I woke up last Tuesday morning particularly excited about the week ahead. First, I’d planned to catch up with Caroline, a dear friend of mine, over lunch at Vices Versa that afternoon. She’d never been there and it’s one of my favorite spots in Little Italy Montreal. We hadn’t seen each other in a while and there were lots of blanks to fill in, laughs to be had and guaranteed great conversation. I rolled out of bed that morning also looking forward to C2MTL, a 3 day conference on the merging of Commerce and Creativity I’d eagerly registered to attend. This first edition of the event was curated by SidLee in collaboration with leading corporate and creative companies from around the world. There was a specific accent to this conference on finding ways to inject innovation and constructive creative risk into corporate environments, the interactive exhibits promised an immersive experience and the lineup of speakers was out of this world: Cirque du Soleil’s Guy Laliberté, Google Creative Lab’s Robert Wong, Disney’s ex CEO Michael Eisner, Francis Ford Coppola, Neuroscientist Dr Rex Jung to name a few. Brushing my teeth, I also thought of Ubisoft because the promotion of a video game is kind of exciting. They’d asked me to participate and assist in a MoCap simulation session for international press on Far Cry 3 that Thursday and I looked forward to seeing fellow actors Michael Mando and Ken Proulx again (see my last post). Both have been wonderful to work with and because doing any kind of press always makes me nervous I was glad to know the two of them would be there too. And finally The Listener was on my mind, the premiere coming up so soon…there was so much to look forward to, to be grateful for and what a great adventure it all promised to be.
Matthew, my love, handed me a glass of water as I stepped into the kitchen. He went back to making breakfast and looked up at me pensively: ‘I know it’s been crazy out there with the student protests for a long time now but there was something about that night…’ he said. ‘Les Casseroles?’ I asked. ‘Yeah, it was the chanting, the families, the kids, everyone banging on pots and pans chanting together in our neighborhood, all across the city…there was electricity, something in the air.’ He was talking about the intense student protests going on every night in our city for the past 3 months. The two of us have been actively debating our differing opinions over Quebec’s Tuition Hikes at home, touching on it almost every day. Politics has all of a sudden become a normal and much more important part of our daily routine and discussions. I’m pursuing my Masters in Media Studies at Concordia University and am supportive of the strike. Like many of my fellow students, teachers and friends, I am angry that press coverage has had such a strong bias towards belittling the student movement. As usual, cameras have panned towards the minority, the few loudest, most disrespectful rebels who for the most part don’t have a cause in this protest, just a thirst for anarchy and violence. But the drama seems newsworthy and the presses have been rolling all around the world, focusing the debate on alarmist rhetoric rather than the real issues at hand. Then the Charest government’s Bill 78 hit and the rest is history. I personally feel that we cannot hand over our right to peacefully assemble to the Police, even temporarily. That’s my opinion. And in my neighborhood, all across my city, families, kids, jurists and legal experts, students and professionals have taken to the streets to protest what is generally believed to be a flat out infringement on our democratic rights.
I stepped out into the rain later that Tuesday (it rained pretty hard) and out towards adventure, social engagement, work, creativity and inspiration. Below are snippets, images and moments from that week…
Lunch With Caroline at Vices Versa:
Caroline: This beer tastes like Ginger…I like it!
Mylène: I know, it’s great, they have the best selection here from microbreweries all over Quebec.
(After we both brought up the student movement)
Caroline: I think I did a BooBoo..
Mylène: What? (LOL) What do you mean?
Caroline: I posted this article on FB about Bill 78 and now…
Mylène: Oh god-
Caroline: Yup. Total mayhem. I mean I knew posting was risky on the issue but it’s good to be able to discuss it…you tread lightly, but it’s important.
Mylène: I agree.
Caroline: Never expected the speed and level of the responses though. Obviously touched a nerve.
The most succinct way to verbalize how the originality of this conference affected me is to quote one of the event’s Editorial Team members Ilias Benjelloun. In between two speaker sessions, I was sitting for a moment in the site’s specially designed courtyard when he walked over to say hello. We’d had brief exchanges on Twitter about the event and I recognized him. We shook hands and started chatting:
Mylène: I’m so impressed with this whole experience!
Ilias: So glad to hear it. You know it’s been a wild ride putting up this conference but we have so many incredible collaborators that it’s all been worth it.
Mylène: I wasn’t sure what to expect, if it was actually possible to inject the physical creative experience into the corporate conference model but you’ve done it!
Ilias: Yeah I think we have. I was discussing this with someone else earlier today. He was saying that he’d been to so many other conferences on the same theme but that what usually ended up happening there were a lot of speeches but no actual physical manifestation of what it really means to encourage creativity, to experience it.
Mylène: The exhibits are incredible for that.
Ilias: Yes, they are. We wanted not only the speakers to reflect and encourage innovation but also our site, the whole compound.
Mylène: It’s like stepping into an intuitive tactile environment-
Ilias: That’s what this guy was also saying, that for the first time at one of these conferences he not only benefitted from the wisdom of industry leaders on the topic but actually engaged creatively himself, the concept of creativity became physical, real, an experience.
Mylène: I was worried about the weather not being so great this week for you and the student strike affecting traffic towards the site…
Ilias: Oh that hasn’t affected us at all. We don’t interfere with the marches and they haven’t interfered with our business.
(He took a pause then and thought for a moment)
Ilias: Vous savez, je viens du Maroc et j’ai passé beaucoup de temps en Europe (You know, I come from Morocco and spent alot of time in Europe) and what really bothers me about the nature of this debate over tuition fees here and the movement in general is that not many people are actually focusing on the issues, the actual nature of the Tuition Hikes and Bill 78. In Europe people, ordinary people, openly argue and debate about heated political issues all the time. Out in the open, in restaurants, in the streets, in the media…and here it seems taboo, and so the form takes over the content. The Government and Student leaders have both faltered in that sense in my opinion. They’ve just immediately been at each other’s throats from the start. There needs to be more constructive debating going on. People should feel comfortable disagreeing whilst still being allowed and encouraged to voice their opinions on key issues. Attacking each other personally never leads to anything constructive.
Mylène: Absolutely see your point.
Ilias: Ok, back to work, nice meeting you.
Mylène: Nice meeting you too.
Some visuals I wanted to share, hopefully it’s ok by C2MTL organizers:
Here’s The New City Gas Building, an industrial building in Griffintown entirely renovated and transformed for the event. Inside were several exhibits and the huge airy conference room where the speakers sounded off.
Here’s what it looked like inside the conference hall…yup, that’s Francis Ford Coppola up there. Such an inspiring man, what a life he’s led and he shared so much with us that thursday evening, promoting creative integrity, learning from failures, the importance of family, taking risks, being yourself no matter what…and he made it all sound fresh, tried and true. And that was the case for all the speakers I saw. There was a relaxed and intimate quality to their demeanor and delivery, a candid openness towards us that really surprised me.
Echoes Of Absence An interactive exhibit born out of the collaboration between Baillat Cardel & Fils and another artist, Iregular. It ‘explores our everyday interactions through technology and how we assume there is someone on the other side. This interactive installation invites the participant to say something meaningful into a floating video structure – and in exchange hear what others have shared before. The experience visualizes meaning and reflexion’ – C2MTL
Here’s my silly but awesome moment with the installation.
Watch this video I took of the exhibit: EchoesOfAbsenceVid
More info on this exhibit here
Hysterical Machines A Bill Vorn project inspired ‘by the idea of ‘Mysery of the Machines’. It suggests absurd and deviant behavior through functional machines. It operates on a dual-level process expressing the paradoxal nature of Artificial Life. (…) The aim of this project is to induce empathy of the viewer for characters that are nothing more than articulated metal structures (…)’ – C2MTL
I love this picture I snapped while the machines were ‘reacting’ to my presence…
Watch this video I took of the exhibit: BillVorn_HystericalMachines
Those two were my personal favorite exhibits but there were many others, all equally engaging and fascinating.
If you want to get it all from the horse’s mouth check out C2MTL’s own blog on last week’s event.
I personally had a blast and learned so much about how we invest parts of ourselves and our life experiences into our work, how not to compromise your own creative process, how to collaborate effectively with others and let empathy be the most important driving force in whatever project creatively engages you. The interactive exhibits stretched the limits of my imagination and my fascination with new media and technology.
And back home in the evening, I took my dogs out for a walk, my head buzzing with discoveries, alongside families walking down the street with wooden spoons and pots, making music out of freedom.
And there you have it. I’m working on some great acting projects too but wanted to share these thoughts with you. It’s been a particularly engaging time. Thanks to everyone who tuned in to watch the season 3 premiere of The Listener last night. Hope you enjoyed it. Here’s a moment between actor Ennis Esmer (Oz) and I (Olivia) in that episode titled ‘The Bank Job’ directed by Farhad Mann. Photo by Marni Grossman.
I’ll leave you now with an event that occurred on Jan 30th 1969: The Beatles’ Rooftop Concert atop the Apple Records building in London. Here’s a great article chronicling that day: The Beatles’ Rooftop Concert. It still stands as a pretty amazing ‘little’ experiment to watch, 50 years later, especially when the music in the streets here and now is stirring the pot too: