Welcome to Erthe

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

  • Tessa McDougall and Dylan Evans, Studio Art students at the University of Guelph.

    Tessa McDougall and Dylan Evans, Studio Art students at the University of Guelph.

  • Erthe


  • A visitor to Erthe

    A visitor to Erthe

  • Creators of Erthe

    Creators of Erthe

Written by Pegleess Barrios

For years, the identity of Erthe has been kept a secret to the occupants of our own planet. The Zaelion on Erthe have recently become aware of our presence and it is only a matter of time until they too, cross the boundaries of space and time, to occupy our planet. A team of brave researchers set out to gather information, to learn, to study, and to prepare our planet for the inevitable invasion. Only two researchers survived, bringing back with them evidence of the existence of Erthe and its inhabitants. In a parallel universe exists a planet much like our own, called Erthe. Set 1462 years into the future, Erthe is divided into a social and cultural hierarchy, enforced by the planet’s ruling class, the Zaelion race. Thousands of years earlier, through the exploration of science, medical enhancement, and technology, the known on their home planet as the Belth race developed into a three-part species. Some remained the same (as Belth), others began their transformation into Cyborgs, and even fewer developed into the planet’s super race, the perfect beings, Zaelion. As the Zaelion became aware of their own power and intellect, they issued a complete restructuring of society. Completely disconnected from their humanity, they enslaved the Belth, a population they thought only worthy to serve them through manual labour. They allowed the Cyborg race to exercise some free will, but with the understanding that they too, were at the mercy of the Zaelion.

- Tessa McDougall & Dylan Evans, “Erthe”

Through rumbling thunder and pouring rain, old glass doors, and smoke, lay the evidence of the parallel reality of Erthe. The art show at Zavitz, created by Tessa McDougall and Dylan Evans, resembled a beautifully curated history museum exhibit of an alternate universe. The room was divided into different stations, with artefacts and memoirs from the scientists’ visit to Erthe. Cloth flags, magazines, and hazmat suits, masks and other bits and pieces pulled together to represent the researchers’ findings on each of the races present on Erthe. A live forest-like shrubbery centrepiece emanating smoke through a UV light pulled the presentation together, adding real-life credential to the exhibit while also creating a surreal effect that made it clear that visitors had entered someplace other-worldly.

Many visitors to the gallery had been slowly prepared for their exploration of Erthe, through a multimedia marketing technique employed by Evans and McDougall. To create the atmosphere and generate excitement and anticipation for the exhibition, the artists chose to unveil choice details of the art show slowly over the month leading up to the show. The two students first created a vague but intriguing event listing, with minimal details but just enough weirdness to hook prospective guests. Closer to the date of the show, two promotional videos were released, which flashed between eerie videos of a decaying pig, a dental surgery, anime clips, and a time lapse of a plant, among other elements, with the word “ERTHE” flashing like a spastic strobe light on the top image layer. The videos, somewhat reminiscent of American Horror Story promotional material, initiated guests into the surreal atmosphere of the exhibition. However, in addition to the unearthly and sinister feel of the piece, there was also almost a romantic melancholy to it, evoking comparisons by visitors to an old-school “freakshow” or the infamous P.T. Barnum’s American Museum.

Visitors to Erthe were easily drawn into the piece. As Ara Khanamirian said to The Ontarion, “[The exhibit] kind of makes you, the viewer, feel like you landed on [Erthe] and you’re just figuring out what happened by yourself.” The juxtaposition between the very normal small objects at every station and the entire premise of the exhibition was particularly jarring and fascinating.  University of Guelph student Blake Pyman commented, “The thing that was most appealing to me was the way they took ordinary objects, things you wouldn’t think twice about, and by using them in a totally otherworldly ambience, they took on a totally different quality. The whole atmosphere made everything seem sinister, and a bit mysterious; it made you want to really investigate things, even though they were just ordinary objects.”  

McDougall and Evan’s collaborative art was an experience to remember, and visitors can only hope that there will be more opportunities to explore more of Erthe.

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