Look out Chicken Little, here it comes

By Claire Cummings

The end of the millennium. Everyone’s sick of the subject, and most people have already decided whether to hunker down with a shotgun and a couple of cases of Evian or to spend New Year’s Eve at a party, kissing people they don’t know. We’ve got our millennium keychains, mousepads, and every other possible "official product of the new century." Does the concept go any deeper than ’90s commercialism?

Local artist Marjan Eggermont delves into why the millenium captures our imaginations. Why do some people react so strongly to the end of the century? Why do some think it means the end of the world?

The exhibition is a combination of film, sound and reproduced images. It consists of a darkened room with images projected on to a big curved screen. The images on the wall near the entrance are of foreboding medieval woodcuts, creepily idyllic drawings of 1950s families, and newspaper clippings from natural disasters in Calgary’s past. The room is full of the quiet roar of waves hitting the beach. The projected film shows a sky scene, overlaid with images and text that represent how apocalyptic ideas have developed over the past 200 years. The style is like a stream of consciousness documentary, showing how apocalyptic thought has changed from religiously focused to pseudo-scientific secular paranoia. This more recent side of apocalyptic thinking comes to us in UFO theories, government conspiracy theories and cults like Heaven’s Gate. Would anyone have picked the X-Files over Miami Vice in 1982?

As an interesting addition to the exhibit, the artist has written an essay on the new paranoia and on why millennialists were always around. Full of quotes, musings, and observations, it helps the viewer look at the exhibit with a better understanding of Eggermont’s purpose. Her insight brings new light on the subject, and puts the current millennial obsession in perspective.

"the sky is falling" certainly doesn’t offer any answers, but it does take us past the shiny tabloid story surface of the millennium by asking the right questions.

It shows at the New Gallery until Nov. 27.


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