Serious Computer Group

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Nova is a video work on the theme of the movement of water. The project combines video recordings with synthesized wave patterns to produce an altered portrait of water, grounded in reality but extended into the imaginary. The work aims to show water as both familiar and alien, returning a sense of mystery to this fundamental element. In this way, Nova is intended to encourage wonder and respect for the natural environment.

When it is at rest, water is neutral and still, but upon any stimulus it immediately assumes intricate, changing forms. As soon as wind touches its surface, textures appear; currents give rise to eddies and flows; casting a stone produces a multitude of waves. Constantly transforming, it becomes abstract and hypnotic. All of this richness emerges from fundamental physical principles of wave cancellation and reinforcement. Water exemplifies the way that simple systems can give rise to complexity.

Each viewer plots a unique course through the imagery depending on the scope and focus of their gaze. In this way, Nova emulates the experience of finding images in natural structures, such as by seeing figures in clouds or hearing melodies and rhythms in environmental sounds.

Technical aspects

Nova is based on custom video synthesis and processing software developed by Serious Computer Group.

Whether they occur in natural or electronic systems, combinations of simple waves can quickly give rise to complex patterns. Nova integrates multiple recorded and synthesized waves via a feedback network, allowing each visual source to influence and be influenced by all the others. The system allows these streams to be mixed and shaped in real time, but not exhaustively. Because Nova's video signals are woven into a complex web of interdependence, the system perpetually leads in unexpected directions.

The often unpredictable visual output of the system influences the process of artistic composition as well as guiding further developments of the software. This technical and artistic approach echoes the project's conceptual effort to move from a familiar starting point into unfamiliar territory.


Nova was selected for inclusion in the 2021-22 edition of Luminothérapie, Montreal's winter festival of participatory art organized by the Partenariat du Quartier des Spectacles. Serious Computer Group produced a set of fixed-duration compositions of Nova for this event. During Luminothérapie, three pairs of videos were projected on the facades of the Wilder Building and the President-Kennedy Pavilion at Place des Arts. These six videos correspond to different aspects of water during winter: storms, ice, and thaw.

Videos 1/2: December 2 to December 24, 2021

Videos 3/4: December 25, 2021 to January 14, 2022

Videos 5/6: January 15 to February 6, 2022

Nova is a peaceful work that invites its viewers to contemplate the mysterious process by which complexity and beauty arise from simple physical forces. Inspired by this principle, Nova visually presents textures so complex that each viewer's perception may vary, depending on the time of their visit, their perspective on the work and that of the people accompanying them.

This project aimed to offer Montrealers a meditative and gentle work, in the hope of making a positive contribution to the well-being of the audience of Luminothérapie and downtown passers-by who discovered it by chance.

This edition of Nova was developed with the support of Polytechnique Montréal.

For more information, please visit the Nova page at Quartier des Spectacles.

FOFA Gallery

In the first version of Nova that was exhibited at the FOFA Gallery, Serious Computer Group installed computers running our software and set them to generate video imagery live and in real time. This approach permitted us to bring the experimental aspect of our compositional process into the exhibition space, allowing for unexpected behaviours to emerge over the course of the show.

Throughout 2019, we developed Nova via an experimental process, simultaneously building our generative video software and cultivating a bank of water footage. We gradually produced a software system in which our recorded video and synthesized images exert a mutual influence over each other in order to produce the final imagery. Working iteratively over an extended period, we learned to adapt the materials in our respective media with specific attention to how they interact within our system, developing a shared compositional approach. The result is an open-ended generative visual instrument that allows us to collaboratively explore and compose novel imagery at the precise intersection of our individual aesthetics.