Concordia University

IMCAFEST



A one-week festival presenting a virtual gallery showcasing Intermedia studio arts students from Concordia University. A collaboration between Club IMCA and IMCA 400, the festival celebrates the works of students past and present as they near the end of their Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees.

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· philippe vandal

· haal 400
· heather c. vulgar
· alex apostolidis
· benni
· ley lortie
· vanessa moscato
· diego ramirez

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clubimca video art screening


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01

Process of Healing:
An Interview with
Philippe Vandal


by Abi Stushnoff

Philippe Vandal is a self-taught electronic musician, composer, multi-instrumentalist and creative programmer, currently studying at Concordia University completing a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Intermedia CyberArts. He is also part of the Speculative Life’s Biolab at The Milieux Institute where he recently received an undergraduate fellowship. Vandal has many ideas that follow various leads in research, study, and transdisciplinary avenues. His practice is best described by the theorist and writer Elizabeth Grosz when she writes chaos “... may be understood not as absolute disorder but rather as a plethora of orders, forms, wills - forces that cannot be distinguished or differentiated from each other, both matter and its conditions for being otherwise, both the actual and the virtual indistinguishably” (5).

Vandal’s current project for IMCA 400, with support from The Milieux Institute fellowship, is “Process of Healing”.  Here he is “looking at the relationship between two materialities: environmental matter and language.” His interest lies between the intersection of these two materialities. To date, the work consists as a bioremediating intervention whereby sugar beets and mycorrhizal fungi extract salt out of snow deposit residues. The results dictate the path of vectors in a word map that is based on the machine learning algorithm called ‘word embedding’ (Vandal). 


As IMCA 400 developed into an online exhibition due to Covid restrictions, Vandal reconsidered how to present his work as it is sculptural in nature. He is now considering taking photographs, possibly a short video accompanied by a map depicting the relationship between the vectors and words in his installation. However, Vandal hesitates and reflects that “simply documentation is not enough, a video or livestream might miss the purpose of the installation and is quite complicated to program and set”. That being said, Vandal notes, “I think it is a good exercise to think to the limits of the screen, but I am still wondering how to proceed”.


For Vandal, research, both writing and reading is an integral part of his visual arts practice. This integration of theory and creativity provides him a lexicon found within a community of theoretical thinkers that he can relate to and discuss with. In his recently published article, Puits de captage et déversements: rétention et enchevêtrement de corps-matières dans le parc Frédéric-Back (ESSE art+opinion, February 2021), Vandal situates his thinkings from the past few years: new materialisms, environmental repercussions (i.e. waste management), scientific lexion of bacterias, and socio-cultural entanglements with spaces. He describes this process of writing and reading as, “enmeshed in how I make and think through projects: referential, theoretical, conceptual, philosophical and speculative. I feel that sometimes I am creating what I am reading to push further a certain critical way of thinking for writing, to then open up new readings and back into creating. Just all a big circle” (Vandal).


I first encountered Vandal’s work through his electronic music and I became curious how his multidisciplinary practice affects his visual works. In a recent conversation he noted that it is more of the methodology rather than aesthetic that informs his various approaches to creating. Specifically, the compartmentalization of tasks allows him to “start with an idea globalizing different technologies and tools, and then go through them one after the other, or in a certain way, instrument by instrument”. This allows him to then arrange all of these “different parts together and turn them into a single track, or piece” (Vandal).  


Much like a music composition, Vandal’s current project “Process of Healing” integrates rhythm, interrelationships, and the entanglement of felt and lived experience as interpreted and translated by both composer, listener, and computer interface. This communication and relationship can be best described by Vandal’s desire to “induce, as in induction” whereby he hopes to engage the viewer with connections between the words displayed on the screen and to relate to them critically. This ciritacicality is meant to bridge a gap that will “induce a consideration of how we treat language, matter, and how we name and sort things around us.”  Vandal explains, “the main idea behind this project is really to reconsider how we relate to what has been socially structured and constructed, where the material intervention of bioremediation, something that has been set as ‘waste, residue, not worth in an economical sense,’ explodes into a conceptual framework to engage with our understanding of our environment(s).”  


Through writing, Vandal hopes to communicate what his art may lack in material transparency.  Specifically, as part of this presentation he will provide explanatory commentary on the cosmopolitics of science and its political entanglement, intersectionality, critical materiality and the ethics of vulnerability brought by waste.  In the past, Vandal has engaged in speculative design and thought, which can be considered as an integral part of his artistic philosophy.

As Vandal states:

That is what the artist can do, bridge spheres that are interrupted, or offer some very wild collaborations through a ‘What if …?’ Science is all about protocols, expectations, cosmopolitics. The artist can play through them and basically rewrite them in a certain way that becomes artistic and thus a whole different set of aesthetics. There is also the scientific opacity, with all its very specific nomenclatures, concise experiments, and environment(s), that is somewhat complicated to relate to when you do not engage with its literature. By applying artistic maneuvers through scientific wonders, the artist addresses the possibilities of bridging a gap between the lab and actual embodied relations that can be felt and discussed in the gallery space, spilling into non-scientific conversations. I think that is the main thing I have been trying to do or have been exploring.



Grosz, E. A. Chaos, Territory, Art : Deleuze and the Framing of the Earth. Columbia University Press, 2008.


Vandal, P. Puits de captage et déversements: rétention et enchevêtrement de corps-matières dans le parc Frédéric-Back. ESSE art+opinion, February 2021.