The wooded shores of Lake Minnewanka will be the canvas for an art project aiming to shine a fresh light one of Canada’s most renowned natural settings. Illuminations: human/nature uses visual projections, sound and original music to reveal the little-known human history of Banff National Park.
The participative artwork running evenings from October 5 to 7 is a collaboration between the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, visual artist Sarah Fuller and Montreal multimedia studio Moment Factory.
Fuller says her 11 years spent in Banff discovering untold stories of the area shaped her approach to the project.
“Living within a park really made me think about the fact that there isn’t a boundary between humans and nature,” says Fuller. “I hope people look at these places with a fresh perspective and think about the interconnected histories of humans, animals and plants.”
Participants will be given a toolkit including flashlights, speaker-equipped backpacks, a virtual map and portable projectors. They then explore the forest in small groups discovering the projected animations and soundscapes that weave a narrative of human presence in the park.
“Designing an experience where people are engaged but also have to collaborate with each other was the foundation of the project,” says Moment Factory multimedia director Simon Garant.
Moment Factory specializes in creating shared multimedia experiences and has worked on shows for Madonna and illuminated Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia. A team of 40 people, including designers, animators and composers, has been working on Illuminations: human/nature project for a year.
“[It was a challenge] to create a multimedia experience in such a beautiful, natural place,” says Garant. “But the creative team was really excited to navigate through the forest at night.”
One of the stories brought to life in the piece is that of Minnewanka Landing, a small lakeshore town that was dismantled and flooded when the lake was damned in 1941. An empty black frame designates the spot where placing a portable projector will generate a vivid view of the lake’s past and the now submerged town.
“You look out at Minnewanka and you wouldn’t think there’s a history of industrial activity there, and yet there is,” says Fuller. “The town is a remnant of that activity.”
In addition to examining the past, the project contemplates the stories being written today as well as the future of wild spaces. One element shows the recent reintroduction of bison to Banff National Park.
Fuller consulted with indigenous groups on the bison story and throughout her research, something she believes was her responsibility as an artist and settler Canadian.
“I wanted to think about each place not just from a recent history perspective, but also about the importance of these places to indigenous communities that have been there much longer,” says Fuller.
The experience concludes with the different groups coming together at a virtual bonfire and a final multimedia storytelling spectacle.
Rouge National Urban Park in Toronto will also host the project October 19 to 21. Mirroring the alternative perspective at the Banff site, the Rouge installation will focus on the natural biodiversity of the urban park.
Need to know
Register for a free ticket at banffcentre.ca/illuminations
Visitors will be brought to the site by bus from the Banff Train Station and should arrive 20 minutes before their chosen time.
Participants are advised to dress for the weather and wear comfortable shoes.
Sessions run October 5 to 7 at 6:50, 7:25, 9:05, 9:35 and 9:55.
Each session takes about 90 minutes.