072517 Kontinuum, Ottawa, ON

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Ottawa was a great place to live in 2017 during Canada’s 150th year of Confederation.  Being the capital city there were tons of fun events happening all year long, from the Red Bull Crashed Ice competition in early March right up to the NHL100 Winter Classic near the end of December, and I did ‘em all.

Throughout the near-continuous celebrations Ottawa was enduring significant mayhem created from the installation of a new underground subway/train system which forced huge swaths of the downtown core to spend considerable time under severe construction as the doozers dug and dug.  Taking advantage of a unique opportunity, a group of artists called Moment Factory took over the nearly-completed Kent Street underground station for the summer and transformed it into a trippy multi-media exhibit called Kontinuum, and on July 25th I hopped on my bike and rode downtown to check it out.

Though Kontinuum was free it was a ticketed event, staggering the crowds in a (successful) effort to keep the space from getting too crowded at any particular time.  After having your ticket punched, patrons were directed to computer stations where they entered information and secretly had their faces scanned into the Kontinuum database.  Then down the hall you go, where you are immediately given two different paths to choose from.  I was surprised that it was legit – what m’lady experienced in her tunnel was completely different than the pieces that were installed in my tunnel, and it wasn’t until the “ride” was almost over that we were able to meet up again.

My side was a dark hallway pierced with laser-like lights coming down from the ceiling.  When one brushed their hand through a beam it made a musical note, so patrons could play light like an instrument.  Pretty nifty.

At the end of the tunnel was a room that was the realization of a concept I envisioned when I was a teenager.  It was a small room entirely lined with mirrors – floor, ceiling and walls – with a couple of slowly-rotating lasers infinitely decorating the room with beautiful, ever-changing grids of colour.  Like, I literally thought up this exact room and had been occasionally imagining it for almost four decades; it was so cool to finally see it and know that it was indeed quite awesome.  I could have stayed in there forever, but I had to try to find m’lady!

And I did, as we both descended two separate staircases down to the future train platform, where our images from the computer stations back at the entrance were projected in eerie pixelation on the walls as lights and New Age music danced from the darkness at both ends of the cavernous tunnel.  My image didn’t come out for some reason.  Perhaps it’s related to my subtle vampirism.

In the end I’m glad I went to Kontinuum but I’m also very glad it was free.  At $10 it would have felt like a waste of money but at zero dollars it was just another great element of Canada’s 150th birthday in the capital.

(Incidentally, Moment Factory was also responsible for a multi-media presentation that was projected onto the Chaudière Falls between Ottawa and Gatineau later in the summer, using a lot of the same equipment they used for Kontinuum.  Local native groups freaked out over a) the way they were depicted in the presentation, and b) the fact that it was happening on disputed land, so I decided to give it a miss.)

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