After being ushered into a classroom in the basement of Kaneff at UTM, I was unprepared for the performance I was about to take in.
An event by the Blackwood Gallery, Viriditas (In The Future Perfect) is an AV Performance-Lecture by artists Jol Thomson and Julian Weaver. It is the interpretation of their research into fusion energy, a form of energy that creates virtually no waste, but that is still at least thirty years away—and has been thirty years away for quite some time.
The performance was given by Thomson who, with his face covered by a wide-brimmed hat in the dark classroom, was reminiscent of Charon escorting us to the Underworld, telling us about humanity’s search for a greater source of power. Thomson’s performance, which touched on fusion research, the fossil fuel industry, and the ancient science of alchemy, was augmented by the images and colours flashing on the screen, adding emphasis to his words, as well as the slightly unsettling accompanying sounds, contributed by sound artist Weaver.
When the performance began, I was slightly puzzled. Having read that the performance was described as a lecture, I was expecting something a little more structured, and at first, didn’t know what to make of it. However, after a few minutes, I was pulled into the presentation, the steadily flashing images in the dark classroom (which added to the ambiance) and Thomson’s even voice. As he spoke, the images and colours on the screen changed to match the theme, showing images of both ancient alchemical practices and newer technologies, predictions for fusion and the current state of our energy sources. The colour green, one of the five alchemical colours, was shown each time the word viriditas was spoken, which represents spiritual health, vitality, lushness, and growth. The other colours, red, yellow, white, and black, appeared and reappeared throughout the presentation.
The colour black appeared as Thompson spoke of consuming the dead through fossil fuels, and images of Dante’s inferno, one of the first images of Hell, were shown as he deplored what the fossil fuel industry has done to our planet, indirectly insinuating his thoughts of the industry. He expressed his disapproval of our treatment of the earth, and how we will pay for it in the future. We left the performance, which lasted just over twenty minutes, feeling like we’d just experienced something disconcerting and difficult to explain.
All said, Viriditas (In The Future Perfect) was unlike any other exhibit or performance I’ve been to before, having never attended a performance-lecture. I was used to experiencing exhibits at my own pace, taking my time dwelling on pieces, and I tend to lean away from guided tours or visits. Being led through Viriditas, therefore, was a new but interesting exhibit that I’m happy to have experienced. It also opened my eyes to lectures as exhibits of art, something else I had never considered but am now more interested in. It was an undoubtedly fascinating performance.