The Matricules Project Celebrates Five Years: An Interview with Stéphanie Lagueux

By Guest Editor Stephanie Tripp

In May 2008, Studio XX, the Montreal-based feminist bilingual new media arts collective, launched its Matricules archive. The archive contains digital art, writing, events, and other collaborations by feminist artists dating back to Studio XX’s founding in 1996. In an e-mail interview conducted for Media-N by guest editor Stephanie Tripp in March 2013, Stéphanie Lagueux, director of the Matricules project, discusses the project’s design, history, and plans for the next five years and beyond.S.T.: First of all, can you bring us up to date on the project? What records are available through the archive today, and in what ways does the collection continue to expand?

S.L.: The Matricules archives comprises over 3,400 image, sound and video files, as well as critical texts, press releases and other documents chronicling all of Studio XX’s activities. While most of the documents and media are available on the website, approximately 10 percent are available only at Studio XX for reasons of copyright or because of the nature of the content.

The Matricules project was made possible with a one-time-only grant, so from the beginning we set out to make this a self-sustaining project because our resources were going to be limited. We started by integrating the archives into the Studio website, and by documenting the archiving procedure into a comprehensive Matricules guide, we managed to incorporate the project into our general operations. Of course, this adds to the overall workload of the team, but there are moments in the year that are less busy so we update the archives when we can, plus we get interns and volunteers to help as well.

S.T.:  Matricules differs from the usual notion of the archive, which from its inception in ancient Greece has been associated with patriarchal authority. Can you elaborate on the design of Matricules as a feminist repository and the process of developing that design?

S.L.: I want to point out that although I am now director of the Matricules archives, I joined a team that had already reflected on and conceptualized this project, so I would like to acknowledge and highlight their invaluable contribution by quoting throughout this interview. The archive project was initially conceived to be separate from the website, but I quickly realized that this would be an excellent tool for the Studio. So I decided to to ask for specific funding to digitize the media and documents that we were accumulating and then to publish them online using an interface that was to become our new website.

Because I have a more practical view regarding these documents and their organization,  I will defer, at different points in this interview, to artists and curators because they have used these archives for research and creation. I think this pays respect to the nature of our archive – feminist and open.

To return to the question – jake moore and Caroline Martel, who conceptualized the first research and development phase of Matricules, resulting in a catalogue and an archiving policy. This was done in collaboration with Concordia University and Kim Sawchuk, professor of Communications Studies and a founding member of Studio XX.  jake moore describes the nature of our feminist archives as both an appropriation of our history and the tools for telling it, but also the desire to be open to multiple voices while doing this. Take control in order to give it back; plural and exponential.

Controlling one’s own narrative is critical to the development of one’s subjectivity. Subjectivity and its reception/dissemination have been at the core of feminist practices. The notion of the feminine subject as multiple and crystalline – not whole – has aided in our more complex understanding of being, yet has created a diaphanous and unfixed subject at times unreadable within the existing cultural canons.  The desire is not to join these cannons or expand them to fit, but to create new tools for dismantling lived temporal experience so it can be recreated again in the minds of a contemporary subject as the supporting architecture that memory is to the self. In so doing, we demonstrate the lack in existing canons, but even more so, of their legibility. It is in the interpretive acts of reading and retelling that events of the past gain currency in the now, and in the future. [1]

Significantly, in French Matricules is both a male and a female noun, and root comes from the Latin ‘matricula’ (mother). The Feminine Matricule means registry list; the names of people who enter a community or group are organized and listed by registration number. In the Masculine, Matricule means the registration number.

S.T.: In 2006, when Matricules was still in development, the editorial board of .dpi articulated this goal: “We must place the tools of the narrative in the hands of the ideal storytellers, the participants, and acknowledge all storytellers as participants. The oral tradition even when rendered digitally will shift with each re-telling.” What are your thoughts on Matricules as a storytelling space, and in what ways have you seen the tradition shift over time?

S.L.:  Originally we wanted to make it possible for Studio XX members to participate by commenting or adding documents, but we quickly realized that we didn’t have the human resources to moderate effectively. So we decided to invite artists to browse and interpret the archives, either through our artist-in-residency program, or commissioned art projects or texts. We have welcomed many artists and curators over the years who have mapped, interpreted, reflected on and remixed the archives.

The following examples illustrate how artists and curators have used, and consequently changed, the archives.

In 2008, guest curator jake moore was invited to reflect on the archives in celebration of Studio XX’s 10th anniversary. Faced with the impossibility of fully describing something that continues to shift, moore assembled the xxxboîte, an artifact that reflects the residue and remnants of the studio’s affects and actions. [2] This collection illustrates a center ripe with exchange, diversity, and energy whose development parallels that of contemporary digital technologies.

xxxboîte, 2008, publication and DVD, design by URBANINK.

xxxboîte, 2008, publication and DVD, design by URBANINK.

In 2010, Studio XX invited curator Paule Mackrous to explore the Matricules archive and offer us a Point of View reading of her findings. “XX Fantastic” is the result of her thematic journey within the Matricules archive. This essay was updated for XX’s 15th anniversary in 2011 and Mackrous also produced a critical essay on XX’s 15 years of exploration, research and presentation of media art. [3]

 Screen capture of the project XX Fantastic from Paule Makrous, 2010.

Screen capture of the project XX Fantastic from Paule Makrous, 2010.

Also in 2010, as part of the XX Files Radio project (an XX affiliated radio show which has been broadcasting for almost 15 years at CKUT-FM), Studio XX commissioned three artists to create a thematic podcast from the XX Files radio show archives. [4]

 Screen capture of the XX Files Radio Project Commissioned Thematic Podcast, 2010.

Screen capture of the XX Files Radio Project Commissioned Thematic Podcast, 2010.

Britt Wray – “XX Files Archives Podcast”:

Step into the online drawers of the XX Files where moments spent on air in years past are called into the present with a single click. The Mashup – a recombined and modified collection of existing media files into a new digital format – is the style chosen for this podcast to create links between a panoply of discussions that traveled the CKUT airwaves at some point in time over the last 14 years. The listener eavesdrops in on a variety of women media artists as they give their two cents on subjects that range from how they perceive technology in art driven practices, to how to address the human body in techno-art, to how community radio can be an artist’s creative catalyst abroad as well as at home. These cuts, collages and cochlear closeups give the listener a taste test of what the XX Files Project has restored (and in store!) for people to access in the Matricules Archive. [5]

Guylaine Bertrand – “F.W.W.F.T.SXX Version3”:
Basing myself on an intensive review of the XX Files radio show archives, I selected words in French and English. I then mixed, reversed and modified the tempo of the elements in order to obtain a sound composition and a certain rhythm. I picked words that came up frequently and that adequately represented Studio XX for me: femme, women, Studio XX, technology, workshops. The idea of repetition is quite simple: these words appear and reappear in the XX Files radio show, acting as a thread that links all these years together. [6]

Valérie d. Walker – “This is how it feels . . . (to be Alive on the radio)”

Skipping into an electronic  circuitry workshop led by Darsha Hewitt, we celebrate  electro-static radio signals with a student-created conductive circuit choir performance, and wow!, our time is up already!  [7]

Artists in Residence and Marticules

Édith Normandeau, artist in residency at Studio XX – “Audio/dislocation”

Based on Studio XX’s Matricules sound archives, “Audio/dislocation” presents an electronic, immersive, unpredictable and liberating fragmentation at Lafontaine Park. Sensors linked to an Arduino platform will mix the sound files live according to the park’s environmental elements, such as brightness, temperature, altitude and sound intensity. In each listening situation, doubling back to rehear a sound excerpt is always possible; a new direction produces a change in the sound track associated between two geographic points, towards a tree, around a belvedere or along a footpath. The scenarios and compositions unfold depending on the listener’s path. [8]

Dislocation (Audiotopie), 2011, Édith Normandeau, screen capture.

Taien Ng Chan, artist in residency at Studio XX – “Poetics of the City”

My proposal for a residency with the Matricules Project involves research to locate archives from Studio XX projects that deal with site-specific art and/or urban culture. As a research-based creation, the final results will be determined through the process of mapping out a story through the archives, one possible story amongst many. I will use the Matricules Project to look at the history of women and technology in the city, and finally, to build an essay-video work that will be interactive and accessible on the Web. Essaie involves one aspect, or map, of a larger psychogeographic mapping project of Montreal, entitled Poetics of the City. Essaie will attempt to map out and localize an archive. [9]

Wired Women Salon #91 with Taien Ng‐Chan, artist in residency, 2012, photo.

Wired Women Salon #91 with Taien Ng‐Chan, artist in residency, 2012, photo.

S.T.: From the beginning, Studio XX and the Matricules project have been committed to open source tools. Clearly, many working in the digital arts favor open source for various political or philosophical reasons, but is there anything about open source that lends itself particularly to feminist practices?

S.L.: The feminist approach of Studio XX, based on the plurality of voices, choices, sharing, community and creation is of course very similar to the approach of the open-source movement. I must point out, that when designing Matricules open-source was much less accessible, but we always wanted the project to be available and easy to access by Matricules participants and the Studio XX community at large and so we persevered. We also wanted to create a custom system, with our own categories, that would really meet our needs. Open-source was already present at the Studio through Linux install fests and various workshops, so the choice for this approach was clear. We also worked in collaboration with, a non-profit organization that helps social and cultural organizations use and navigate the Drupal content management system. Over the years, we gained enough experience and expertise to manage our own web server where our website and archives are housed.

S.T.: The gateway web page to the Matricules project features a data visualization of colored Xs that change as users interact with the database over time. Can you tell us a bit about the history of this interactive design and how the patterns it creates have emerged and developed?

S.L.: jake moore, who along with Caroline Martel conceived of the Matricule Archives, explains the origin of this design in our on-line journal:

The guiding concept behind the Matricules website was jacquard weaving. With a joint reference to computation and textile traditions, it seemed a fitting physical and conceptual union. Weaving like computation is a serial activity that lends itself to an understanding of time, but one that also allows for inclusion of new threads to expand ones reception of the whole. In an actual weaving, this could change the perceived colour or shape of the cloth. This is what will happen with the image of Studio XX as participants and observers alike add their threads in the form of comments, works and code. Thus, the statistical portrait that a database is intended to be becomes a mutable and dimensional surface. In this way abstraction again seems more real than an ideal indexical mark. That so much of the lexicon of textiles is shared as the language of computation is not accidental. Onward goes the difference engine! [10]

Jacquard loom, 2006, Musée des Arts et Métiers, Wikimedia Commons. Photo © David Monniaux. (Used with permission.)

Jacquard loom, 2006, Musée des Arts et Métiers, Wikimedia Commons. Photo © David Monniaux. (Used with permission.)

This concept was translated into the first version interface by using a table with different tones that showed the quantity of documents categorized by their activity over time.

Screen capture from Matricules website, 2008.

Screen capture from Matricules website, 2008.

Screen capture from Matricules website, 2008.

Screen capture from Matricules website, 2008.

For the second version, we used an X as the visual frame or track, which of course, refers to both the female chromosomes, the name of Studio XX, and to textiles. These X’s are grouped together by color according to our activity categories; for example, purple represents our Femmes Branchées / Wired Women Salon series and orange is the XX Files Radio Show. This colour scheme also represents the overall graphic identity of Studio XX. So these colour zones on the home page of the archives represent the amount of documents in the corresponding category. This image changes over time, as documents are added, and offers a visual representation of the archives.

Image from Matricules Archive database, 2013, generated by the module Jacquard for Drupal developed by Koumbit.

Image from Matricules Archive database, 2013, generated by the module Jacquard for Drupal developed by Koumbit.

S.T.: In the five years since Matricules made its debut, what do you find most surprising about the way people are using it?

S.L.: I realize that people – even the artists that we commission – need to be guided through the Matricules archives. We have to offer a path, be it textual, visual, or a specific event, in order for them to really enter and engage with the site. Despite the richness of the archives and all the interesting projects done with artists and curators, we still have to work hard at highlighting and promoting the value of this unique archive. With this in mind, we are preparing a new site update and interface in the next two years with, for example, functionalities that will randomly display the addition of recent content (images, video) either by theme, most recent, most popular, etc. We are always seeking more contributions. We are looking forward to our redesigned on-line journal .dpi because it will play a major role in continuing to support exchanges and ideas in and around the content of our archives. In hindsight, I realize that the delays and detours a small organization like ours has to take, these tangents shape us and in fact, our goals remain the same – to initiate and support projects that nourish and contribute, our organization and a larger community, always in flux.

S.T.: After working so closely with Matricules and the seventeen-plus years of artifacts it contains, what insights can you offer someone trying to trace a genealogy of feminist art and new media technologies?

I think that tracing the contributions of women in new media technologies requires some detours. The path isn’t always so obvious, and sometimes tangents lead us to the less spectacular, the anecdotal, the almost-forgotten accomplishments that, once assembled into a single large framework, (like Matricules), reveal topics, methods and feminist practices, or at least, women who practice. In turn, these themes, ideas, artisits, can inspire and propel other women into new directions for their work. The implementation of Matricules was a collective effort, and I would like to conclude by quoting Paule Makrous, our guest curator, who traveled deep into the archives with the XX Fantastic Project and wrote the insightful essay “Three Key Stories”:

Three years ago, I was asked to create a thematic path in Matricules – the Studio XX multimedia archives. I sorted through hundreds of texts, images, videos and audio files. I realized that the demystification of technology had enabled women to create pieces whose experiences mirrored visual arts fantasy theme time and time again. This is how the first version of the Point of View Project – titled XX Fantastic – came to be. The piece is an anachronistic tale that incorporates artworks, conferences and events where we meet mythical figures, ghosts, survivors, animism, transformation and a certain imprecision.

For Studio XX’s 15th anniversary, I was once again invited to work on the second phase of the expanded Matricules project. After re-immersing myself in the archives, I realized that fantasy remained a privileged theme to explore the bond that women artists share with new technologies. It shine a light on the powerful, often unseen ties that link the three foundations of Studio XX: art, women and technology.

Fantasy is first and foremost a lively and engaging way of weaving stories together. XX Fantastic invites the reader to let themselves be guided by whatever archival fragments they feel drawn to or curious about without the constraint of a timeline.

An Open-ended Story

Even as an engaged student and doctoral candidate, I have often felt uncomfortable talking about feminism. I haven’t read the classic texts. I am not familiar with the schools of thought of the theories. On my first visit to Studio XX, I took part in a meeting held by .dpi’s editorial committee. Though I was studying technological art full-time, my limited knowledge of feminist theory made me nervous and like many women, I was forgetting that the mere act of being a woman who takes her place in the world was more than sufficient. The message I got from Studio XX was that if I wanted to be there, I belonged.

Throughout my years spent working at Studio XX, I discovered a kind of feminism that welcomes different points of view and doesn’t cling to a single school of thought or a static definition. It is also one that focuses on building communities both real and imaginary where women can be creative and voice their thoughts instead of simply reacting the gender dichotomy. I remember that the people sitting at the .dpi meeting were all women of vastly different backgrounds. The open-mindedness of Studio XX is evident when it come to taking into account the diversity of its members in order to shape its future. The same thing can be said about the ability to recreate its past – the Point of View project, in which my perspective and imagination were given free reign – attests to this.

This link between our histories and the future is not trivial: it is of utmost importance. What matters for both women and feminism is not to dwell on the past indefinitely, but to use it as a platform to rise up from. Taking inspiration from past actions, new ones are put into movement leaving fresh footprints behind. This feminism is not about fighting the past – it is about enthusiastically looking forward to create art, theory and social space. Furthermore, Studio XX’s engagements with open ideologies – that is, free software, digital democracy and collaborative work – go beyond feminist concerns. They are crucial issues for everyone in this era. [11]

Screen capture of “Three Key Stories” by Paule Makrous, 2011.

Screen capture of “Three Key Stories” by Paule Makrous, 2011.

Screen capture of the actualised XX fantastic by Paule Makrous, 2011.

Screen capture of the actualised XX fantastic by Paule Makrous, 2011.


1. jake moore, “Brief: Matricules (parts 1 and 2),” .dpi 7 (2006),

2. “XXXboîte,” on Studio XX website, accessed March 29, 2013,

3. “XX Fantastic,” on Studio XX website, accessed March 29, 2013,

4. “XX Files Radio Project Commissioned Thematic Podcasts,” on Studio XX website, accessed March 29, 2013,

5. Britt Wray, “XX Files Archives Podcast,” on Studio XX website, accessed March 29, 2013,

6. Guylaine Bertrand, “F.W.W.F.T.SXX Version3,” on Studio XX website, accessed March 29, 2013,

7. Valérie d. Walker, “This is how it feels . . . (to be Alive on the radio),” on Studio XX website, accessed March 29, 2013,

8. Edith Normandeau, “Audio/dislocation,” on Studio XX website, accessed March 29, 2013,

9. Taien Ng Chan, “Poetics of the City,” on Studio XX website, accessed March 29, 2013,

10. jake moore, “Brief: Matricules (parts 1 and 2).”

11. Paule Makrous, “Three Key Stories,” on Studio XX website, accessed March 29, 2013,