Mutek’s Keychange :: Amplify symposium is moving forward

Mutek’s 19th edition is one of the most important in its history. Not only does the 2018 edition gather 127 artists and 40 nationalities – a record – but it achieves performance programme parity, when it aimed to attain it for 2022. An achievement possible thanks to their involvement with Keychange :: Amplify, a project created by PRS Foundation and managed by the British Council amongst others. The two day symposium hosted August 21st and 22nd features an illustrious selection of speakers on a range of topics concerned with empowering women in digital arts and electronic music.


When we ask Mutek programmer and curator Patti Schmidt – who’s been fighting for a better women representation in the industry since she has been on board (almost 10 years from now) – how does it feel to achieve performance programme parity, the answer is easy : « It feels good ». But it’s way more than that.  « I’m suprised myself. The entire initial framework the Keychange project provided was an opportunity to achieve parity. Thanks to the project funding from British Council, various people in Canada and the Canada Council, we were able to create a circuit of our own to send Canadian artists to Latin America, to the UK as well. The lesson is : you can do this if you try. I think it will be a challenge to keep this up. We opened doors on rooms we weren’t in before, and now we know where to look a little bit more. Trying to be balanced in your program is learning how to research things, how to find things, and reaching out. »

With panels such as Hot Buttons: On Quotas, Biology, the Meritocracy and MoreBreaking the Binary: Sound/Noise, Wanted/Unwanted, Masculine/Feminine or (Re-en) gendering the Arts & Industry: Institutional Action, that’s what the symposium tries to do : make people question themselves, give them leads on how to change things, give them examples of what has been done, what worked, what didn’t. All of it is shared through the panelists experiences, from artists like Lucas Charlie Rose or Debit to academic people in the likes of Jonathan Sterne from McGill University,  institutional person like Nathalie Maillé from le Conseil des Arts de Montréal and industry professionals like PRS Foundation member Jessica Partridge. It’s in this setting that we learn more about the Keychange :: Amplify project, born in the UK from another project called Women Make Music, itself originating from the idea women might be discouraged by the system. For five years now, the project aims at supporting women, artists and professionals, in music.

© Bruno Destombes

One of the highlight of  the Keychange :: Amplify project is their pledge to achieve parity gender in festivals. The project was launched with the support of 7 core festivals; with Mutek as one of them. As of today, more than 120 festivals signed for this four year plan. Why now, we could ask ? Of course the #metoo movement helped women’s pursuit to assert their position in the public space, but as Patti Schmidt underlines, « Everything is a process. It takes a while to change habits, figure out where the women are. They are there, they are just not part of the same networks and circles, and conventional modes of knowing. We gave lots of chances to men who were starting out, so I don’t know why it feels weird to do so with women. We are trying to make Mutek a productive experience, we provide a good stage, a good sound system and an open-minded audience.» And this year’s edition reflects their intention to offer the audience an inclusive programmation with great variety of performances and genres.

© Bruno Destombes

« We’re in a momentum, and the younger generation of men is part of this momentum. They are important to the next wave, when all the 60 years old men will retire » concludes Patti Schmidt. The road is very long, the work is very real, but something is definitely going on. Hopefully Keychange: Amplify and Mutek will serve as an example and will reflect on the industry, allowing women, non-binary and transgender people to find their place on and behind the stages.

You can livestream the symposium here. You can join the symposium today at Monument National, 4th floor, FREE:

9:30 / An Avatar is born

11:00 / Signature Visions : Art, Tech & Soul

14:00 / What does field transformation sounds like ? Mapping feminist movement in electronic music and sound cultures

15:00 / Beyond the why : A diversity in curation How-to

16:45 / Gathering The Momentum : Possible Futures

Interview by Elsa.