Citérama

Directed by Jacques Languirand
Mixed and multimedia elements
Man and the Community Pavilion

The film/theatre experiment Citérama was conceived by the Quebec novelist and playwright Jacques Languirand as part of Man in the Community Pavilion. The physical building, designed by Arthur Erickson, was a pyramid of logs culminating in a cone-shaped roof open to the sky; as visitors passed underneath, they were able to catch a “utopian vista” 140 feet overhead. The theatre consisted of two stacked concentric platforms. The smaller one rotated faster than the larger one and stopped at intermittent points, so that the two-hundred-person audience arranged around the installation could make connections among the various images. Each platform was divided into twelve stages, and the stages were three-dimensional settings. Six of the twelve inner stages carried slide screens, themselves divided in half, each with 350 images, for a total of seven hundred rear-projected images created as a “film fixe.” The intention was a “collage in motion.”

On the smaller platform, the projected images included a montage of children eating and going to school, concrete and iron being poured into moulds, television screens being manufactured, violence and war. In a post-humanist style that served to animate and amplify the museification and suspended animation, Pop and Op broke down the boundaries between high and low art, between different media, between audience and spectacle. Languirand augmented the sense of theatrical spectacle with randomness created through the effect of rings moving at different speeds, ensuring that each audience member had a different experience and made different associations. Yet the “performance” was framed by the same universal theme of the city and technology as seen in terms of “youth, scientific research, consumerism, love, communication, violence, authority.” The soundtrack, a combination of jazz, concrete sound, and recorded voices, prefigured surround-sound techniques, creating an immersive environment.

Jacques Languirand

Jacques Languirand is a dramatist and essayist. In the 1950s and 1960s he was Canada’s most important exponent of the theatre of the absurd, having been influenced by playwrights in vogue during his stay in Paris (1949-53). Several of his dramatic texts were performed on radio in Montreal before his first stage play, Les Insolites, which was performed in 1956 (published 1962) and awarded the prize for best Canadian play at the Dominion Drama Festival. The host of a number of radio and television shows, he was appointed member of the Order of Canada in 1987.