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From the painted past to digital futures : (re)mediating the Canadian nation at Expo 2000

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  • Ecology
  • Philosophy


With the theme Humankind: Nature: Technology: A New World Arising , Expo 2000 was billed as the central event of the celebrations of the millennial year. As a "new world arising", Expo 2000 was to be an innovative model for universal exhibitions that would distinguish itself from the modernism within which expo originated by positioning sustainable development at the core of the event. Moving away from the tourist of former universal exhibitions, Expo 2000 interpellated its visitors as agents who had choices about the type of world they wished to "arise" in the future. In what I have termed a performative pedagogy of ethical action the tourist was transformed into a historical subject with an important role to play in sustaining the earth. Canada, for its part, produced an enormous pavilion in an already existing trade fair space. It is this pavilion that forms the nucleus of the present dissertation, with three central chapters dedicated to each of the three thematic elements of the expo--humankind, nature and technology--and intersected by the three thematic areas of the Canada pavilion itself--"Spirit of Community", "Stewards of the Land" and "Connecting with the Future". Using historical traditions of national representation--landscape and multiculturalism--and modernizing these simultaneously, the Canada pavilion remediated the nation in ways that are problematic and productive simultaneously. The Canada pavilion was very adept in its primary goal of educating its visitors about the nation by engaging pedagogical models that not only "taught" in traditional terms via the rationality of the mind, but also by engaging the body as a pedagogical site. As Walter Benjamin suggested many years ago, the subject is undergoing a complex refiguration through its engagement with technology. This point was mobilized in the pavilion to produce a pedagogical form that is new to universal exhibitions, a hybrid form that I have termed politicotechnoedutainment in an attempt to grasp the crossings and imbrications of pedagogical models used in the pavilion. How these were leashed to national forms proved to be a problem, but this dissertation argues that the resulting "confusion" on the part of visitors to the pavilion is productive both for universal exhibitions and nations, an entry point into the presupposition of seamlessness in national representation where an open-ended, unfixed and transitional model of representation and the nation might be productively established.

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