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Illuminations: human/nature

Portable multimedia in Canada’s National Parks

2017 - Banff and Rouge National Park

Participants work together to stage moments of discovery across the parks using a custom multimedia tool kit.

  • THEA Awards | Connected experience (limited budget), 2019

  • COMMUNICATION ARTS Interactive Competition | Environmental, 2019

Illuminations: human/nature is a project of many ‘firsts’ in Moment Factory history. The team was proud to collaborate with Canadian artist Sarah Fuller on this signature event initiated by the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity for Canada’s 150th celebrations.

We are always taking our mantra, We Do It In Public, in new directions; this is especially true for Illuminations: human/nature. Exploring how ‘hands-on’ experiences engage the public through participation, the team decided to put multimedia equipment directly in the public’s hands. Divided into groups, audiences become participants, carrying and operating portable devices such as speakers, projectors, and lights.

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Here’s how it works: upon arrival at the site, a specially-crafted tool kit is distributed among each group. Each kit includes various types of handheld multimedia devices disguised as Parks Canada gear: maps, lanterns, flashlights, backpacks and more.

The group explores the park together using their tool kit. The operation is foolproof thanks to a wireless deployable system that turns the tools automatically on and off, triggering video content, special effects, music and voice over. With the tools uniquely activated at different spots across the park, participants work together to stage multimedia moments of discovery. From salmon swimming up the Rouge River to a submerged town of Lake Minnewanka, each moment is a combination of multimedia effects created by the tool kit.

The experience was offered at and tailored to two different sites: Banff National Park in Alberta, and Rouge Urban National Park in east Toronto. In each case, the parks are shaped by unseen cultural, ecological, and geological narratives. The team wanted to make these narratives visible, but also demonstrate how their multiplicity and continuity shapes the landscapes and wildlife ecosystems.

As both sites are National Parks, the team also sought a ‘leave no trace’ approach for the project. To minimize onsite installation, the entire operation was designed to be battery-powered and portable; participants could ‘pack in and pack out’ their experience. We further neutralized the project’s carbon footprint with the purchase of carbon credits, another first for Moment Factory.

Participants discover a new view of the parks through both through the collective group format and the content of the experience, which includes collaboration with Indigenous communities. With a nod to the future of these spaces, Illuminations: human/nature invites participants to consider the real lack of boundaries between humans and wild nature in urban and conservation contexts. The tool kits are a tangible metaphor for stewardship, inviting participants to consider not only the tools we use to protect natural spaces, such as policy and advocacy, but our role in wielding them.