The Department of Veterans Affairs is launching a new multimedia production in a downtown Ottawa park this Sunday evening that seeks to highlight and encourage discussion about the “fragility of peace and the cost of freedom” ahead of the 100th anniversary of Canada’s Hundred Days and the Armistice that ended the First World War.
Titled “The Edge of Peace,” the exhibit will use images, music, light and shadow to commemorate Canada’s military sacrifices and achievements between 1914 and 1918 during a 14-minute story projected onto illuminated spheres installed around Confederation Park.
The storyline weaves together a grieving composer searching for solace and the reflections of four First World War soldiers who served during the final 100 days of the war, remembered as Canada’s Hundred Days for the Canadian Corps’ significant contributions to the Allied offensive against German forces.
For all of the characters in the story, peace is just beyond reach – “almost there, but not quite,” Hélène Robichaud, director general of commemoration at Veterans Affairs Canada, said in a phone interview on Friday.
Robichaud said all of the creators, companies and actors involved in the multimedia production are Canadian – among them Nick Carpenter, a composer who lived in Ottawa during his teenage years and has worked with the National Arts Centre.
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While people have to be in the national capital to visit the exhibit, one aspect of the production has been designed to engage anyone with access to a cellphone.
Organizers are inviting people to text messages of remembrance that will “dress” a virtual tree projected on one of the globes in the park, Robichaud explained. The tree will “grow” with each message sent and displayed.
Robichaud said this feature was inspired by a solitary tree, located halfway across No Man’s Land, that was left twisted and battle-charred after the first day of the Battle of the Somme in France. Nicknamed the “Danger Tree,” it marked the area where heavy German fire claimed the lives of many Newfoundland soldiers that day in July 1916.
To bring the exhibit to life, Veterans Affairs partnered with Montreal-based Lucion Média, which specializes in audiovisual productions and light installations. The company’s founder, Bernard Duguay, directed “The Edge of Peace.”
From start to finish, the multimedia production will cost about $300,000, Robichaud said.
People can visit “The Edge of Peace” in Confederation Park between dusk and 10:30 p.m. from Nov. 4 to 11.
Those who want to send messages to be displayed on the virtual tree can text them to 438-800-0471.
A moderator will review incoming messages before they are displayed on the illuminated tree, Robichaud said.
Nov. 5 to 11 is Veterans’ Week in Canada.