A poetic vision of an uncertain future and a reflection on our present
A poetic vision of an uncertain future and a reflection on our present, the TRACES art installation challenges visitors and raises awareness about the growing threat to ecosystems caused by climate change.
Developed around the idea of the imminent disappearance of natural landscapes and living species, the artwork presents immersive and interactive experiences to emphasize the value of an inclusive, intimate and necessary dialogue between humans and nature. The formal and conceptual interpretation of a murmuration of birds, fossilized mid-flight, takes the form of a family of artifacts that bear witness to the accelerated extinction of threatened species.
The art installation is composed of a series of eight “boxes,” all built at human scale: The Jewel, The Nearness, The Memorial, The Forgotten, The Seat, The Gathering, The Sanctuary and The Awareness. These boxes invite visitors to reflect on the imminent disappearance of large portions of our environment. Each box, populated by exquisitely crafted birds, forms its own small “pavilion” that asks visitors to engage with it in a way that sparks dialogue and a feeling of community. No specific sequence for exploring the boxes is suggested.
TRACES creates a sense of wonder, elicits feelings of emotional attachment, and encourages collective and individual participation—while seeking to inspire the will to act on an international scale.
Inaugurated on the esplanade of the Canada Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, TRACES is the first World Expo installation that was conceived and designed, from the beginning, for touring.
TRACES is in the 2022 CODAawards Top 100!
“We are proud that TRACES is recognized amongst the most wonderful and extraordinary art installations from around the world. We are excited to showcase the piece and the team behind it.”
– ALEXANDRE LEMIEUX, Business development director, Creos
National Film Board of Canada (NFB)
KANVA, Étienne Paquette
Javier Asencio, Serge Maheu, Carine Khalife
In partnership with
Affaires mondiales Canada
1 844 992-7367 ext, 101
Discover the eight boxes
A flock of birds fossilized mid-flight into a precious jewel that is magnified by a shimmering light to evoke wonder.
The Jewel initiates the conversation by placing fossilized birds on a pedestal, with integrated lighting that presents them as beautiful, but troubled jewels.
A majestic fossilized flock of birds immersed in a vertical landscape. A captured memory to be encountered with a bewildering nearness.
The Nearness, the most impressive in terms of scale, features a wall of extraordinarily filtered light highlighting the movement of birds within a vertical landscape.
A murmuration of birds travelling across a landscape, fossilized in a moment of fragile beauty, serves as a respectful tribute to the elegance of living species and a lament for their disappearance.
The Memorial strikes a more emotional chord, symbolizing a horizontal tomb where visitors find themselves paying tribute to a fallen species. The rectangular base with integrated lighting showcases fossilized birds as they hover over a stunning landscape of wood strata.
Carelessly discarded at our feet, the fossils of birds and natural habitats are a testimony to the collective indifference toward the beauty that surrounds us.
The Forgotten symbolizes the careless discarding of objects we once cherished, with stacked cubes of illuminated prototypes that have been cast aside and underappreciated.
An experience set in a school environment, as a reminder of our homework and our individual responsibilities. The desk opens to reveal a tragic fossilized scene: a bird in danger, struggling to free itself from a natural disaster.
The Seat invokes a sense of individual responsibility, seating visitors alone at an old school desk. Upon opening the desk, waterscape sounds and a 3D printed bird is unveiled in a seascape of black ink, depicting the effects of ocean spills through the distressed gaze of a bird struggling mightily to survive.
Placed at the center of a table, like a family matter of global concern, fossilized species come to life to invoke the idea of collective responsibility – a call to action.
The Gathering focuses on collective responsibility, embodying the process of problem solving around a dinner table, and inspired by a glowing cube of fossilized birds emerging from the center of the table. Unsettled sounds of distressed birds gradually evolve into soft and soothing harmonies that symbolize hope as visitors sit together at the table.
Wrapped in a white veil, an aviary – where humans are barred from entering – allows the swirling presence of birds to shine through in an animation evoking notions of freedom, respect and the preservation of living species.
By contrast, The Sanctuary is an extraordinary enclosure devoid of human interference, with its white canvas animated by a flowing stream of birds immersed in a human-free world. KANVA’s eighth box delivers the starkest message of all.
An empty birdcage hangs above four chairs, which, when occupied, prompts the tranquil sounds of bird calls that elicit empathy and hope-filled awareness.
The Awareness consists of four chairs, one in each corner of the box, with an empty bird cage, door open, suspended from the ceiling. Intensifying white noise indicates that something is wrong and, as visitors take a seat and face each other, the ambiance softens to a soothing garden serenade of singing birds. But the cage is empty, and the bird has left.
“We couldn’t be prouder of this work, which has the capacity to be light, beautiful, and entertaining, yet also serve as a conduit of education, consciousness, awareness, and urgency,” concludes Rami Bebawi. “Hyper development has left so much damage behind, and the time has passed for simple acknowledgement. Responsibility must now turn to action.”
RAMI BEBAWI, senior project lead, KANVA
“TRACES was a central component of Canada’s presence at Expo 2020 Dubai under the theme, The Future in Mind. Over six months, this installation captivated a broad and diverse Expo audience – that came from around the world – with its immersive and interactive experience emphasizing the value of an inclusive, intimate and necessary dialogue between humans and nature. We were pleased to partner with the National Film Board, KANVA and their network of collaborators to bring this innovative display to Dubai and to inspire a collective reflection on the urgency of action to on pressing climate and environmental issues.”
MARIE-GENEVIÈVE MOUNIER, Commissioner General of Canada at Expo 2020 Dubai