Interview with France Jobin & Markus Heckmann


The SAT had the pleasure of speaking with its artists-in-residence France Jobin, Montreal-based sound and installation artist, film composer and curator, and Markus Heckmann, visual artist and technical director at Derivative in Toronto.

Their immersive work Entanglement, part of the Satosphere Series presented during the MUTEK festival, explores and transforms the theories of quantum physics into a gripping sensory experience.

Their work will be presented on August 26 in the SAT dome.

The Society for Arts and Technology (SAT) is a research and creation laboratory open to the world, multiplying technological possibilities and the hybridization of realities and artistic disciplines. Its residency program aims to accompany innovative projects to fruition, providing artistic teams with the support they need to progress through one or more phases of creation.



SAT: How and when did both your artistic practices connect?

We started working together with Richard Chartier in 2019 on our project entitled DUO, which premiered at Mutek Montreal and toured until the pandemic shut down most things. France saw this as an opportunity to study Quantum Physics and she had already approached Markus on the subject. Once she felt comfortable enough with her studies, France started sharing her findings with Markus who in turn fed new reading material back. This essentially fuelled our imagination, and we started working on a demo together. France created the music and Markus created visuals for it. We just took it from there and kept going. This collaboration is quite easy-going and uncomplicated. Our approaches align through a shared appreciation for minimalism and our interest in various subjects, we are both curious!


SAT: Your project takes on the challenging task to explore artistically two dominant theories explaining quantum entanglement. Can you tell us more about your approach?

Our approach is simple, we try to interpret complex theories in order to bring an experience to the public which enables them to enjoy the work without any prior knowledge of science. If they have scientific knowledge, we are happy to converse! In general, we communicate ideas and leave it to the viewer to interpret them from their own experience horizon. A person with specific knowledge of the topic will approach the show much differently than somebody with a wonderment but our hope is that both will take something with them. Both of us also approached this topic differently. France with a two-year deep dive on the scientific matter that is reflected deeply in the music while Markus fed off France’s research and looked at the tensions the interpretation of these discoveries brought with them.

A concrete example is: Fluidity of time does not exist in quantum physics, how do we interpret this concept while we both use time based media to work with? It is a complex idea which we managed to explore, creating both visuals and music, super-positioning both in order to give the illusion of no movement.

We are dealing with ideas that need to be interpreted but have no straight path to sonification and visualization. 


SAT: This is the third chapter of your project, for which you’ve already explored screen based A/V performance and headset based XR (presented as part of the MUTEK Immersive Collection). What drove you to adapt your work for a dome?

If you take an AV performance, one is constrained to a 2D screen whose size is determined by what is available, so we have big sound and restrained visuals performed in front of a large audience. The XR project gave us the opportunity to explore the opposite: one is surrounded by visuals while the sound is restrained to the Oculus headset and we are creating the experience for one person at a time, this is an important element as it results in an intimate experience. Exploring this project as a dome presentation gives us a chance to investigate big sound and big visuals for an audience that will be sitting or lying down which implies full concentration on their part. It is a chance for us to push our exploration into another area of quantum physics, quantum field theory.

A challenge in the dome will be to recreate that intimate feeling of the XR version while keeping it an communal experience.

An equally important element is placement. Wherever one is seated, the performance will feel different sonically and visually. This brings us back to entanglement. The audience will be linked together  but they will all experience something different depending on where they will be seated .


SAT: Have you consulted or interacted with the scientific community during the conception of this project?

Yes we have, France had a mentor for her studies, Richard D. Brown from the UK, later on, we met Sebastián Duque Mesa during the premiere of the Mutek immersive collection at Mutek 2022. In the fall of 2022, when France flew to Dresden to meet Markus to present Entanglement AV at Hellerau, she met Tatsukiko Ikeda, a physicist from Japan. We met Tatsuhiko again in Tokyo in December 2022 and in February 2023, Sebastián invited us to present Entanglement XR in Toronto at Xanadu, where he works, and where we had great conversations with physicists, engineers and designers. These interactions are important to us as they keep us on our toes with regards to scientific acuity and in one case, we completely changed course during a 5 minute conversation :-).


SAT: What experience do you wish to convey to the audience?

It is our hope that we create an experience where the audience gets lost, loses track of time and can just let go. Perhaps the performance will be a translation of our interests and our curiosities. 


SAT: Can you talk about the dynamic of your artistic collaboration on this project?

Simple this is a “no drama” collaboration, it just flows…


SAT: What are your biggest current influences, visually and musically?

FJ: I am influenced by concepts more that music, but I listens to anything from Miles Davis to Coltrane to Atomtm, Richard Chartier, Andy Stott, Barker, Basinski and Curtist Mayfield. In installation and concert works for instance, I positions speakers in specific ways to respond to the architecture, thus creating a sound sculpture without it being an absolute object. Rather, it is about presenting a work that is different than what one hears, depending on one’s placement in the space. Rather, it is about presenting a work that is not absolute in its sound but, rather, aurally mutable depending on one’s placement in the space. 

MH: Talking on visuals, inspiration comes from constant probing of what you hear, see, and experience – where various sensations just “fit” is where perhaps the sweet spot for inspiration lies and hence it can come from any direction. Of course, past exposure plays a big role and this is where a certain amount of minimalism mixed with complexity and simplicity can be traced back to.

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