Illuminate Adelaide festival is lighting up today, and Canadian company Moment Factory is presenting a brand new installation called Mirror Mirror. We spoke to Marie Belzil, Creative Director at Moment Factory in the days leading up to the opening of Mirror Mirror. Read our interview with her below.
Starting with you, Marie, you’re the creative director at Moment Factory. You’ve been there for a few years, but you studied film production before that. Did you study cinema to make films or did you already have the idea of working in video installations at the time?
Oh no, I had no idea at the time that I would end up in the world of multimedia experiences. No, I didn’t know anything about that. I started out doing documentaries. I wanted to make films, but when I was young I was lucky enough to have a job with Robert Lepage, a great director.
Who is coming to Australia next March for the Adelaide Festival!
Yes, that’s right. So Robert’s studio is in my home town of Quebec. I was lucky enough to work with him on a big architectural projection mapping project back in 2008; we had no idea what we were doing!
It was a real learning curve. First of all working alongside him, but also creating this huge multimedia creation. What really got me hooked was the notion of live performance. When you make a film, it’s actually a bit disappointing, delivering a film. Yes, there’s going to be a screening, we’re going to share our emotions in a dark room. But when we first did the architectural projection show with Robert, we found ourselves with nearly 2,000 people watching the show at the same time. And there was a sense of performance that was a bit like live events, if you like.
There’s an energy to it all that really got me hooked on that kind of experience at the time. Then there’s all the energy that’s created in those moments, a bit like the moments we’re living in at the moment, all the anticipation, the last few days before, the Show must go on, etcetera… Afterwards, we also enjoy seeing the public in our installations and all of that. So, there’s a very lively aspect to this type of medium that I really enjoy, and that’s what it’s all about.
After that experience, I was lucky enough to join Moment Factory a little over 12 years ago, so I really learnt the trade there at Moment Factory, by doing all sorts of different experiences, and then by developing a language that was ultimately my own.
Tell us a bit about your role and your work at Moment Factory.
The idea is to create a core group of designers who will all sail together towards a destination that’s still a bit unknown, which is the creation of the show. As creative director, you’re sort of the leader of all these designers. We’ll be working with set designers, lighting designers, motion designers and composers. So we’re going to bring together a bit of everything, all the specialists in all the mediums under a single vision.
Then you’re a bit like the captain of the show’s vision, so you’re a bit like the guide, which is why it’s an incredible pleasure – because it’s always about shared experiences, team experiences. It starts with small groups of designers. The ideas start with five people around a table, and after that there’ll be 50. Throughout the process, there are sometimes dozens and dozens, hundreds of people working on it. So these group experiences are an extraordinary opportunity. Every day, I pinch myself to realise that it’s real, it’s my job, it’s really beautiful, it’s really pleasant and I feel so spoilt.
How would you describe Mirror Mirror for those who know nothing about it?
I would describe Mirror Mirror as an invitation to a journey into a world of colour, light and sound. It’s an experience that at times invites contemplation, at times playfulness, and at other times encourages visitors to explore. So, it’s a collection of immersive installations that revolve around the broad theme of the human mind. If you think about the human mind, you’re going to think about things like memory and meaning. The feeling of flow or the ego are sub-themes, for example, that we explore in each of our installations.
We’re a bit on the borderline between art and entertainment, so we’re like artists. We’ll explore a theme and then take a poetic approach to that theme but we’re really going to focus the whole experience so that it revolves around the visitor, so that the visitor activates it, and brings it to life. Without the visitor, the experience is meaningless. So, sometimes we’ll ask people to contribute, using their memory for example, via a mobile application. Then they will enter words that are a sharing of their own memory, and these words will then penetrate the canvas and be transformed into light. Then we’ll ask them to move and activate things, to really give life to each of these pieces, and this medium.
This was a very personal project for us, for the company, I’d say, because it’s an initiative that’s entirely our own – we work a lot, we do a lot of services, we create a lot of works that are commissioned, if you like – but the work of Mirror Mirror is a little bit of our own vision of what we wanted to propose. It’s really the original development of our own creation, if you like. So we wanted to a large space in a black box. We wanted to put together a collection of totally contrasting experiences that represent a bit of our identity as Moment Factory, which is very playful, which is very much about the imagination, and which, above all, invites you to create human connections. For us, that’s the primary aim of everything we do, to bring human beings together in the real world. So we use technology.
But unlike a lot of technology these days, which isolates us, we want to use technology to bring people together in the real world. In each of our installations, we’re thinking in terms of how people will interact with the piece and with each other. So we want them to have a good time. We want to transport them into an imaginary world for a short while, to escape from everyday life for a while and have a good time with friends and family.
As I understand it, at the beginning you choose between three doors. Do the three doors lead people in three different directions? Or do the participants all reunite at a certain point?
Yes, so the three doors will only define a little in which sequence people will discover the same installations. So, no matter which door is opened, everyone will discover the same experiences. But we do think that the sequence is important, and it shapes our impressions. We also thought it would be interesting to make people feel that they were the main characters in the film they were about to see. So with this sort of very strong symbolism of three doors and a choice to be made, it creates a sort of little jolt at the start of the experience, because we get a little excited, so we feel we’re in possession of our own choices.
We’re exploring this kind of code, which will create and activate our mind into a different state, particularly within the experience. But each of the doors is separated by coloured doors. Once you’ve passed through the three doors, you can get a bit lost, and that’s deliberate. So it’s all about activating our spirit of exploration and discovery. We also hope that with some of the installations, we’ll be able to rediscover the child in us and get caught up in playing and marvelling. In a way, that’s our aim.
I think we all need that sometimes!
Yes, it’s good for us.
Audiences who enter Mirror Mirror are invited to push the buttons or say things to change what’s in front of them. Does that render the experience different for each person visually.
Yes, obviously. People will give a little of themselves to the experience. And we see an experience that is renewed and transformed. So there are tones, particularly in the memory warehouse, which is a place where people contribute their own memories, and so the words that run through the experience are completely changing, transforming as visitors visit. For me, it’s really moving because I’m seeing a scene that’s constantly evolving.
And at the next stage, there are visuals that are created according to the memories that have been entered, and there are visuals that are generated and poems that are generated and visuals that are completely unique, that really depend on people’s contributions. And for us, it’s also our vision of the future of this kind of experience – where more and more, we’re inviting people to participate in some way in the creation.
What was the creative process involved in making it? Did the team add its own dreams and memories?
We spent a lot of time reading up on memories and the meaning of flow. We’ve immersed ourselves in all kinds of reading about the brain and it’s something so fascinating. Of course, the result isn’t very scientific, not at all. But it was very inspiring all the same. To see, for example, people’s memories, something that is in eternal transformation. The fact that, for example, we reach what we call the state of flow when we’re playing or creating.
We say to ourselves that a state of flow is really good for our health too. It’s something that generates joy, that generates something good within you when you reach that state. So, we ask ourselves how we’re going to get people into that state of flow. One thing led to another and we were inspired to create a river, because we’d also read about a neurologist who compared consciousness to a flowing river. So we made a river. We realised that people often jumped from one rock to another in the river. Then we made a river with lots of rocks in it. Even adults will start jumping from one rock to another, and then they’ll concentrate and go into a state of flow.
Creation is a completely mysterious process. But you have to have faith in that mystery. You know you’re going somewhere, you don’t know exactly where you’re going, but you have to feed that inspiration with all kinds of input, whether it’s music, reading, etc. With contributions from everyone, and from all the creators and designers around the table and then it evolves and at a given moment, we feel that there are significant moments.
It’s a project that Moment Factory has been developing for a long time. The structure, so this idea of having in a black box a kind of collection of experiences that are completely different from each other. And now we’re really happy with the world around us. It’s a universe that we think will make it easy for us to expand because the subject is vast and at the same time it’s very poetic, very accessible, very playful. That’s what we’re really hoping for. We had the chance to put together a bit of a prototype, if you like, in Montreal this winter, and it went really well. It was very well received. We’re really excited to have another audience for Mirror Mirror!
So Mirror Mirror has come to Australia directly from Montreal. It hasn’t been presented anywhere else yet?
No, it hasn’t. It was only the prototype that was set up in Montreal. So this is the first time. It’s also in a different form here, because we’re in the magnificent Illuminate Adelaide pavilion. So it’s a really perfect place to host Mirror Mirror. So the show has really been pulled out all the stops. We’re really proud and excited.
We’re lucky to have it here. Why should people come and discover Mirror Mirror?
I think it’s to experience and share an original moment. I think these days we’re becoming increasingly aware that happiness isn’t about material things, it’s about the time we spend and the experiences we have with the people we love. So, I think I can promise you that this time spent with the people you love in the space will certainly generate a little bit of joy or laughter, or at least a smile. It’s something completely new, so there’s that aspect of novelty, I think, that can be interesting. And I think it’s a great experience to share. And something quite original.
But if people are a bit shy, is it still suitable for them (since it’s interactive)?
Oh yes, absolutely. There are different ways of interacting with the experience, and in particular, for example, when you want to share your memory, it’s all done via an application on your phone. So that’s not something that’s embarrassing at all.
So you don’t do it in front of everyone.
No, not at all. It’s something we’re very sensitive to. We do a lot of tests to really try and reach a wider audience. And we’re always aware that there are all sorts of people in a group, so we’re careful to make everything accessible to all kinds of people.
That’s great. Thanks Marie. I’m looking forward to going to the Mirror Mirror installation this week!
We would like to thank Marie Belzil and Moment Factory for this interview.
KEY INFO FOR MIRROR MIRROR BY MOMENT FACTORY
WHAT: Moment Factory’s Mirror Mirror
WHEN: From today, Wednesday 28 June to 30 July (except Mondays)
WHERE: Victoria Square / Tarntanyangga
HOW: Buy your tickets here
HOW MUCH: Ticket prices change depending on the day and are as follows:
Tuesday to Thursday, and until 5pm on Friday
- General Admission $39
- Groups 4+ $36
- 4 years and under FREE – a $0.00 ticket is required for admission.
From 5 p.m. on Friday, and all day on Saturday and Sunday
- General Admission $49
- Groups 4+ $46
- 4 years and under FREE – a $0.00 ticket is required for admission.
To discover more installations by French and Francophone companies at Illuminate Adelaide, click here.