and asking Jeeves; when even the term digital art was in its infancy and new media didn’t exist yet.

“Even in Montreal, or worldwide, this festival is very different from what you can find elsewhere,” said Geneviève Godin, communications director of HTMlles, the feminist festival of media arts and digital culture held annually in Montreal.

“Obviously there are a lot of media arts festivals elsewhere in the world, but the thing is that HTMlles is very different because it’s artwork made by women. We promote the feminist perspective combine with the new media aspects of creation, so it makes it very secular.”

HTMlles was created to give women a voice in the often male-dominated field of technology—while combining feminist ideals and cultural critiques in their art.

Held over eight days and in 14 locations around the city, the festival is presented by Studio XX, a feminist artist-run centre used for technological exploration, creation and critique.

“It started originally because of [the lack of female voices in the digital art world],” explains Godin. “In the 1990s, more women were taking their place in the new art world, going towards digital art but also towards new media.”

After going though a record 100 applications from female-identified artists looking to participate, the judges were tasked with picking which projects would best represent the theme and mandate of the festival.

Unlike many recurring events, the team in charge changes every year at HTMlles in order to ensure that a variety of voices are being expressed.

“The festival is evolving with society,” says Godin of the yearly changeover. “The theme will always be reflecting the artistic director’s vision, how she relates to the new media art world. With activism and feminism and a different theme, there’s a different way to see things each year.”

Spearheaded by current Artistic Director Sophie Le-Phat Ho, this year’s festival’s theme is risky business—explained as “to expose oneself to a possibility… Risk is a potential.”

The term “risk society” was coined in the ’80s to refer to how society organized around the idea of taking risks, explained Le-Phat Ho about the idea’s cultural relevance.

Since its incarnation 15 years ago, HTMlles has had to take into account not only the progression of technology, but also the evolution of women’s social roles and the constantly changing definition of feminism.

“HTMlles is dedicated to showing work that is very accurate about new technology. Obviously when it started in 1997, the works were done with the technology that was available at the time, but through the evolution of the festival came also the evolution of technology.”

HTMlles / Nov. 10 to Nov. 18 / Various Locations / Passes $40.00, Tickets $10.00 (low income pricing available)

Nov. 12 / Oboro (4001 Berri St., Suite 301) / 2:00 p.m / Suggested donation $15.00 to $25.00

This workshop proves mask-making isn’t just for preschoolers. Zach Blas will explore the idea of making masks as a resistant practice against facial recognition as well as discussing with participants the social and political impact of biometric technologies.
The workshop will also produce a “collective mask,” a combination of all the facial data of participants in the workshop—which sounds super neat.

Nov. 12 / 5:30 p.m. / Eastern Bloc (7240 Clark St.) / Free

The Montreal Artists Legal Clinic is presenting a workshop on something tricky that isn’t often talked about—the legal aspects of art, especially in cases that involve interventions in public and on the Internet.

Nov. 17 / Foulab (999 College St.) / 10:00 a.m. / Free

Feminists, self-identified women and kids—learn to craft and hack. Open to all skill levels; the only requirement is curiosity. Hosted by Fouem, a woman and feminist hacker group in Montreal, who will guide participants through a day of diversity-friendly tech activities for everyone.

Nov. 17 / Royal Phoenix (5788 St. Laurent Blvd.) / 10:00 p.m. / Free

Say so long to HTMlles for another year with an all-night dance party. Take in a whole bunch of performances, mingle with like-minded people and maybe meet some people you didn’t get a chance to see during the week.