After presenting Light Cycles for the past two years, Canadian studio Moment Factory is bringing a new experience called Resonate to the Illuminate Adelaide festival for its world premiere. We spoke to Mathieu Grainger, producer of this experience, last week. Read our interview with him below.
Were you one of the people from Moment Factory who came to Illuminate Adelaide for the Light Cycles installation the last two years ?
Yes, it was me for the last two years, with Gabriel Pontbriand, who is the creative director of the Light Cycles project. And now we’re back together again for Resonate. But I have both teams, so as a producer, I work on several projects at Moment and this year, I’m producing Mirror Mirror with Marie and Resonate with Gabriel.
How many people are in Australia for the two installations?
Between these two projects, there are eleven of us at the moment. We also have two other colleagues working with us who are based in Sydney who will also be here next week.
To talk a little about Resonate, how is Resonate different from Light Cycles?
We expected to deliver Light Cycles over the three years. That was kind of the expectation at the beginning. Last year, on the eve of the opening or two days before the opening, Lee and Rachael, who are the founders of Illuminate Adelaide, asked us “what if we didn’t deliver Light Cycles for a third year?“. Our hearts sunk. And the question was to continue,” but if we created something completely different, completely new.”
Initially, we were really worried about whether we’d be able to measure up or surpass ourselves. We don’t like repeating ourselves either, as creators or as a multimedia company. So Gabriel and I asked ourselves some big questions at the beginning. We quickly decided to approach it like any other project and put together a team to ask ourselves the right questions. Then we started from the ground up, so it was already good to start with Light Cycles and then extend it. It was really about going back to the source and asking ourselves what we wanted to say, or do. So by going back to the source, the creation first of all, we worked on putting together another team. So the approach was essentially to move away from the same creative team, then to bring on board other players, other people who might have other things to say.
So we rarely enlarged the team, we expanded the scope. Typically on a project, on the one hand. we’ll have a creative person working with the production team, but this time we went back to the table with five or six creative people. Then, over the time that went by, we asked ourselves a lot of questions about what kind of activity we were continuing to pursue. Eventually, someone came along to co-direct the project. At that point, the idea was to get in touch with very different levels of dimension.
The Resonate project was really a discovery where we wanted to plunge to the very heart of ourselves, so really plunge to the level of our emotions, and our senses and then become very ‘in tune’ with the external and internal universe, listening to what’s going on externally and linking it with what you’re feeling, or sometimes you’d see that what was happening externally was so really aligned with what you were feeling internally. So it was really about discovering these two worlds and how one influences the other. That’s what Resonate is all about. So it was really a way of plunging into the heart of ourselves and saying so.
And you haven’t shown Resonate anywhere else yet. I believe it was designed for Adelaide?
Yes, it’s going to premiere here in Adelaide. So a first activation. Then it’s going to go all over the world. But for the moment we’re relaunching the project here.
Can you tell me a bit about the creative process for this installation?
Well, as I said at the beginning, we’re working with a big team – so there were ten or so creators around the table, musicians, lighting designers, people who work on the visual elements. It was really a collaborative effort from the start. So we got all these people together and slowly we came up with a theme that became Resonate.
We got into the basic theme. And from there, it was decided, we’re going to go ahead, even with six of us on board. That’s what we wanted to present. And from there, we slowly started to build. I’d say that for these projects here [in Adelaide], Light Cycles like this one, we’ve often started from the music, so we had a vision for the zone, a vision of the emotions we wanted to experience with Gabriel and Thomas who’s the multimedia director. One of the first things we started to work on was the soundtrack. So we worked with the musical director and the musicians to really define what that environment was.
Then we asked ourselves how many moments? In a work of five or six minutes, how many moments and how much intensity did we want to experience? Did we want to take away the bottom line? We define a bit, then we know it’s the music that’s going to start. Then, with their own notion of innovation, we started to say we’d accumulated lights, visual images, scenography elements, everything. So it really started with the music for the most part.
Having already presented Light Cycles in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, how does it work for you designing a new installation in Canada? Do you have a digital map of the gardens, or something like that to know where you’re going to install this or that thing?
We know the garden well because of course we’d been there two or three times, and we knew last year before we left that we wanted to create new works. So after our project ended last year, we spent a lot of time exploring other corners of the garden to discover or corners that we wanted to rediscover in a different way. So we left last year with some good ideas. We wanted to launch this project. And then there’s the rest of the story.
It’s the same story as last year, Rachel and Lee [of Illuminate Adelaide] have a partnership with Moment Factory, so we really created an extension of our team here, all the people we’d have working for us. We doubled the team here. We ended up with people we got on really well with in terms of production and we made sure they understood our process very well. So the idea is to get them on board like we are, as if they were part of our gang, in terms of meetings, exchanges and ideas. We talk to each other as we do to our peers and to people like us. There’s also a great deal of confidence in the fact that it’s a network.
At that level, we move forward with them. So it’s the concept of us coming up with a little explanation. It’s clear that we give our vision at the creative level, at the equal level, but in the execution, the local team has had a very big role to play. So in that sense, this evening, we set off with our ideas, with our photos, with my satellite radar image scan or 2D 3D scan, you name it. We start with our technical tools, but we’re at the root of things, and it’s this collaboration that makes it all work.
When it comes to testing, not far from Montreal, we have a little corner of land called the Forest Lab, where we go to create. So we leave with a scaled-down version of our work. Then we test things out in the forest, in nature and with the Adelaide team too. The Illuminate Adelaide team and the others went to the botanical gardens with stuff we couldn’t test. So the others, if they’re doing any documentation or testing, they’ve got some live stuff with them. In the middle of the night, while it’s daytime at home. Then again on tests, we document in the forest, we take photos, then we analyse all that. So, once again, at the heart of it all, it’s the collaboration with the teams that will make us strong.
How long does it take to set up the Resonate installation once you’re on site?
It takes about four weeks to set up – one week for technical set-up, one week for equipment set-up and then two weeks for integration. The technicians really start at the beginning and then the designers, apart from the last two weeks, it’s a total of twelve days’ work. In the evenings, we work from around midday to 3am. At midday we get together, make a plan and until 3am we’re in the garden. We start lining up with the local teams and then, as soon as it gets dark, at 5.30pm, we start working in the garden until 3am.
Let’s talk about Moment Factory’s work more generally. Are there any sites in the world that are more difficult to do installations in – for reasons that are either governmental or logistical or other reasons?
I think every site has its own challenges or advantages. We’re always looking for sites that are going to be rich in terms of the natural environment that develops and often the richest natural environment is the one that is the most protected, either because it’s natural or more difficult to access, or because it’s in a place like a botanical garden. And there are very specific conditions to be respected in terms of respect for the environment. If we’re talking about flora just about everywhere, no.
Of course we want to respect the environment we find ourselves in, but there are things that as a multimedia producer we’re not even aware of. So we often work with experts from the region. Like here in Adelaide, we work hand in hand with botanists and trail guides to respect the flora. We’re going to dig a hole here, but under the surface there’s a ridge there – that of a special plant, so they’re going to advise us: “Ah, that’s OK.”
So it’s not that it’s more complex, because we understand that this is our playground, these are our natural environments. We can do it as gently as possible in these environments. So we expect that. So it’s not a shocking challenge and it’s part of our process. So we get on with it.
So the only challenge, in fact, when you travel all over the world, is to get to know the global system or processes again and get to know the teams again. So it’s the right time to develop this relationship with the site and its stakeholders, which is a kind of storytelling, as we say, so that we can agree on a way of operating. So it’s not about challenges, it’s about discovering people and beautiful sites. It’s a great moment in a project when you get to know each other. I’d say that pays off in spades too. Of course, when you invest in this stage of the relationship with the partners, once it’s going really well, you can get through anything. This morning we arrived at the site and there were rivers where there were paths and paths between our Amps because of the rain.
Shows like Light Cycles and Resonate use a lot of electricity, I imagine.
It’s not a matter of statistics, whether we look at electricity consumption or not. You know, we’ve made a lot of choices in recent years about the way we produce shows. This is typically a show like this, we could have had 20 or 25 people travelling with us. We chose to work with a bigger local team, so the environmental footprint is relatively small because there are fewer people per team. So that’s a big saving.
Secondly, lighting equipment has changed a lot in recent years. We now use LED spotlights, unlike five, ten or fifteen years ago, when we used incandescent lights that burned a lot more energy. So in our choice of materials, we make sure that we have equipment that consumes less energy, and we use an equipment rental model, so there’s very little waste. We’re moving into the circular economy, where we’re moving into a rental system. We haven’t bought a lot of equipment that will be lost afterwards. So that’s part of the show. It’s also about adapting the show to what’s out there, what’s available, to make sure that some of it goes back.
But did you need to send other equipment via a container or something like that that comes to Australia before you do?
For the majority of equipment, in both cases, it’s local equipment. So we sent our computers and control systems. All the lights are either rented locally or with the partners they bought for the experience.
That’s great. And is there a message or something you hope to provoke in people with Resonate?
In Resonate, we encourage guests to face up to certain emotions and to do so in public. The idea (of doing it in public) is the basis of everything we do. It’s the Moment Factory slogan “We do it in public.”
In this case, it’s the same thing. We want to see it move away from all the standard multimedia. We’re getting into the airwaves. It’s a very cinematic experience without being a film. We want to engage with all the senses. So we saw how we got carried away and let ourselves be challenged.
Some of the music is a bit stronger than last year. The music is more upbeat, so there are moments where it’s going to be a big ballad. There are others that are quite intense, that create a portrait that’s perhaps more tormented, and then there are others too, where it’s a party, a dance party. So we’re really going to hope that the world lends itself to this exploration that tunes in to the experience and lets, lets itself be carried away.
And if there’s a soundtrack, how long does all the different music last? Or is it more like on one site, you’ll hear this or that music and on another site you’ll hear the other?
These six works are completely independent in that sense. So it’s six pieces of music playing in a loop. So when you arrive in a zone, it’s music specific to that zone and it’s all been created by us, by our musicians, by our teams. So that makes a loop of about four or five minutes per zone. What’s special about Resonate this year is that there are moments about every 20-25 minutes when the whole site resonates together.
In the moment when the six works resonate together, the idea is also to know that those people who are on the site at that moment are resonating to the same tune. So it’s important for us to create that moment of connection between individuals, because they’re going to set off on a new path and discover the music. And then later that you’re resonating together at the same time. So this is what it’s all about.
It sounds great! I don’t know much about lights and how they work, except that at home there’s a switch on the wall that turns the lights on and off. What means do you use to modify the behaviour of light, like refraction and things like that? Or is it too technical to talk about?
It’s very technical. And honestly, it’s also at the heart of what we do, in the middle of the technical background. And it’s really a tool to help us get there. So you know I’m not going to go into the technical side of things. What’s important to understand, for example, is that every element of this show, whether it’s the sound or the lighting, the effects, the movement of the water in some cases, all these elements are synchronised.
We’ve taken great care to make sure that this is what we wanted to show or, in some cases, what we didn’t want to show. So we play a lot with illusion and synchronisation to create a highly immersive universe. You lose your bearings a little. Nature is very synchronised. If the wind blows and a leaf moves, you’ll feel it. So we try to recreate that, but our tools are multimedia. So really, that’s it.
So without spoiling the magic, if you could walk into your flat, turn on the light and at the same time the music would play, the oven would heat up your supper. If everything came on at the same time. That’s how you create, you take control of every element of that production. So for every moment that you’re going to experience when you’re there, behind that there’s a team of creators who have programmed it, of course.
So, at Moment Factory, first there’s the idea, and then the sound and lighting engineers who say yes or no, it’s possible or not.
And that’s it. And we challenge each other. This is a company that works a lot on R&D development, so the technical side, but also on the user experience side. So we’re very sensitive to what the user is going to experience.
So when we’re programming the show, we’re not just thinking about the linear. We put “the customer” in our heads. Between the entrance and the start of the experience, it’s the ticket process that comes online, and what do they feel at that moment? And is it too slow? What do they hear at that moment? What are they drinking? What information is being consumed?
So all the elements of the show are planned in advance. And we’ve been working in public like this for years. Years of communicating this universe in a variety of conditions, from concerts to airports. As a company, we’re very sensitive to the experience of these users. And we focus on that so that everyone seems to be well supported and well prepared for it.
And finally, why should people come to Resonate?
Simple, it’s an experience. It’s very rare that you can go off on an adventure of your own in the context of large crowds where you have hundreds of thousands of people a night, and they’re going to have a collective experience. But in Resonate, you’re also having a very personal experience. I think it’s going to be highly emotional both on a personal level and with a group. We invite people to come as a family, as lovers, they can also come alone or with a group of friends. Depending on the context, the moment will be different. But in fact, the challenge is just to let yourself be carried away by this musical universe and the visuals we’ve created.
We’d like to thank Mathieu Grainger and Moment Factory for this interview and look forward to taking part in the Resonate experience at its world premiere tonight!
KEY INFO FOR RESONATE
WHAT : Resonate from Moment Factory
WHEN: Thursday 29 June to Sunday 30 July (except Mondays)
WHERE: Adelaide Botanic Gardens, Main Gate entrance on North Terrace
HOW: Buy your tickets via this link
HOW MUCH: Ticket prices are as follows:
- General admission: $42.00
- Groups of 4 and over: $40.00 per person
- 4 years and under: FREE – however a $0.00 ticket is required for entry
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