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Alexandre Castonguay, Générique, 2001

Interactive video installation

Computer, software, surveillance video camera, projector, speakers and amplifier, 1/2

Variable dimensions

With the collaboration of Mathieu Bouchard (programmer)

Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal Collection
A 02 4 I


Alexandre Castonguay, Générique, 2001, Interactive video installation, Collection Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. Photo: Richard-Max Tremblay, © Alexandre Castonguay

Part of the permanent collection of the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MACM), Générique is a work by Canadian artist Alexandre Castonguay, born in Ottawa (Ontario, Canada) in 1968. Produced in 2001 in Ottawa–Hull, in collaboration with programmer Mathieu Bouchard, this interactive video installation consists of the following equipment: a computer, software, a surveillance video camera, a projector, speakers and an amplifier.

In Générique, the visitor follows a corridor that leads to a dark room. Once in the room, a surveillance video camera captures the visitor’s image and movements in real time..

The captured image is sent to a computer in a control room, where a motion capture algorithm software, programmed with GridFlow and Pure Data, analyzes the mouvements and synthesizes the animated sequences. Only the visitor’s silhouette is retained; it is then modified by the code, creating a blurred double figure. The silhouette is then inverted, creating a mirror effect, and superimposed on a sequence of images projected on a wall in the room. Depending on the intensity of the movements of the visitors in the room, the silhouette is transformed and a series of images representing foliage, water and fire change respectively from green, to blue and to red. Similarly, the amplitude and frequency of samples from the soundtrack vary more or less perceptibly. The room’s dim lighting contributes to the proper functioning of the work’s immersive aspect.


Documenting Générique’s interactive behaviour is essential to its long term conservation. In Générique, the sequencing of the nature images depends on the intensity of the visitor’s movements. Every five or ten seconds, the software program reassesses the proportion of white (silhouette) on the screen, prompting the image to change: when there is no movement the image is green, blue with limited movement and red when there is ongoing motion. Simultaneously, the soundtrack consisting of five levels of intensity is submitted to a motion-triggered random generator, which will vary the amplitude and frequency of the samples from the soundtrack.


In 2008, the MACM installed the work with the artist and the programmer Mathieu Bouchard in order to perform a migration of both the “sound” and “video” computers. The purpose of the migration was to facilitate the start-up of the work and to upgrade to a single, more powerful computer. The migration consisted of a transfer of the video board from the “video” computer as well as the video and audio data. A modification to the work’s program code was necessary in order to link the video portion to the sound portion in the new computer. The operating system and software were also uploaded. Documentation on the work was further substantiated with the videotaping of the entire migration process followed by an interview with the artist and the programmer. In this video interview conducted in February 2008 by the MACM, Castonguay describes Générique and its concept, explains how it functions (behaves), clarifies its presentation specifications and discusses the elements essential to its preservation.


Interview with Alexandre Castonguay and Mathieu Bouchard


For the installation of the work, the artist insists on the use of a corridor leading the visitors to the area of projection. This is necessary to establish the visitor’s interactivity. The interview reveals the importance of observing the significant technical aspects that influence the work’s operation. The visual appearance of the work (pixelation effect, imperfections of the image) and its interactive behaviour make Générique unique. These characteristics are representative of the technologies available at the moment of production, and therefore important to preserve. The computer, the operating system, the programming environment and the program are, from the artist’s perspective, the four basic elements required for the continued existence of the work. Although the computer can be replaced by a more recent model and the current projector by a luminescent surface, the Museum must reintegrate the same versions of the operating system and software, such as Ubuntu 7.10, GridFlow and Pure Data. In the case of technological obsolescence, Castonguay specifies that the presentation of a video documenting Générique should not be foreseen as a long term conservation solution since the interactivity and visitor presence are an integral part of the work.


Descriptive table of Générique by Alexandre Castonguay

Specification list of Générique by Alexandre Castonguay



Interview with Alexandre Castonguay and Mathieu Bouchard


Générique is a work from the permanent collection of the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal.


This interview was videotaped on February 22, 2008 at the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, following the installation of Générique. The artist Alexandre Castonguay, accompanied by the programmer Mathieu Bouchard, revisits the work and discusses the essential points of its technical aspects and preservation...

Read more: Interview with Alexandre Castonguay and Mathieu Bouchard


Alexandre Castonguay: Installation of "Générique"


Alexandre Castonguay: "Générique" Installation;  (2 min 11 s). February 2008, Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal.

Read more: Alexandre Castonguay: Installation of "Générique"