Milieux Institute for Arts, Culture and Technology
2019-20 Annual Report Highlights
Between worldwide climate strikes, panic over COVID-19 and the urgent call of Black Lives Matter, the Milieux Institute was challenged in 2019-20 to rethink the meaning of our work and mandate. As an interdisciplinary practice-based research unit, we rely heavily on working together in our labs and studios. The anti-climax of a campus lockdown in the Spring of 2020 came as quite a blow. Nonetheless, there are new grant proposals underway, a major renovation to our spaces is in the works and a Milieux PhD program is taking shape.
We also had the 100th anniversary of Bauhaus — the famous Weimar-era art school credited with innovations in art, design and education that survive today. We explored Bauhaus legacies with a weeklong festival of talks, performances, workshops and installations in November 2019. Faculty and students from across our eight clusters gathered for what was less a celebration of Bauhaus, than an intensive, critical interrogation of its legacy. We took stock of prominent eurocentrism in art and design pedagogy, and played with ideas for shaping the future of the Milieux — carrying forward inspiration without the need for genuflection.
The Bauhaus question led to further exploration of the role of research-creation in training students, producing new knowledge and technology, and supporting social and cultural change. We carried out Bauhausian style experiments through collaborative process-based work on virtual reality, artificial intelligence, bioplastics, Montreal's waterways, embodied performance and even pandemic mask design. In Spring 2020, the Hexagram network, of which we are founding partners, received seven years of renewed funding from the Quebec government. This will allow us to collaborate on rigorously documenting and examining research-creation methodology in Quebec and beyond, with colleagues across Quebec and indeed the world.
Spring also brought the thrilling news that our Indigenous Futures cluster won formal research centre status at Concordia. This is a critical development. We look forward to welcoming more indigenous faculty and students to what is sure to be one of the most vibrant new research centres in Canada. In addition, we committed ourselves to recognizing that Black Lives Matter by expanding access and attention for people of colour at the Institute, and addressing the range of injustices and inequalities that persist in art, culture and technology.
Moving forward, the challenge of a world in crisis remains, but our faculty, staff and students continue working hard with collaborators around the world. There is still a great deal of work to do and we look forwarding to doing it, together.
—Bart Simon, Director of the Milieux Institute
An experimental documentary about Milieux research - creation directed by Vjosana Shkurti and Agustina Isidori.
From November 5 to 14, 2019, the Milieux Institute held the MilieuXBauhaus Festival. Milieux's graduate student researchers, much like the Bauhaus students of a century ago, are interested in the fundamental engagements between art, technology, culture, and design. The program featured an open house, two parties, two performances, nine workshops, 10 screenings, and 13 talks by Milieux members and visiting scholars. The Goethe Institute, SenseFactory, and the Canadian Embassy in Berlin were community partners in producing this cross-disciplinary event focused on critical reflection.
Today’s challenges are driving urgent investigations into new and promising directions. From imperfectly reconfigured working spaces at home, we are discovering new modes of imagining and creating our way into a new future, together.