Ada X is a bilingual feminist artist-run centre that supports technological experimentation, creation and critical reflection in media arts. Ada X assists in the independent production and diffusion of art created by women, trans, non-binary and queer artists in the field of contemporary technological practices. Demystifying, providing access, equipping, questioning and creating, these are the aims of the Ada X. The centre actively participates in the development of a digital democracy that encourages autonomy and collaboration.
Ada X is a space specifically dedicated to the feminist practices of a community of critical and committed artists, who are marginalized within the digital arts (and in society). The centre contributes to the redistribution of power and expression between genders by defending an inclusive feminist position and by denouncing the persistence of gender disparities. Ada X supports projects from individuals and communities who use and design more accessible technologies, from artists who experiment with recycled materials and free software, from those who work with post-internet practices, and from people who define the Do-It-Yourself and Do-It-Together ethics.
Ada X supports feminist artist communities in three ways: the production of artworks in digital art through artists’ residencies by providing space, equipment and specialized resources; the dissemination through the presentation and promotion of artistic works; training through workshops and activities.
Ada X was founded under the name Studio XX in 1996 by Kim Sawchuck (Ph.D and professor), Patricia Kearns (filmmaker), Kathy Kennedy (sound artist) and Sheryl Hamilton (cybernetic). They imagined a bilingual feminist media arts centre that would be an alternative to traditional institutions and would encourage more women to take part in emerging forms of creative expression offered by the rapid development of the Internet and digital tools.
In a context where only a few women used new technologies, Ada X’s founders wanted to establish a support system for feminist engagement in the burgeoning world of “cyberspace” and in the emerging field of media arts. Ada X encouraged women to become “creators” rather than “spectators” by supporting active participation in the production of art and knowledge.
Ada X’s activities were initially organized around the production of art projects, gradually evolving to include the presentation and promotion of artworks (with a series of events called Wired Women Salons or Salon Femmes Branchées). These public events provided an important space for women to exhibit work and discuss their practice, contributing to their evolution as critically engaged artists and performers. Over the years, other types of activities were developed: the XX Files radio program on CKUT; The HTMlles festival of media arts and digital culture; .dpi a electronic feminist publication of art and digital culture; the Matricules archive project – an extensive documented record of the center and the artwork created over the years. Finally, Ada X created a program of residencies and specialized training in order to provide artists and its’ members with tools and resources to produce their own works in a participative and collaborative environment.
1996: Founding of Studio XX; Creation of XX Files radio program
1997: Founding of The HTMlles, feminist festival of media arts and digital culture, entitled Maid in Cyberspace 01: Le festival XX d’art WWW
1998 : Maid in Cyberspace 02: Encore !
2000 : Maid in Cyberspace * Les HTMlles 03 – The Cyberart Festival
2001 : Maid in Cyberspace 04: Mutating Cultures and Identities
2002 : The HTMlles in cyberspace 05: The Double, The Multiple and Contamination in Web art
2003 : The HTMlles Festival of cyberart 06: Radicale libre/Active Agent
2004 : Creation of the .dpi publication; The HTMlles Festival becomes a biennial. Export 1 – international project of The HTMlles (Belgrade, Sofia, Istanbul)
2005 : The HTMlles 07 Festival: Peripheries + Proximities
2006 : Production of the xxxboite artefact (10 years of Studio XX); Export 2 – international project of The HTMlles (Brussels and Berlin)
2007 : Digitization Project Matricules Archives; The HTMlles 08 Festival: Crowd Control
2008 : Launch of Matricules Archives
2009 : Launch of the First Person Digital project, in collaboration with the National Film Board of Canada, and presented during the 10th edition of The HTMlles Festival.
2010 : Digitization of the Radio XX Files shows; The HTMlles 09 Festival: <home> </land>
2011 : Production of the XX Fantastique artefact (15 years of Studio XX)
2012 : The HTMlles 10 Festival: Risky Business
2014 : The HTMlles 11 Festival: ZÉR0 FUTUR[E]
2015 : Launch of The Electro Arts for Families project; Finalist for the 31th Grand Prix of Montreal Art Council
2016 : 20th anniversary of Studio XX; The HTMlles 12 Festival: Terms of Privacy
2018 : HTMlles 13 Festival: Beyond The #: Failures and Becomings
2020 : Studio XX became Ada X. The XX Files became ffiles.
2020 : HTMlles 14 Festival: Slow Tech Edition
Ada X adheres to the guidelines for artist-run centres as proposed by the Regroupement des centres d’artistes autogérés du Québec (RCAAQ).
Our feminist mandate
Ada X is propelled by feminist principles. Kim Sawchuck, one of the Studio’s founders put it this way: “feminism thrives on open and respectful and passionate debate – not consensus and a pre-ordained uniformity of opinion.” In practice, this means that we welcome projects and research initiatives that build on feminist methodologies to critique our contemporary world; projects that claim the right to have contrasting opinions about art, technology, and urgent socio-political issues.
Sense of urgency, past and present
In 1996, when the four founders created Ada X, there was excitement and much speculation about the potential of digital tools for creators. Their impulse was to act: to share what they knew, and were learning, about new media. Today, Ada X continues to be motivated by this original desire to position ourselves firmly in the mix of debates and uses of technology. We do this by producing events, exhibitions, conversations, workshops and community activities. Twenty years after Ada X was founded, gender disparity continues; in terms of access to technology, unequal salaries according to the gender of people working in the technology sectors and the arts, as well as an on-going imbalance of gender participation in major media arts events in Montreal. Ada X remains a relevant artist-run centre: a space for self-identified women, trans, non binary and queer, artists, activists, and thinkers.
Expanding Studio XX’s Community
Ada X community includes local artists (emerging, mid-career and established), activists, scholars, and people who are curious about the intersection of art and technology. The centre is also defined by its multigenerational aspect, linking a younger generation with the first wave of feminist media artists in Montreal. Our vision is in the sharing and transfer of knowledge (with new technologies as well as with the history of technologies) between all who contribute to ensuring that Ada X remains an accessible network. We aim to provide artists and cultural workers with a variety of tools to assist them in the development of their artistic and professional careers. We are always working to develop activities that seek to enhance the employability of artists and cultural workers with training that teaches skills related to media arts and to technology. We also develop activities where Ada X members can broaden their networks, present their skills and promote their work.
Expanding the international presence of our members
Ada X aims to expand the international presence of local artists, and to instigate collaboration and exchange with international art organizations. Since our mandate is to “support media arts production and offer a platform for a multiplicity of practices” by Canadian media artists, we want to expand the definition of “support” by actively participating in the artistic development of Ada X’s members by increasing opportunities for visibility and networking through international exchange projects involving diffusion and production activities.
Our engagement with questions of identity and diversity.
The vision for Ada X is to take a leading role in the media art scene in Montreal. We know that it is essential to not only participate in debates and practices about all aspects of technology, but also to infuse the practices, methodologies and theories with a disruptive feminist perspective. We believe that feminist perspectives, like art and technology, are often contentious and constantly evolving, and therefore these ideas themselves become a source of innovation, and a path towards renewing practices and ways of seeing. Current, and various, feminist perspectives, allow Ada X to engage with urgent issues such as privacy, migration and displacement, from the point of view of marginalized communities. Our politically engaged, feminist vision means, for example, that we challenge the emergence of virtual reality technologies and other technological artistic projects that are still based on normative views which assume that virtual spaces are egalitarian spaces. Coming from a feminist perspective, we believe that virtual spaces, just like physical places, suffer from inequalities linked to gender, race, sex, geopolitical location and other social constructs. The goal of Ada X’s activites is to reflect on these issues, and to rethink the relationship between bodies and place.