Walking through the entrance to In/Future, the “transformative art experience” that took over a previously all-but-completely-abandoned Ontario Place, it was difficult to comprehend its sheer size.
The site sprawled around the West Island as organically as it did bizarrely, creating new environments where there were none and re-purposing the old ones to either come to life or complement the life that was already there. There were art exhibitions set up in silos and buildings with strange architecture; performances that happened only at set times. For example, Faye Mullen’s magical and surreal sunset one out at the breakwater at the north west-most point of the island; displays and pieces of art that encouraged interaction, like Marco D’Andrea’s I Was Born Ten Thousand Years Ago, where you could sit in a Cadillac Coup de Ville from 1971—the year Ontario Place opened; and nightly live music, film screenings at the Cinesphere, and performances from guest artists as well, such as Winnipeg’s Gearshifting Performance Works, whose Human Hybrid contemporary dance piece took over the Pavilion Village and Atom Blaster a number of times for the festival’s last weekend.
All of this took place in an area which, at many times, resembles a beautiful but forgotten civilization—a place taken over post-apocalypse, beset by the natural and unstoppable takeover of mother nature. A lot of those vibes—not hard to find, given that much of Ontario Place and its theme park rides had literally been taken over by flora (and a little fauna)—were taken into account for some of the pieces, including fungi and wasp nests made out of yarn, and a desolate and creepy several-storey structure containing tents lit from inside. The entire grounds take on a heavy air of nostalgia, with aged architectural structures like the Cinesphere (the world’s first permanent IMAX theatre!) evoking nostalgia for things like Montreal’s Expo 67 and waterslides overgrown with weeds conjuring childhood memories of cheesy waterpark summers.
But what was special about In/Future was its ability to embrace the past while tirelessly pushing toward the future with dazzling displays and pieces, fearless art, compelling performances, and a massive sense that Ontario Place might have found just what it was always destined to be. The fact that its destiny may be something this weird and wonderful is something to celebrate.