Avatar is a self-run artist centre specialized in researching, creating, disseminating, publishing, and distributing audio and electronic art. The centre is a non-profit organization and, in its 20 years of existence, has initiated activities to promote production, discussion, and collaboration among professional artists at every level through local, national, and international networks. Its facilities are located in Quebec City in the Coopérative Méduse building and include research and recording studios, a multi-purpose room, a computer laboratory, and an electronics lab containing cutting-edge audio and electronic equipment. Avatar has also had a public listening centre since the summer of 2012.
Avatar’s primary mission is to promote the research, creation, and dissemination of audio and electronic art in all its current and future forms to continually revitalize artists and their discipline.
To do this, Avatar :
- Provides artists with equipment, workspace, and specialized knowledge
- Supports the creation, production, and dissemination of projects
- Organizes activities in collaboration with other organizations
- Sparks discussions between artists and the public Shares its expertise through various activities (training workshops, talks, etc.) intended for professional artists
Avatar remains one of the few organizations in North America devoted to audio and electronic art and the only one of its kind in the greater Quebec City area.
Audio art has long been a misunderstood art form due to the mistaken belief that it arose from music. And although numerous parallel distribution channels existed for independent films and video, there was no established way to see and listen to audio art. As a result, there was a considerable lack of support for professional artists working in this discipline. It precisely to fill this void that Avatar was founded in Quebec City in 1993, by Pierre-André Arcand, Bernard Bonnier, Christof Migone, James Partaik, Jocelyn Robert, and Charles-Éric Savard.
In 1995 Avatar set up shop in the Méduse Complex, which brought together producers and presenters dedicated to the arts, culture, and community outreach. Its workspaces are specially designed for electronic and audio production, making it one of the few Canadian organizations—if not the only one—specializing in audio art. From 1995 to 2001, Avatar hosted numerous artists for research and development work, organized its first showings, and established partnerships and residency programs with local and international organizations.
From 2001 to 2005, Avatar consolidated its electronic lab activities, making them an official part of its work. The centre also began uploading its program of commissioned works, entitled Excavation sonore, to its website. Over the years, its publishing division, OHM éditions, explored new media to adapt to artists’ needs. The centre set up its own distribution company, VacuOhm, to complement the services provided to artists in light of the dissolving boundaries between production and distribution. Avatar thus became the first distributer in all of Canada to specialize in new media.
From 2005 to 2007, Avatar began a major market development campaign (free distribution of Œuvres avouées = Avowed Works to exhibition organizers and curators), thus cementing its international presence. At the same time, the centre established a strong global network of collaborators, which led to major shows, including Avatar exhibitions at the Vooruit arts centre (Belgium, 2006) in Paris (France, 2006), and at the Tesla centre (Germany, 2007). In the ensuing years, Avatar bolstered many of its presentation and production partnerships (Mois Multi, Manif d’art, etc.), launched new initiatives such as Avatar@l’école, and published numerous works (Covers, La chute, Disco sec, Luigi’s Avatar, etc.).
With the development of training activities (workshops) in 2008, the commissioning of the first works by its artists (Manon Labrecque’s Mécanismes de réanimation in 2009, Caroline Gagné’s Cargo in 2011, and Diane Morin’s Cordes in 2013), presentation of the Échographies des œuvres en art audio et électronique conference (2011), the establishment of the artistic direction committee (2011-2012), and the restructuring of the publishing and distribution divisions (by reviewing the distribution process, dismantling OHM and VacuOhm in favour of a single entity called Avatar, and more), the centre revealed the full scope of its knowledge and expertise and cemented its place as a media arts leader not just in Canada, but worldwide.
In 2013 Avatar celebrated its 20th anniversary with major events and side activities,.