MUTEK Montréal | Aug 22 – 26

Keychange :: Amplify
Empowering Women in Digital Arts and Electronic Music

by: Sandira Blas

If you haven’t heard of or experienced MUTEK, you should.

MUTEK is an international organization dedicated to the promotion of electronic music and digital arts, and takes place in Montreal, Mexico, Barcelona, Buenos Aires, San Francisco and Tokyo. The 19th edition of MUTEK Montréal’s famous international festival of digital creativity and electronic music ran from August 22 to 26 in various venues in the heart of downtown Montreal. Featuring more than 100 artists working at the vanguard of music and art that intersects with technology, the festival always underlines live performance, mind blowing audiovisual works and a myriad of other discoveries.  This year was quite special adding another focus—women in digital arts and electronic music—with a strong representation of female artists in the performance program, along with a very special two-day daytime Keychange :: Amplify symposium on Tue, August 21 & Wed, August 22 to kick off MUTEK.

What an honor for some of our very own female Keychange creators (Chagall, Cora Novoa, dj. Fluegval im Geimskip, TMRW) + innovators (Laura Kriefman, Natalie Mets, Sandira Blas) and Keychange Project Manager (Jess Partridge—PRS Foundation) to take part on moderating, panel discussions, presentations, and/or perform live electronic music and audiovisual performances that underline the immediacy and ingenuity of contemporary artistic practices that intersect with technology.

Three words that come to mind about the powerful and moving experience that took place during the 2-day Keychange :: Amplify symposium:


Let’s start backwards. We all agree that we want change to happen with certain issues. In order for change, we must make an impact. In order to make an impact, awareness must be put into practice.

A scenario that everyone can relate to is the presidential election (for those able to vote in your residing country). The same concoction applies. We shouldn’t complain for change (results) about who’s elected if we weren’t part of the impact (actual voting), before performing awareness (your opinions, concerns and disagreements to the public).

At Keychange, we understand that our initiatives won’t completely make things 50:50, but we’re creating awareness and taking action in our areas of expertise and/or practice through sharing our stories on panels, using our skills in creative labs & workshops and other projects. We encourage our group, cohorts, and networks to collectively collaborate and contribute through the process in order to help plant a seed together. We understand the importance of awareness while using our shared network with like-minds, big or small.

“I’m taken aback by the fearlessness of this symposium to tackle huge questions and not be afraid to be academic and dive deep. It’s something you don’t often see at these conferences, so it’s been really refreshing” – Jess Partridge

Speaking back on “Awareness”, on the last closing panel discussion, Susanne (Electric Indigo) said some things that really resonated with a lot of us, and as I turned around and saw my peers and countless strangers move their heads in agreement, I realized I haven’t really heard anyone brave enough to say such words.

“Keep in mind the history. Continue to write the history, never forget the names, and we must call her names. We’re all used to referring to men when we talk about work, or compare work, whether academic or practical.” – Electric Indigo

This is true. The habit is so deep within it became norm and acceptable, but if we practice to keep that in mind, we can help break the habit and contribute to the new-normal for future generations. Straight away, I instantly thought about Kara Blake’s amazing presentation on Thursday at the Digi Lab about “Delia’s Dream”. Focusing on the history of Delia Derbyshire, the woman behind the Doctor Who theme music created at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in the early 1960’s. Kara traces her legacy in the evolution of electronic music.

Gathering The Momentum: Possible Futures

CLICK HERE to watch the full livestream

In this livestream Patti Schmidt (Mutek) gives an introduction about the last session, which openly invites commentary and questions for all to provide feedback, ideas, and prescriptions as we reflect on observations from the symposium. Our very own Keychange Project Manager, Jess Partridge (PRS Foundation) moderated a fantastic panel with some amazing and inspiring ladies in the industry such as Susanne Kirchmayr (Electric Indigo / Founder, female:pressure), Heather McDermid — Vancouver New Music (CA), Silvia Lunazzi — British Council Brazil (BR/UK) and Brigitte Poupart (CA/QC). There was certainly a positive and reflective mood in the audience during the entire discussion that re-capped highlights of the 2-day Keychange :: Amplify symposium. We walked away with a diverse collection of ideas on what we need to build on to help make progress for change.