The many-mirrored multiscreened green-gabled aurora-borealised McLuhanistic electronic face of CANADA AT EXPO 70

ALAN EDMONDS July 1 1969

The many-mirrored multiscreened green-gabled aurora-borealised McLuhanistic electronic face of CANADA AT EXPO 70

ALAN EDMONDS July 1 1969

The many-mirrored multiscreened green-gabled aurora-borealised McLuhanistic electronic face of CANADA AT EXPO 70


A WORLD’S FAIR IS UTOPIA. It is the rare time and place where the desirable takes precedence over the possible, and above all it is the party at which we put our best face forward; where we ask the world to see us as we want them to, not as we are. And anyway, what are we?

The first time Mairuth Hodge, who is black and very Canadian and talks as fast as she drives, and Frank Mayrs, who is going bald and wears a bushy ginger beard and is full of long silences, remember confronting that very Canadian question was in the ancient Japanese capital of Kyoto, which is near the site of Expo 70. Mairuth and Mayrs were touristing through the time-cooled shadows of a Buddhist temple, noticing the Japanese bowing to one another when they clashed in a doorway, which is just one of the clearly defined rules of behavior among

an ancient people who have learned how to live crushed together in an overcrowded land and survive.

Mairuth, writer and broadcaster and co-ordinator of the then unarticulated theme of Canada’s massive pavilion at Expo 70, and Mayrs, chief designer of the pavilion, had only just discovered for themselves something that an advertising agency had already told the Canadian government: the Japanese don’t really care about Canada. “The degree of understanding and interest toward Canada is very low,” the agency had said. “Some Japanese people find little difference between Canada and the U. S. ... Canada does not have a unique personality.” Some people the agency questioned thought Canada’s PM was Josephine Baker, though John Diefenbaker had then been out of office for several years.

More positively, what Canada does mean to the Japanese is snow, Niagara Falls, snow, the Mounties, snow — and Akage No Anne (Red-Haired Anne), which is the title of the Japanese version of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, a school classic in Japan. “You have to start image-building on the basis of the image you’ve already got,” said Mairuth. “You couldn’t convince the Japanese that Indian girls don’t wear saris, or that Americans don’t chew gum, or that the Mounties don’t always catch their man or that Red-Haired Anne doesn’t go ice skating in Prince Edward Island at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, with the aurora borealis glittering overhead. One translation of the book I saw has all that on the cover.”

And so Mairuth and Mayrs bowed to the Buddhist monk on duty at the temple, emerged into the Kyoto evening where a neon Coke bottle hangs benignly over the skyline, and returned to their respective ryokans, or traditional Japanese inns, in time for a raw-fish dinner and a tussle with the rawful truth that they would have to cop out on answering the question: what is a Canadian? Later, in talky conferences across Canada they were to decide to invite the Japanese to do what we have never been able to do for ourselves: find out what a Canadian is.

The official theme, therefore, is “Discovery,” which doesn’t represent much progression on the subject of Canadian identity at a world’s fair where the theme to be maintained by all pavilions is Progress And Harmony For Mankind. Otherwise, Canada will do well by the theme, displaying considerable honesty in showing how our disparate and sometimes warring ethnic groups live in relative harmony.

As we said at the beginning, a world’s fair is Utopia. Canada has a bigger stake

in Expo 70 than any other nation, excepting Japan, because we are spending around $21 million on one national and three provincial pavilions. And yet we will probably be less assertive in telling visitors what we are than any of the other 70 nations expected to set up shop in the global village now being built in the Senri Hills outside Osaka.

Like the building Vancouver’s Erickson-Massey company designed for Canada, the displays — and the other pavilions — tend to represent Canada the land, not Canadians the people. Just inside Canada’s building visitors will face massive picture of Anne of Green Gables, taken from a Japanese version of the book. It is a silhouette: this Anne has no face. After being “pulsed” through five chambers, and given six minutes in each, the visitors will reach a sixth area, where they can spend unlimited time. As they leave they will see an Eskimo carver ostensibly putting the finishing touches to a massive wall mural. In fact, the mural will never be finished. There will always be one panel being carved.

Apart from British Columbia’s vested interest in Japan, it’s hard to explain the extent of Canada’s involvement in Expo 70 beyond the fact that the commitments were made in the flush of world’s fair fervor around the opening of Expo 67. We already sell more to Japan than we buy, a fact that distresses the Japanese government and prompts Louis Desjardins, the Quebec pavilion commissionergeneral, to explain French Canada’s intent “is to attract possible Japanese investment and to make an impression on the Japanese between the ages of 12 and 18 so that they will remember Quebec when they are old enough to decide whether to emigrate, or visit, or invest money here.” Basically, Quebec is in because it seemed a good idea at the time. The same might be said of Ontario.

British Columbia’s pavilion makes more economic sense, since Japanese capital and expertise has in recent years revitalized the province’s once-flagging natural-resources industries. Premier W. A. C. Bennett, who authorized only $400,000 expenditure for Canada’s own world’s fair, is, putting almost one-anda-half million ddllars into^Expo 70.

The shape of Canada’s face at Expo 70 — the buildings themselves — is already well known, but Arthur Erickson, who designed the truncated-pyramid national pavilion, questions whether the buildings are properly understood. Of his own design, he says, “Nobody seems to be able to get across the idea of the mirrors covering the outside walls of the Canadian pavilion. The walls are at a 45degree angle so they directly reflect the sky, so that the building simply disappears in the reflection of the world around it. The reflections are constantly changing, like the world of the 1970s, and it appears to have no beginning and

no end, which is a very familiar concept to the Oriental mind. At the same time that is symbolic of our land.”

Inside, the five chambers will have audio-visual presentations of one kind or another. The background music in two of them and the music involved in the audio part of the other three is being written and played by a shaggy five-man Vancouver rock group called The Collectors, stars of the film shown in the fifth and last of the audio-visual rooms.

In this one, called Hakengo (Discovery bus), will be shown a film of a school bus painted in psychedelic colors as it travels across Canada, here and there displaying magical properties fit

can fly, yet), carrying the long-haired, shaggy-bearded Collectors. And everywhere it goes it, and The Collectors, §park great curiosity. The curiosity itself is supposed to be a demonstration of the similarity between Canadians and the Japanese. Collector Bill Henderson says that “like the mirrors, it’s a discovery thing: people mirror one another.”

The Canadian pavilion’s claim to audio-visual distinction will be doubleheaded. The first, called Bridging the Wide Open Spaces, will be a total-environment light-and-sound show in a pyramid-shaped room, where three of the walls will be screens wired for sound.

The second major presentation is more

restful — and in another chamber. Employing techniques that everyone hopes will remain unique until Expo 70. designer Morris Danylewich is using thousands of small light boxes as if they were the dots on a TV screen and building an animated story of men leaving their skyscraper office and going out to the bush. The light boxes will be supplemented by actuality: when a car stops at an intersection, for instance, it does so at a real stop light.

Both these presentations sound exciting, but the truth may be that they are a substitute for the movies Canada’s preeminent film makers are busily producing for other people. The man who

made Expo 67’s Labyrinth for the National Film Board, Roman Kroiter, is co-producer of what will probably be one of the two most exciting Expo 70 movies — for the Fuji companies’ pavilion. Graeme Ferguson, who made the exciting “cinema-in-the-round” films for the Polar pavilion at Montreal, is associated with Kroiter: their company is called Multiscreen Corporation. Don Brittain, an NFB director who worked on Labyrinth, is directing the Fuji movie. Chris Chapman, whose A Place To Stand won an Oscar, is making another movie for the Ontario pavilion.

The Kroiter company film, co-produced by Kiichi Ichikawa who made

Woman Of The Dunes, is for the biggest single-screen projector in the world — a piece of equipment that embodies an Australian invention developed at McMaster University in Hamilton so that it is possible to take a single 70-mm picture and with a single projector show it sideways on a screen the size of three Cinerama screens upended and placed side by side. The technique is exciting to the movie industry since it has considerable commercial possibilities. Other massive multiscreen, multi - image movies are largely gimmickry. “Osaka will be a showplace we couldn’t afford any other way,” says Kroiter.

Director Brittain says the technique makes it easy “to scare people, or make them dizzy. What’s hard is to say something that has some depth to it.” Believing Labyrinth was too intellectual, Brittain has spent more than a year globetrotting to produce footage for a film that will appeal primarily to the emotions and say very simply that “here is the world in 1970, and a lot of people in it are getting screwed by other people.”

He plans very direct symbolism. One sequence about cleansing the world shows a carwash and a mother bathing her baby. A sequence called Forest Of Alienation includes a staged shot of a mink-coated woman shoplifting from Eaton’s in Montreal, in conjunction with footage of murderers in solitary confine-

ment at St. Vincent de Paul penitentiary.

One of Brittain’s problems was trying to find how to shock or stimulate or amuse the Japanese. “Their attitudes are hard for Westerners to understand,” he says. “For instance, one of the Japanese I work with was telling me with what seemed to be great glee about the time his father decided to kill himself and actually bought a do-it-yourself book of suicide methods. I asked what happened, assuming the old boy was still alive. He was still laughing so hard I could hardly hear him say that his father had been quite successful, by jumping off a very high bridge. If only I'd known, in those circumstances, the laughter indicated his great grief because the greater the grief the less it must be shown.”

The problems of Chris Chapman are even more awesome, because he himself is probably the hardest act to follow. “I think people are maybe expecting too much of me this time,” he says. “The film I am making will use the same basic optical techniques as A Place To Stand. The big difference will be in the content. A Place To Stand was about the land; the Expo 70 movie is about people.”

It is the Japanese image of Canada as a land of constant snow that has dominated design thinking for the $314million Quebec pavilion, which will be largely devoted to celebrating the fact that French Canada—all Canada, for that matter—has a spring, a summer and an autumn as well as long winters. Commissioner-General Louis Desjardins spent part of this spring trying to persuade pa-

vilion designer Julien Hébert that the first chamber should also provide the smells of the season. There are four displays, one for each season. Desjardins suggested that the air around winter should be cold, that summer should be warm and that at autumn the visitor should meet the smell of burning leaves. Hébert says the technical difficulties are awesome “and besides, someone will be sure to think it’s a real fire, and panic.” With a relatively modest $145,000 budget for movies, Quebec’s major movie is a four-screen affair. Season After Season, directed by Gilles Carle and to be shown in a chamber lined with mirrors in such a way that the movie will seem to vanish into infinity. “We will use an action-painting technique in reverse,” says Carle. “Normally, such a technique would move from reality to abstraction; we will move from abstraction to reality.” Movies and display chambers apart, the Quebec pavilion will also house a small theatre in which it is hoped to show, among other things, 3-D movies using a revolutionary technique developed in Montreal that makes special viewing glasses unnecessary.

The Quebec planners have an advantage over their colleagues in Ottawa and Toronto: the deputy commissioner of the pavilion, Armand Bernier, spent six years in Japan and married a Japanese girl. Result: Quebec easily avoided the more obvious pitfalls, such as the use of the words for four or nine. In Japanese four is “shi,” which also means death, and nine is “quy,” or suffering.

Bernier also consulted the traditional calendar, which the Japanese borrowed from the Chinese along with their written language, and chose the most propitious day for beginning construction work on the building. Many Japanese, particularly older ones, live according to whether a particular day is good for. say, marriage or driving or changing a job or even cooking a particular dish. Bernier’s Japanese mother-in-law planned a trip to Canada via Vancouver this year until she found the calendar said for her 1969 is not a propitious year to take a plane ride in an easterly direction. So she is flying to Montreal via Europe instead.

Another old Japan hand, John Southworth, commissioner - general of the British Columbia pavilion, has made a decision that should cause the other Canadian Expo planners to worry: he is recruiting most of his guides in Japan. He says that when speaking Japanese the cadence the sexes and generations use to one another is of great importance, and few Canadian girls given a crash course in Japanese will speak the language as it must be spoken in Japan.

One day in April, Southworth sat in his Vancouver office and demonstrated the point by asking his secretary, a beautiful second-generation Japanese girl, to say “please” in Japanese. “Doozo,” she said, with flat Canadian accent. Said Southworth, “See, a young girl, as these guides wfll be. must say ‘Doozo’ to older people in a very special way to show respect and some deference. The tone of voice must drop on the first ‘o.’ and rise

quite high on the final ‘o.’ The tone of voice matters in many things.”

And, you know. Southworth may be, right: in Japan the men speak the language quite harshly, and the girls twitter. Southworth's fear is that the pavilion will get a bad name in Japan if visitors are affronted by the manner in which young girl guides speak to them.

From the designs, the BC pavilion may need no such help to become popular. Masterminded by 28-year-old designer John Cunningham, whose previous claim to fame was a very unsung 60-bed hospital in Revelstoke, its chambers are largely underground, while above ground is a “lid” made of some of the world’s tallest trees cut out of the BC forest for the purpose and soaring to a precipitous peak 180 feet high. There will also be a stream, a waterfall and a pond in a graceful plaza at the foot of the trees. “We expect two and a half million to go through the pavilion — and 10 million to walk over it,” says Cunningham.

He adds: “BC cannot be expressed in terms of a building. It is an environment — it is the environment that makes us what we are. So I have created an environment that houses a display.”

In the process, he has produced a technique that, he says, will give a sense of movement to otherwise static displays of people at play and work, and he has located passages to one of the pavilion’s two theatres beneath the waterfall so that visitors will feel as though they are walking underwater. For the theatres, he has recruited the men who helped make

Czechoslovakia's Montreal pavilion the standout of Expo 67.

Dr. Radus Cincera, who made KineAutomat for Montreal, and Jaraslov Fric, who was deeply involved in Laterna Magika, have been paid $402.000 out of BC’s $1,400,000 Expo 70 budget for two productions. One will be in a technique called Polycamera in which 96 dome-mounted screens will each have radically new slide projectors capable of changing slides in one-sixteenth of a second. or faster than the eye can see.

For the second theatre. Cunningham says he has himself devised a technique that will involve a screen 44 feet high and only 13 feet wide, “which will have a psychologically fantastic effect — you can create total seasickness — in a totally new visual experience. It is the theatre of antipodes — people at opposite sides of the earth."

In this case the people at one side — the Japanese — are being presented with the people at the other side — the Canadians. They will accept us only if we present ourselves credibly; only if we are, at least in part, Akage No Anne, surrounded by snow and protected by the scarletcoated Mounties at Niagara Falls in Prince Edward Island, hard by the Rocky Mountains. When it comes to the world’s fair as Utopia, there are, as Quebec pavilion designer Hébert says, “two separate truths.”

But the question remains: what is a Canadian? □

JAPAN TRAVEL See page 63