Posted by: kaleidophonic | October 6, 2011

Expo 67 (Pt. 1)

Hi there.

Today I’d like to (finally) talk a bit about a book I’m reading, as a lead-in to material I’ll be posting over the next few days.

From a brochure for the Kaleidoscope Pavillion @ Expo 67.

But first, how cool is THIS?!   —————————————————————–>>>>>

It’s got my name! And Expo! Together!!! (O.o)

The image is actually from a brochure for the Kaleidoscope pavilion at Expo 67, and I pulled it from Expo 67: Not Just a Souvenir, a collection of essays edited by Rhona Richman Kenneally and Johanne Sloan (published by the Toronto University Press, 2010).

I’ve been waiting a long time for some fresh scholarship on Expo 67 (for the noobs: the International Exhibition held in Montreal in 1967). I know a lot of students working their way through the graduate system who are keen on tackling Expo, but so far as published research, the pickins’ have been slim.

Starting from the idea of the souvenir (specifically Expo’s colourful postcards, an example of which appears below), the editors have collected a series of essays on themes of nationalism and modernity, as well as visual and urban experience. Now, I’m getting a little tired of the fact that Canadian (and Québécois) historians continue to be obsessed with nationalism (can we please come up with some other paradigms through which to imagine our history?), although of course I recognize the centrality of this particular “ism” to Quebec and Canada at this time. It was, after all, Canada’s centennial year, and Quebec was in the throes of a transformational national awakening.  So it’s refreshing that this book tackles nationality through material culture, rather than political rhetoric or philosophy.

Postcard of the Kaleidoscope Pavilion

Aside from nationalism, the other major themes are modernity and urban experience (which are key concepts in my own work), and visual experience. As the editors explain in their introduction: “Expo 67 was a highly photogenic event, and the experience of it was largely constituted in visual and pictorial terms.” (pg. 13).

This would seem to be an obvious statement, and the authors explain further that “Expo 67 was replete with movement, colour, and visual stimuli…” (pg. 15). I can’t argue with this. Expo WAS a highly visual experience. Unfortunately, however, the authors of this book seem to have created an image of Expo that is replete with colour, form, and movement – but remains mute. There is little discussion here of sound at Expo, and yet sound-art, music, and the general noise of millions of visitors were key features of the experience of this particular exhibition.

So over the next few days I’d like to talk a bit about some of Expo’s sonic artefacts – more specifically some of the songs that were written to publicize or celebrate this wondrous event. So come back tomorrow and join me for the first of several posts covering Expo in song.

A bientot! KJ.


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