Shannon Lecture #4, Inderbir Singh Riar Expo 67: Some Notes on Architecture, Nationhood...

Past Event! Note: this event has already taken place.

When: Friday, November 17th, 2017
Time: 2:30 pm — 4:00 pm
Location:MacOdrum Library, 482, Multi-Media Lab, Discovery Centre

More Information

Expo Exposed!

Convenor: Professor Paul Litt

About the series:

The History Department’s Shannon Lecture Series for 2017, will commence on September 22, 2017 with more details to be posted as they become available. This year’s lecture series looks at Expo 67 as the highlight of Canada’s centennial. A world’s fair held in Montreal, it dazzled the world with its daring architecture, innovative exhibits, and high-minded theme, “Man and His World.” Many Canadians regarded it as Canada’s coming-out party, a moment when the young nation burst into the international limelight and strutted its stuff to universal acclaim. Substitute “Quebec” or “Indigenous Peoples” for “Canada” in the previous sentence and it would be equally true – Expo 67 was a rich, multivalent spectacle that generated diverse messages. In Canada’s 150th anniversary year, the Carleton Department of History is revisiting Expo 67 to reflect upon the meaning of it all. A select group of lecturers will address key topics such as Expo’s intellectual origins, how it became a proud emblem of modernization for both Canadian and Quebec nationalists, its impact on Indigenous rights and culture, and its iconic stature in the histories of architecture and cinema. X out the dates in your calendar to experience exposition by Expo experts that will expand your mind exponentially.

This public lecture series is made possible by the Shannon Fund, an endowment created by an anonymous friend of the Department of History.

All lectures will take place in the Multi-Media Lab (room 482), Discovery Centre, MacOdrum Library starting at 2:30PM followed by a reception in the History Lounge (433 Paterson Hall).

Friday, November 17, 2017

“Expo 67: Some Notes on Architecture, Nationhood, and Late Modernity”

Professor Inderbir Singh Riar (Azrieli School of Architecture & Urbanism, Carleton University)

Co-sponsored by the Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism

Multi-Media Lab (room 482), Discovery Centre, MacOdrum Library starting at 2:30PM followed by a reception in the History Lounge (433 Paterson Hall).


Expo 67 produced both continuations of and crises in the emancipatory project of modernism.  Like universal exhibitions before it, Expo 67 stood to mediate relations between aesthetics and technics, between peoples and things, through its most visionary architecture.  Resulting theories of design, especially attempts to derive enormous structures from complex geometries, carried a modernist conviction of long duration: namely, an abiding technological determinism shaping dreams of a new global citizen.  At the very same moment, this universalism was fraught with ambiguity: to embrace techno-science inevitably meant facing the aftershock of global war and the present terror of nuclear holocaust.  The tension animated attempts at advancing a novel “cellular architecture”, which the Expo 67 authorities would promote as the lasting contribution of the fair.  Confronting the functionalist inheritance of the Modern Movement, architects embraced bio-mechanical metaphors and models to discover primal forms capable of engendering “open” concepts of society and space.  Such ideas and ideals informed efforts like the breathtaking Man the Producer theme pavilion – a key subject of this lecture – with its remarkable tetrahedra epitomising the optimism of large-scale thinking in the 1960s.  To pioneering Montreal architects responsible for the Expo 67 theme Man and His World (a paean to contemporary humanism inspired by UNESCO and the celebrated Family of Man photography exhibition, among other sources), these works (deliberately situated alongside heroic examples recuperated from the nineteenth century) meant rejecting the most enduring symbols of world exhibitions: the nation-state and its symbolic architecture.  Theirs was a vision of late modernity, a moment, not fully marked by mass culture and media, during which nationalisms could still be channelled, via architecture, into alternative kinds of political belonging free of narrow self-interest, conflict, and inequity.  The utopian hope would be fleeting, promised, after all, in a short-lived spectacle unfolding across temporary fairgrounds removed from any difficulties of the city, politics, and history.

About Professor Inderbir Singh Riar

Inderbir Singh Riar profile picture in front of a buildingInderbir Singh Riar is an architectural historian.  He explores ways in which architects have imagined the modern metropolis as producing ideal citizenries.  This work has taken several forms including an extensive look at Toulouse-Le Mirail, the consequential French ville nouvelle built in the 1960s (a study undertaken in collaboration with the Paris-based photographer Mark Lyon and supported by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts).  Recent research examines ideologies of “reconstruction” in West Germany and how cities were seen as sites of democratic sentiment in the aftermath of war, occupation, and fascism.  A larger interest in postwar architecture culture informs Riar’s current book project on the intellectual program and experimental architecture of Expo 67 (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2019).  Along with his scholarly activity, Riar serves on the Board of Directors of the Diefenbunker, Canada’s Cold War Museum in Carp, Ontario.


Upcoming Lectures

Friday, December 1, 2017

“The Missing Archive of Expo 67”

Professor Janine Marchessault (Cinema and Media Studies, York University)

Co-sponsored by the School for Studies in Art and Culture

Multi-Media Lab (room 482), Discovery Centre, MacOdrum Library starting at 2:30PM followed by a reception in the History Lounge (433 Paterson Hall).


Expo 67 was a spectacular showcase of avant garde audio-visual technology and multi-screen film. One might expect that its cinematic legacy would have been lovingly preserved for posterity. Instead, only some of its films have been properly archived. Many more were misplaced and forgotten, and while some have recently been recovered, others seem to have been lost forever.

This lecture explores the possibility that the Expo zeitgeist was at odds with the archival impulse. Immediacy and simultaneity defined Expo’s mediatic displays, creating an ever-unfolding total environment infused with what has been described as the ‘enduring ephemeral’ (Chun, 2008). Does an event with an ahistorical sensibility somehow pre-empt preservation for posterity?

Recent anarchival artistic projects and films about the utopian Expo moment play on this possibility. Space Fiction & the Archives (film and installation Jacqueline Hoang Nguyen 2012) and By the Time we got to Expo (Philip Hoffman/Eva Kolcze 2015) are works of dynamic excavation that undermine any attempt to stabilize public memory of Expo 67.

About Janine Marchessault

Janine Marchessault profile photoJanine Marchessault is a Professor of Cinema and Media at York University. She is  a founder of the Future Cinema Lab, and the 2014-2016 inaugural Director of Sensorium: Centre for Digital Arts Research at York. In 2012,  she was awarded a prestigious Trudeau Fellowship to pursue her curatorial and public art research. She is the author of Ecstatic Worlds: Media, Utopias and Ecologies (MIT 2017); Cosmic Media: Marshall McLuhan (Sage 2005); and (co)editor of numerous collections including 3D Cinema and Beyond (Intellect/ University of Chicago Press 2013);  Reimagining Cinema: Film at Expo 67 (MQUP 2014) and Cartographies of Place: Navigating the Urban (MQUP 2014). A past President of the Film Studies Association of Canada, she has held faculty positions at McGill University, Ryerson University and has taught at the Escuela Internacional de Cine y TV. Books in preparation include Archival Imaginary: Creative Approaches to Digital Memory; The Oxford Guide to Canadian Cinema; and Process Cinema: HandMade Film in the Digital Age.

Please contact Paul Litt at ideally at least two weeks in advance of this event, and at the very least one week in advance, should you wish to request interpretation services.

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