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A large shipping crate fills the darkened room, beached upon a field of sand.

A light glows from inside, invitingly…

Employing a structure that is both container and transporter, Élan Vital engages a range of perceptual and phenomenological sensations, while offering oblique connections between variant histories of transplantation across the physical and cosmological worlds.

NASA scientists indicate “comets almost certainly brought most of the organic material and much of the water to Earth”, and responding to the theme of ‘transplant’ devised by the Come Up To My Room curators, Élan Vital evokes the connections between the beating heart of our planet and the origins of the galaxy itself. Whether  “transplant” is noun or verb, organic or forced, drawn-out gradually or violently enacted, the notion is inextricably linked to the durational process of evolution. Additionally, as James Gleick prefaces in Chaos: the making of a New Science, “The first chaos theorists had and eye for pattern, especially pattern that appeared on different scales at the same time”. I liken shared rhythms and pulses of variant life-forces as being a version of this patterning and a metaphoric reminder of the ever-shifting, constantly transitioning yet connective process in the world around us.

Vacillating between the haptic and the evocative, the installation challenges perception and expectations, while engaging participants in oblique forms of narrative in which their own presence is an active player. Devised as a site-responsive, three dimensional environment within a hotel room of the historic Gladstone Hotel in Toronto, the intent is to engage the viewer-participant in a compelling scenario that invites questions amid confusing pleasure, prompting reflection about one’s own state of being in the world and within the larger, encompassing, fluid sense of time. Inspired by the flux of the evolutionary process, the installation extends a metaphoric reminder of the ongoing state of becoming and marvels at the stardust within our very beings.

The original iteration of Élan Vital was part of Come Up To My Room 2017, a major alternative art and design event held at Toronto’s Gladstone Hotel that is part of the exciting Toronto Offsite Design Week (TODO). A maximum of 5 participants entered the 7’6” x 12’6” container at a time, and were invited to stay for as long or as little of the 4min film loop as they wished. Within the container, one full wall is covered in floor to ceiling mirrors while the other full wall is floor to ceiling rear projections and the ground is covered in beach sand. The projected video offers an assemblage of imagery evoking evolutionary connectivity including galaxies recorded by the Hubble Telescope, single-cell protists, and the human eye, while the surrounding sound-scape is of deep ocean blended with the beating of a human heart.

Over the 4 day exhibition period this installation received over 3000 visitors and was cited as one of the best installations of the TODO festival by DesignLines Magazine:

“This hotel room takeover transports the visitor to a new dimension by way of the real shipping container that Marian Wihak has assembled inside the suite. Open the crate’s door, step inside and enter an ethereal, almost alien world, occupied by ambient music and floating green light.”

12’6” x 7’6” x 8’ plywood crate, sand, jersey projection screen, projector, plexi mirrors, single channel video, single channel sound.

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