As part of Nuit Blanche Toronto 2018, the Art Gallery of Ontario hosted an immersive exhibit called Ancient Forest Alliance by Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier. This installation was a video projection of a forest on all four walls of a room in the AGO. The description of the installation said it was “a unique and compelling immersive experience of both old-growth forest and deforestation on Vancouver Island that invites viewers to consider the profound effects we have on pristine environments.”

Because this was an immersive exhibit, it felt like you were surrounded by forest. The projection closer to the ground was zoomed in on the forest floor, making you feel small, which was quite a strange feeling. However, if you go higher, and the room had a few different levels, you felt like a normal-sized person. As you got closer to the ceiling, the treeline opened up as if you were outside and you could see a tiny bit of sky. There was also a faint soundtrack, so it sounded like you were in a forest, though you had to listen carefully because of all the people.

This exhibit asked people to consider the impact they are having on the local and global environment. Recently, environmental issues have been at the front of people’s minds. For instance, banning plastic straws has become one of 2018’s biggest causes according to CNBC. By zooming in close to the forest floor, making us feel small, we get a sense of what animals feel like when they lose their homes. We also get to walk through these pristine forests as humans in this installation and view it for ourselves. Although this exhibit is just a video projection of an old-growth forest, it’s still beautiful and makes you appreciate that there are only a few of these forests left so we do need to protect them. Upon leaving the exhibit, you are left to reflect on these and other environmental issues, and how you can help because even though you weren’t actually in the forests, it felt like you were.

Ancient Forest Alliance was not the only environmental exhibit at Nuit Blanche this year. Just down the street from the AGO, Greenpeace had an exhibit of an octopus covered in garbage to discourage single-use plastics and to show how they are polluting the oceans and hurting sea life.

With thousands of people viewing them, hopefully these exhibits will inspire all of us to change our behaviour towards the environment and adopt more environmentally-friendly practices so that we may keep environments like the old-growth forests pristine for generations to come.

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