By Joseph Mathieu
Summer in the capital always enchants, but this year will be truly spellbinding. Canada’s 150th birthday finds Ottawa exploding with red and white, cascading with culture and embracing the extraordinary. Artists and performers from afar will highlight their cultures while celebrating their ties with Canada, the downtown core will ignite with fiery, fantastical beasts completing a quest, and a rift in the space-time continuum will be discovered and explored underground. We are talking about an Ottawa awash in magic, wonder and revelry — a city breaking with tradition and showing off just what it can do. Why not? You only turn 150 once, right?
Kontinuum (July 16 to Sept. 14)
This free, interactive, immersive experience built around the construction of the new light-rail train system in Ottawa is the brainchild of Moment Factory, the wizards behind more than 400 multi-media productions around the world. The company is proud “to tell stories in unusual environments,” says MF’s Marie-Claire Lynn. The Lyon Street transit station is a case in point. Kontinuum centres on city workers finding a “breach” in the space-time continuum while digging to erect the station. This tear in reality allows visitors to experience alternate dimensions and invisible frequencies – auditory, visual and vibrational. Guests traverse three floors of architectural anomalies and life-like panoramic projections, and have the opportunity to visualize their own, unique “frequency,” which then becomes part of Kontinuum’s ever-evolving visual and auditory DNA.
La Machine (July 27-30)
Get ready for the streets, buildings, and trees of downtown Ottawa to become a stage for two towering beasts. “The Spirit of the Dragon-Horse, With Stolen Wings” stars a 20-metre-long spider named La Princesse and a 12-metre-high horse-dragon named Long-Ma. With skin and features of sculpted wood, the massive pair’s mechanical guts and skeletons of steel move with the help of 33 operators. The monumental, four-day play will be the first North American performance by La Machine, a French production company based in Nantes. “Every driver has one role, one function and all together [they] make the machines emotive as well as mobile,” says La Machine’s Frédette Lampé. “The link between the operators and the machines is not dissimilar to that of a marionnettiste to its marionette, but we call them architecture in movement.”
Ottawa Welcomes the World (March until December) lives up to its name. All year long, the capital’s embassies and high commissions are marking their country’s national celebrations at the Aberdeen Pavilion and the Horticulture Building in Lansdowne Park. Enjoy music, food and art from around the world — but no jet lag. For programming, visit Ottawa2017.ca. Meanwhile, Inspiration Village on York Street (May 20 until Sept. 4) is home to 20 sea containers converted into a multi-use space featuring 880 hours of programming. You’ll discover special exhibits, live performances showcasing our provinces and territories, and activities for kids such as a costume photo booth, and photo cutouts of popular Canadian animals.
The International Pavilion (June 27 to Dec. 8)
A new building at 7 Clarence Street welcomes various countries, including summer hosts like Germany, Ireland and Belgium to will showcase their culture and traditions, and promotes their ties to Canada. With inspiring stories from immigrants and ex-pats, examples of partnerships leading to innovation, interactive presentations, and dynamic storytelling, the pavilion will serve as a enjoyable way to see how other countries perceive our own. For programming, visit the National Capital Commission site.
MOSAÏCANADA 150 (June 30 to Oct. 15)
Mosaïculture is the intersection of tapestry and topiary, the latter of which is the pruning of hedges into recognizable shapes. In other words, it’s all about creating living artwork with plants. For 107 days, Jacques-Cartier Park will host the biggest horticultural event in Canada, with MOSAÏCANADA 150/Gatineau 2017. The free exhibit’s themes will reflect on 150 years of history, values, culture and arts in Canada through some 40 different organic wonders.