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[The User]

(Montreal, Quebec, Canada)

[The User], Symphony for Dot Matrix Printers, 1997-1999
Formed in 1997, [The User] is an artists' collective made up of the architect Thomas McIntosh and the composer Emmanuel Madan. Their main goal is to explore the sonic possibilities of space and technology. Based in Montreal, Canada, the two artists have marked the artistic community in their own country and throughout Europe with their original experiments with office technology (Symphony for Dot Matrix Printers, #1 and #2, 1997-1999) and their audacious one-year sound installation in a grain silo in Montreal's Old Port (Silophone, 2000). They have won several grants and awards, such as the Telefilm Canada Prize for Best Canadian New Media Work at the Montreal International Festival of New Cinema and New Media in 1998 and an honourable mention in the digital music category at the Prix Ars Electronica in 1999. [The User] is developing the Silophone and preparing for further performances of the Symphony in the hopes of raising awareness about ambient noise, which they term the sonic "by-product of existence." (1)

Emmanuel Madan, [The User]'s composer, obtained a degree in electroacoustic music composition from the University of Montreal and has been working prolifically in sound design and sound art ever since. He has produced several electroacoustic audio tapes and worked on the sound design of numerous experimental video projects. He has also curated exhibitions, including Incredibly Soft Sounds presented in 1998 at Gallery 101 in Ottawa, Canada. (2)

Thomas McIntosh, who holds a degree in architecture from Carleton University, has committed himself to exploring the aspects of our physical environment that affect our perception. This includes soundscapes like ringing telephones and office equipment as well as more subtle architectural characteristics that go unnoticed in our daily lives. Since 1997, McIntosh has been fascinated with Montreal's Silo No. 5, which in the year 2000 was transformed into the Silophone, in co-production with Quartier Éphémère. Also in 1997, he obtained a grant from PRIM in Montreal to produce an experimental video on the cluster of grain elevators adjacent to Old Montreal. In 1998, McIntosh collaborated with Quartier Éphémère on Tartarus, an installation that focused solely on Silo No. 5 and incorporated sound recordings and drawings inside a room-sized camera obscura. In the spring of 1997, McIntosh and Madan joined forces to create [The User], a collective based on both artists' desire to use sound and space to make the unnoticed noticeable.

In June 1997, [The User] staged its first performance. At The Edge performing arts festival in Arts Court in Ottawa, the duo premiered Paper Jam (1997), a work that served as a precursor to the successful Symphony for Dot Matrix Printers #1 et #2 (1997-1999). Paper Jam incorporated typewriters and dot-matrix printers, technologies that had become almost obsolete, nostalgic symbols of contemporary society's unrestrained devotion to rapid technological progress. In 1998, [The User] performed another version of this project and called it Song of the Cubicle Slave (1998). A manual, laborious affair for the two artists, the project explored more elaborate software and hardware manipulation whereby the noisy printers were controlled via a computer. At present, [The User] is refining and developing the Silophone, a project that stems from McIntosh's earlier fascination with the abandoned Silo No. 5 near Old Montreal.

Angela Plohman © 2000 FDL

(1) [The User], Société des arts technologiques, (accessed August 3 2000):

(2) Gallery 101 Home Page, (accessed August 3, 2000):