Loto-Québec has a longstanding relationship with festivals and is a key player in Quebec culture. Every year, the government-owned company sponsors dozens of events across the province. To develop creative sponsorship ideas, Loto-Québec has, for the past eight years, turned to the Montreal-based marcomm agency Bleublancrouge, whose job it is to dream up original concepts.
In summer 2015, the agency created “Rendez-Vous Loto-Québec,” interactive gatherings in public spaces in Montreal such as the Old Port, Lafontaine Park, and Mount-Royal Park, places frequented by thousands of visitors. These events revolve around three themes in connection with festivals: fireworks, music, and legends. For fireworks, the installation titled “Étincelle” (“Spark”) allowed the public to set off virtual fireworks as part of a luminous installation. For music, four stationary bikes generated a musical work, thereby forming a “wheel quartet.” “In addition to getting people to enjoy themselves, we wanted these events to be created in partnership with local artists,” specifies Jonathan Rouxel, Vice-President and Creative Director at Bleublancrouge.
While searching for an artist who had already worked on legends, the agency quickly came upon “Wuxia the Fox,” an augmented tale created by the interactive poet Jonathan Bélisle and a company called Saga. “We knew we’d found very strong material,” relates Jonathan Rouxel. “It was easy to take this idea and apply it to the Loto-Québec context.”
And that is how “Naissance du monde” came to be, a legend inspired by Native folktales, a mix of Iroquois and Algonquin founding narratives, which tells the story of a rabbit that falls into a stormy sea. A giant turtle brings him back to the surface and becomes the landmass on which we walk today.
“Naissance du monde” is a work designed by Jonathan Bélisle to deliver a tangible experience. At the centre of the digital installation is a magic tome that the public must read out loud to activate onscreen animation. Jonathan Bélisle wanted to showcase natural interfaces.
“I’m opposed to digital technology,” he says by way of explanation. “I’m interested in nostalgia, in what has disappeared but is still meaningful.”
And, he readily admits, it was the technology that gave him the most trouble on this project. Contrary to the technology used on “Wuxia,” the vocal recognition technology on this project was not connected to the web. As a result, it was difficult to recognize variations in intonation and to eliminate background noise.
Jonathan Bélisle’s dream is to inject poetry into the world using digital technology. In his opinion, “Information technology can be used to humanize, not just to optimize.” For Jonathan Rouxel, it was important that the project managed to bring together families and also strangers.
“Technology often isolates us from one another. In this case, it really brought people together.”