Since humankind has been able to walk, it has searched for ways to extend its reach beyond the limits of imagination. For many, space flight is the ultimate realization of that dream. Only a select number can hope to accomplish that goal; the rest of us can take inspiration from the shared history of our race towards the stars. In Intermission: Films From a Heroic Future, the Canadian Centre for Architecture presents rare and ground-breaking films that explore the themes of speed and space.
The program brings together material from the archives of NASA, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM), the National Film Board of Canada (NFB), and UbuWeb. Intermission acts as a bridge between the CCA’s previous exhibition, Speed Limits, and the upcoming Other Space Odysseys: Greg Lynn, Michael Maltzan, and Alessandro Poli (scheduled for next spring).
This idea of non-permanence trickles down to the exhibition design. Wall quotations from Speed Limits and drill holes from the takedown process are still visible, allowing viewers a glimpse at the hidden side of museum exhibitions. To encourage in-depth exploration, the CCA’s curatorial team dropped the linear flow of a more conventional show in favour of an open-ended setup.
Intermission is rounded out by an event series called Thursday Night Features, which includes curator’s talks, special screenings not featured in the exhibition, music, and drinks.
In the main screening gallery, films from each archive are grouped into daily rotated themes like rhythm, speed, and flight. Films like A Cruise to the Stars (1967) document in fascinating detail the inner workings of the Soviet space program. In an adjacent space, visitors are encouraged to plop down on low foam chairs to watch dizzying experimental shorts from the NFB and UbuWeb. The selection includes Norman McLaren’s A Phantasy (1952), in which pastel pearls and rocks come to life in a surrealistic setting.
Another projection room shows 22 hours of recently digitized NASA footage, the majority of which has never been publicly screened. The momentous images include Earthrises over the moon, Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk, and re-entry into the atmosphere at 40,000 kilometres per hour.
The fourth and most interactive gallery contains nine computer stations that visitors can browse at their own pace. Each station encompasses the complete archive of videos selected from the four participating institutions. The films range from Claude Jutra’s Rouli-roulant (1966), a documentary about Westmount skateboarders, to Notre Univers (1960) by Roman Kroitor and Colin Low, a masterpiece that served as one of the inspirations for 2001: A Space Odyssey.
In the end, Intermission offers an informal space for viewers to consider how speed and technology have changed the way we think, live, and dream. Just don’t be surprised to find yourself clicking away at the labyrinthine array of films until closing time.
Intermissions: Films From a Heroic Future runs until February 28 at the Canadian Centre for Architecture (1920 Baile St.). For a complete schedule of events, visit the CCA’s website.