The country focus Canada at VRHAM! 2021 with four VR experiences in the Art Program is supported by the Canada Council for the Arts, the Government of Canada (Embassy of Canada to Germany) and the Québec Government Office in Berlin. A conversation with the Delegate General of Québec in Germany, Elisa Valentin, about innovation and synergies between art and technologies.

VRHAM!: VR art has a high standing in Québec, there are many VR studios, festivals and a lively scene. How important is the international exchange and the visibility of this still young art form for you at a festival like VRHAM! in Hamburg?

ELISA VALENTIN: Québec is one of the pioneers in North America and worldwide in the field of immersive and interactive technologies and has a firmly established, very active and dynamic media art and VR scene, whose artistic and technological innovative power gives it a special status in the cultural and art field, but also beyond that in various other fields of application. It feeds this, among other things, from the close interaction between artists, companies and research institutions, but also from its affinity to international exchange. The VRHAM! Festival is a particularly relevant partner in this context, as it addresses both the diversity of immersive technologies and their overarching relevance for the world of culture and art, and in doing so engages local and international actors in dialogue.

V!: VRHAM! has been in contact with many Québec actors for several years, such as the Centre PHI. This year, Québec is represented with several works as part of the Canada Focus and in the international jury for the VRHAMMY AWARD with the multimedia artist Caroline Monnet. What potential do you see in the relationship between Hamburg and Québec and specifically for further cooperation?

EV: Québec is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its presence in Germany this year. During this time, close and diverse relations have developed with Germany in business, politics, science and culture. A particularly fruitful cooperation has developed with Hamburg, and Québec attaches particular importance to its further development and deepening. Due to the numerous similarities but also the complementarities between Québec and Hamburg, this cooperation has a strong potential. And this also applies to the field of media art. We are very happy about Québec’s presence at this year’s VRHAM! Festival and could well imagine a future collaboration. Both the further networking of artists, studios and media art institutions from Québec and Hamburg, the exchange of know-how and the initiation of joint cultural and art projects would be very exciting.

V!: International exchange is of particular relevance to you. Many real encounters could not take place last year because of the pandemic. Did that slow down cooperation or did something new emerge?

EV: The pandemic is also an immense challenge for the cultural and art scene in Québec and has significantly restricted the international mobility of artists. At the same time, it has accelerated digitalisation in many cultural institutions in Québec and worldwide, thus increasing the international reach and visibility of their offerings and promoting international cooperation. In this context, Québec has also been able to continue and even deepen many of its partnerships and collaborations. In addition to the now more diverse digital forms of exchange, we believe that its content has also evolved significantly in the process. The question of synergies between technology and art – in the experience of artistic and cultural content, its presentation, reception and distribution, but also in the artistic creative process itself – is nourishing the reflection with our international partners visibly and more profoundly.