Corn & places, Research and creation residency

This project is based on various representations, symbols and discourses associated with corn. Manuel Chantre creates an evocative universe, abstract and sensitive.



For Manuel Chantre, the construction and deconstruction of cultural symbols has always been a source of inspiration. As a new media artist, his approach has been characterized by integrating music, audio art, programming, electronics, and most recently, video. As a performer, Chantre has used popcorn, modified musical Christmas cards, video game consoles, interactive dolls and other objects as sound and visual sources. The exploration of immersive environments and new narrative languages occupy an equally important part of his practice. Chantre holds a degree in social and cultural anthropology (Université Laval) and another in fine arts and electroacoustic music (Concordia University).


Project description

For over 5000 years, man has cultivated and consumed corn. This food has nourished entire civilizations in America and, in comparison to rice and wheat, is currently the most widely consumed grain worldwide. Throughout this time, corn has also left an impression on our collective subconscious. By elaborating upon the various representations and symbols associated to this plant, Manuel Chantre
has created an evocative, sensory, and abstract vehicle.

This artistic statement is a reflection of Chantre’s focus on the construction and deconstruction of popular culture symbolism, an area he has explored with the Popcore collective and through his anthropological studies.

Installation production.

Designed as an immersive and interactive installation, the project consists of twenty four transparent projection screens, four video projectors and a four-loudspeaker, ambiophonic sound system. The unique interpretation of each spectator and the manipulation of spatial perception are the primary axis guiding the environment. In a dark room, various screens alight, flicker, and interact with the public to generate
a narrative composed of familiar places and symbols that are at once being constructed and deconstructed. In this space, spectators will explore a universe woven of memories and recollections associated to the corn plant.

This residence was made possible through the support of Vivacité Montréal and the Society for Arts and Technology (SAT). The first presentation of Dispergere Maiz will be held at the SAT during the Journées de la culture from September 26-27, 2009.

The installation

At the centre of a large room measuring 30ft. x 30ft., translucent, rectangular screens made of veiling and retroprojection canvas are suspended around the booth. According to the varying activation of the screens, spaces and imagery of changeable dimensions will be generated.

Translucent, rectangular screens made of veiling and retroprojection canvas are suspended around the booth. According to the varying activation of the screens, spaces and imagery of changeable dimensions will be generated.



This immersive environment will react in relation to the user’s position as determined by motion sensors placed within the room. Different scenes and imagery will therefor be set into motion based on their visual, musical or spatial aspects. As the data is processed in real time, a dynamic structural narrative that differs from one performance to the next will emerge.

Data will be interpreted by the Eyesweb application and the audience’s movements will be captured using infrared cameras. A Max/MSP-programmed application will manage the data to activate both visuals and music, as well as the video signals of all projectors. To optimize the transfer of data, a synchronization method between computers will also be developed.


For thousands of years, maize has been developed and transformed by society as one of our principal food sources. To the Mayans, corn symbolized life and was directly associated to the origin of man. Their mythology outlined the belief that humans were in fact made of the maize plant. The French word maïs comes from the root maize, a native term dating from 1525 that represents a “cereal-type

Today, corn has many uses and representations: it is a consumer food, a symbol of intensive agriculture, a product associated to fairs and the cinema, a genetically-modified food, a plant capable of producing ethanol, a substance used in the making of antibiotics, livestock feed, and a decorative food, amongst others.

The numerous and diverse aspects of corn have inspired Manuel Chantre to create this evocative installation.

An open narrative

Dispergere Maiz unfolds as a non-linear narrative wherein each spectator experiences a different story. By using symbols, icons, and historical landmarks gathered from our collective subconscious, the spectator’s personal associations to corn will be brought to life.


Deconstructed and processed video elements will rapidly be projected onto the screens. The viewer, once subjected to an abundance of the various cultural representations of corn, will recall their respective experiences and intimate memories. As the performance unfolds, the narrative will take shape. For one, impressions and emotions related to a past experience may bring forth memories of corn as it was found in places such as the cinema or a local fair, thereby evoking concentrated, momentary recollections.

Along with Jean Ranger, Chantre has explored the narrative characteristics of immersive installations through his musical compositions designed for various sound environments. His collaborations have included “Réflexions / Réflections“, designed for the Cyclorama, as well as the film “Entre ciel et terre“, designed for the SATosphère. One of the most interesting aspects of the Dispergere Maiz project is that each spectator can focus on the projection of his of her choice for as long as they like. This feature encourages free interpretation without attempting to direct the viewer’s attention or dictate their experience.

Places and perspectives

The Latin word dispergere signifies “to scatter about; to disperse”. This word brings to mind the concepts of dispersion, dissemination, dissociation, and relocation. These themes are the primary research focus of the project and the fragmentation of related imagery will construct and re-create this immersive space.

Chantre also intends to explore the unique sensory and spatial dimensions of his installation. Due to the configuration, juxtaposition and superposition of screens in this three dimensional environment, new spatial and narrative possibilities will be discovered. By experimenting with various social and psychological parameters, one’s perception of space, distance, height and balance can be altered.

Artistic background

Inspired by the misappropriation of mass culture, Chantre founded the Popcore collective in 2006 in collaboration with the SAT’s weekly MixSessions events. Members of the collective (including Danny Perreault, Dimitri della Faille, Simon Laroche, and Jean-Ambroise Vesac) directly improvised with modified objects in order to employ them as musical and visual sources. This project allowed members to explore different approaches in digital art and aesthetics. The final appearances by the collective were presented under the moniker Popcore Duo, a “noise/narrative” performance that Chantre and Laroche created based on the deconstruction of a robotic body.

As part of Montreal’s chiptune/8bit scene, Chantre is known for his musical performance project Taxi Nouveau. He is also the founding member of the Toy Company collective.

In addition to his explorations in immersive production at the SAT, Chantre has honed his techniques as a composer and sound designer for fiction films, animations, architectural installations, documentaries and other performance projects. He has worked for various local production organizations including the
National Film Board of Canada, Moment Factory, and the Montreal Science centre.

Chantre’s personal projects have been presented at numerous international festivals and cultural events held in Canada, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Holland, and the United States.



A. Fabre, Le Voyage et navigation faict par les Espaignolz es Isles Mollucques [trad. de l’ouvrage ital. de Pigafetta, 1525.] ds Arv., p. 309

Mistere du viel Testament, éd. J. de Rothschild, 44406.

XVe s., v. Molinet, Faictz et dictz, éd. W. Dupire, t. I, p. 164, 63; empr. au lat. dispersus.


This Society for Arts and Technology residency has been made possible by the Vivacité Montréal program in partnership with the Canada Council for the Arts, the Conférence régionale des élus de Montréal, the Foundation of Greater Montreal, le ministère de l’Immigration et des Communautés culturelles, le ministère de la Culture, des Communications et de la Condition féminine, le Conseil des arts de Montréal, and le Forum jeunesse de l’Île de Montréal.

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