Volume Five, December 2004

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In a normal city there is no one on the side of ‘us.’ At Expo, the ultimate authority is concerned with ‘our’ environment. Total environment presupposes a ‘total’ system.
Jeremy Baker, “Expo and the Future City”

Understandably, it [Expo 67] confounds those who expect to see only quantitative boasts of industrial strength, military power, scientific progress, and cultural ascendance.
The Architectural Record, 1967

As the Expo carillon chimed “Deep in the Heart of Texas,” Commissioner General Pierre Dupuy, getting in a plug for Expo’s theme, told Lyndon Johnson that “to million people, you are Man and his World.’ In French, he added, “The U.S. is a giant, but we have no intention of playing David” (“The Times” June 2, 1967).
In the spring of 1967, Canadians celebrated the one hundredth anniversary of the founding of the Canadian Federation with a class one world international exhibition held in Montreal, Quebec. Inspired by the rhetoric of the French writer Antoin de Saint-Exupery’s book Terre des Hommes, the organizers of Expo ’67 were determined to supply a theme that would be appropriate for an era extolling the virtues of Progress and the “end of ideology.” The decision to emphasize Saint-Exupery’s la condition humaine resulted in the theme, Man and His World, which paradoxically united an optimistic vision of universal humanism with an upsurge in Canadian nationalism to highlight the independence and maturing of Canada as a nation state after 300 years of colonial rule by the French and British Empires.
Canadians, ironically, constructed their celebration of national identity on the porous foundations of a post-national ecumenism led by the United States that sought to render the nation-state obsolete while at the same time rigorously defending American national interests and representing an image of modernity to the world that would recoup national pride from the propaganda defeats of the 1950s to enable the free world to defeat the Soviet Union in a symbolic struggle for global hegemony. The parameters of this struggle at Expo ’67 were waged beyond the simple flexing of corporate or technological muscle and extended to include the way the world was being oriented spatially, or “disciplined” as Michel Foucault would argue, into the spectacle of the “world as exhibition.” Expo ’67 crystallized, for a moment, a unified pragmatic liberal vision of universal humanism wedded to corporate capitalism that avoided stumbling over the celebrations of consumerism and a corporate ethos, which had undermined the American exhibition strategies of the 1950s and early 1960s, or ideological conflict with conservatives bent on revisiting exhibition strategies of the 1930s.
World’s Fairs have traditionally functioned as “symbolic universes” which, the sociologists Peter L. Burger and Thomas Luckman have noted are themselves social products with a history. The function of these “symbolic universes” have been to create an ordering system for embracing marginal ‘situations’ of modernity within the apparent social reality of everyday life. They serve to provide a crucial ingredient in the naturalization and legitimating of social order and “by their very nature, present themselves as full-blown and inevitable totalities.”1 As such, world's fairs have since their inception functioned as the consummate physical embodiment of “symbolic universes.”
World’s Fairs have subsequently served as integral instruments of the hegemonic control and promotion of modernity precisely because, as the historian Robert Rydell argues, “they propagated the ideas and values of the country’s political, financial, corporate and intellectual leaders and offer these ideas as the hegemonic interpretation of social and political reality.”2 By the middle decades of the twentieth century, as the geographer Derek Gregory notes, an even more ominous development was unfolding with the systematic connecting of the knowledge of spatial science to disciplinary power.3 We can see the emerging of this new synthesis of space, surveillance, discipline, and world’s fairs in the first two decades of the Cold War, culminating, I would argue, in the most important World’s Fair of the post-war era: Expo ’67.
After World War Two, the United States and the Soviet Union extended the Cold War competition between them into the sphere of international exhibitions. World’s fairs were seen by propagandists for both societies as presenting the ideal forum in which to compete for the mantle of the leadership in “human progress.” During the 1950s, whether at major world’s fairs like the one held in Brussels in 1958 or at smaller regional type exhibitions, such as Damascus in 1956, international exhibitions were the new ideological battlefield for testing the latest in Cold War propaganda techniques but even more importantly, as representing rival paths to modernity. This particular form of Cold War rivalry was becoming increasingly vital as an arena of superpower competition as the focus of the Cold War began to shift from Europe and increasingly towards the so-called Third World in the mid to late 1950s. Many of these societies were either engaged in wars of colonial liberation or, having succeeded in establishing national independence, were struggling to modernize their societies in the most rapid and viable ways possible. Such displays of modernity by the Soviet Union and the United States at World’s Fairs thus became crucial in winning the ‘hearts and minds’ of people all over the world,4 especially as modern communications and mass media such as television made the global transmission of the exhibition possible.
The decision to hold the first ever class one exhibition in the history of Canada, was made in 1960 in anticipation of the centenary celebrations for Canada in 1967. Having never hosted a major world’s fair before, the Canadian organizing committee was at a loss as to where to begin the enormous task of organizing the world’s fair let alone developing a fair strategy. The decision was made to send a committee to MIT in Boston to consult with American academics, which had been involved with the formulation of American exhibition strategy at Brussels in 1958.
MIT, as well as the University of Chicago, was a key institution in formulating new techniques of Cold War propaganda under the leadership of scholars studying the relationship between media, technology and the Third World. Scholars such as Daniel Lerner at MIT and Lucian W. Pye at the University of Chicago, developed theories of communications known as “total communications”, that were meant to address the shortcomings of American propaganda disasters in the 1950s and the failures of the 1958 and 1964 World’s Fair. In summarizing this new approach Walter Joyce notes that, “It [this new approach] does not have to resort to lies or ‘black propaganda’ and it is in fact difficult to do so when he [the intellectual] represents an open society like ours.”5 The imperative to develop new techniques of communication and propaganda was argued by Daniel Lerner in an article entitled “Revolutionary Elites and World Symbolism,” in which he sketched the outlines of this new approach to Cold War propaganda:

The failure to diffuse a persuasive universal symbolism in a political arena that has become technologically global contains ominous problems for the future of humanity. (…) To avert these catastrophic dangers, there is clear and present need for a positive politics of preventive therapy. This requires a flow of information that is relevant and reliable – information of the sort that can be produced by the policy of sciences in the service of democratic development. Such information, while it is most urgently needed by policy advisers, cannot be confined to elites. Indeed, such information can support political therapy of appropriate scope only if it is diffused on an adequate scale to shape a new global consensus on the desirable way of the world.6

For American strategy at Cold War competitions such as world’s fairs to be successfully integrated into the total propaganda effort, removal of whatever impediments to effective “white propaganda” that existed in fair structures and organization was essential. For Walter Joyce the greatest service America could perform for communism would be to promote capitalism – “that is the word, not the economic system.” 7 While the United States Information Agency did not employ these intellectuals until after the fiasco of the 1964 New York World’s Fair, Lucian Pye was the first to be hired The Canadians, by going to MIT, were coming into contact with some of the most up-to-date theories of communications, Cold War propaganda and counter-insurgency- warfare. Expo ’67 would be the first world’s fair to utilize these advanced techniques of symbolic warfare in the Cold War, with the United States Information Agency being employed in the organization of the American pavilion.
The decision of the Canadian fair organizing committee to consult with the academics at MIT was the first step towards conceptualizing a world’s fair philosophy that would decisively reject the leadership of corporate and business interests, at least on the surface, an unheard of move in twentieth century world’s fair history. One of the most important of these academic figures was John E. Burchard, the Dean of the Institute of Humanities who had organized a conference entitled, “The American Way of Life,” designed to address the inadequacies of the American exhibition strategy at Brussels in 1958. The lessons learned from the propaganda defeat in Brussels were expressed in the following memorandum released after the symposium:

The idea was expressed at the MIT conference that what we are dealing with is the phenomenon of continuous revolution, that the American people are dynamic, energetic, impatient, and restless for change; that because of the vastness of our country, the diversity of our origins, and the free conditions pertaining to American enterprise, we are committed to a constant, unremitting search for an improved way of life (…) Moreover, it is important to emphasize that the process is more important to Americans than the product, in other words, that the challenge of creation and achievement is still of central excitement in the American way of life.

The combination of “continuous revolution” with creativity and excitement was a formula for refocusing American propaganda efforts in the Cold War and as a means of convincing the world that the leadership of the productive forces of modernity had not been lost by the United States in the wake of Sputnik. As one committee member put it, America had to illustrate that “we have done for our people in practice that which the Communists have claimed as their goals and which they have not done.” Enthusiasm for beating the Russians at their own game extended to the suggestion of including a portrait of Karl Marx in the American pavilion at Brussels in 1958. Yet, despite the recognition of the need to mobilize American intellectuals in this propaganda struggle against the Soviet Union at Brussels, the U.S. effort was a relative failure. As a confidential USIA report later stated, “the U.S. exhibit at the Brussels Fair was outranked in audience preference by several of its competitors and in particular by the presentation of the Soviet Union.” The Soviets exploited the opportunity to push their own vision on human progress with displays that conveyed “symbols of their rapid growth and power.”8 The rival paradigm of modernity represented by Sputnik was to fundamentally alter the construction of American identity at international exhibitions. This meant world’s fairs were too important to be left to corporate strategy and advertising executives; in particular the liberal intellectuals popularized by Theodore White as the Action Intellectuals of the Kennedy White House would, in future, be included in world fair exhibition strategy. The task of closing the gap between the perception of U.S. decadence and Soviet technical superiority was handed to intellectuals who desired to blur the binary distinctions suggested by the confrontation of capitalism with communism with a universal humanist message that promoted a capitalist modernity uncluttered by the flotsam and jetsam of older representations of capitalism.
The theme of creativity was at the core of American advice to the Canadian visitors seeking guidance on Fair organization and philosophy and would be a cornerstone of Canadian fair strategy at the first Canadian planning conference for Expo ’67 held at the Seignury Club in Montebello, Quebec. As a result, some of the participants in the Montebello meeting including Alan Jarvis, director of the National Gallery, novelists Hugh MacLennan and Gabrielle Roy (who pushed the connection of the Fair’s theme to St. Exupery), and Claude Robillard, town planner, who argued at the meeting that “I thought the time was over when we could have world exhibitions of the latest screwdriver, and that it was time the accent was placed on man rather than on his inventions.”9 Out of this meeting came the decision to focus the philosophy of Expo ’67 around Eupery’s idea of “Man and his World,” especially since, according to St. Exupery’s exegete S. Beynon John, Exupery’s models of human behaviour included “the virtues of creativity.”10 The broad liberal humanism of the theme was emblematic of how beholden the Canadians were to this change in American Cold War strategy since the late 1950s. For example, when the Canadian delegate Jean-Louis Roux noted that the theme meant “Man, as opposed to corporations” and “Man, as opposed to nations” he was merely articulating the conclusions arrived at by the MIT think-tank and other liberal “action intellectuals” that American success in the Cold War required a downplaying of traditional corporate interests or national prestige in favour of a dynamic model of change at whose heart were “creative people” and not businessmen.
Canadian strategy for Expo `67 began to become more concretized at an intellectual gathering entitled Seminar `65, a meeting of the Canadian Conference of the Arts held at Ste. Adele-en-Haut, Quebec. The Conference was to assess and advise the Canadian government on the state of the arts in Canada, on the plans for Expo ’67 and how to merge the concerns over the survival of a Canadian cultural identity with the planning for a world’s fair celebrating universal humanism. The major recommendation at the Seminar ’65 meeting was that the arts be given the highest possible priority in conceptualizing the overall Fair design and the Canadian pavilion, with the final Conference Report noting,

But if the total culture of a country may be likened to an arch, then surely the keystone is the arts. A nation reveals itself to posterity through the arts, for the arts are the apex of culture, the crown of its total achievement. Until recently the arts in Canada were unable to assume their rightful place. The new technology of communications offers the means for a national expression but only the arts can provide the significant content by which a nation comes to know itself. 11

The anti-elitism and pluralistic emphasis within Seminar ’65 augured a shift in the cultural environment that began with the defeat of the John G. Diefenbaker government in 1963. Seminar ’65 also warned that placing faith in modern technology would end up in the “manufacture of dull uniformity,” which the arts could alleviate because “the arts contain the diversity of expression and variation of character, which are fostered by a vigorous and healthy community.” Advocating new cultural objectives and increased state participation in the funding of the arts, Seminar ’65 also rationalized that the expansion of the publicly supported cultural sector would significantly enhance the growth of the economy. The Commission understood that the traditional reliance on the natural resources base of the Canadian economy was inadequate to maintain and further develop the economic expansion demanded by modernization. Barriers separating culture and business were seen as arbitrary, paving the way for a new alliance of business and culture, demonstrating that “Canadians no longer live in a culturally underprivileged society.”12 Sketching out the future cultural agenda for Expo ’67 Seminar ’65 promoted the theme of creativity as integral to the idea of Man and his World: “Properly treated, artists do more than enhance our lives. Like scientists, they illuminate and enrich it. The time has come in Canada to appreciate that they serve the highest aspirations of government and the highest aspirations of Canadian policy: they further human understanding at home and abroad.” For the first time in Canadian history Canadian artists formally sat across from a Minister of the Federal Canadian Government, Secretary of State Maurice Lamontagne, who proposed in accordance with the new social alliance being forged at present between the cultural sector, business, and government, “the development of our artistic life as the major objective of the Centennial observances.” The objectives of this heightened political awareness of culture would be to promote the arts as playing a significant role in articulating the theme of Expo ’67, as the final Report states, “1967, as well as marking a century of building Confederation, may well prove to be the year of its true completion; true in the sense that the modern forces of technology impel us towards unity, and at least make it possible to share in a common heritage and a common destiny as we never could before.”13
The design of the Montreal Fair site required a massive manipulation of nature in the form of two man-made islands and an adjacent peninsula consisting of over 15 million tons of landfill extracted from the excavation of the new city subway system. The construction of the site in the St. Lawrence River across from Montreal created a 1,000-acre fairground conceived as a symbol of the co-operative relationship that could be obtained through the marriage of technology and nature. A complex web of transportation systems and communications tied the fair to the city, hastening its urban redevelopment and emphasizing the potential for urban revitalization through technology that reverberated with the distant dreams and ambitions of Baron Haussmann’s Paris and the World’s Fairs of 1855 and 1867. The transportation systems, ranging from subways to moving sidewalks, created a seamless hierarchy of human circulation that contributed to an overall sense of coherence and unity that the 1964 Fair in New York had failed to achieve. By careful manipulation of the environment, from landscaping, waterways, mass transportation, and a consistent policy in the design of minor items such as benches, ticket kiosks, Expo ’67 created a technological totality on the site unequalled by any post World War Two Fair.
With sixty two participating nations, the theme ‘Man and His World’ miraculously transformed the sentiments of Saint-Exupery into a celebration of liberal humanism, appearing to provide a peaceful forum for the gathering of humanity while not promoting any one particular ideological system, set of values or national interests. Yet, for example, in the Canadian pavilion alone were represented over 1200 individual corporations and across the Fair, the international corporate community was overwhelmingly present but subsumed behind the veneer of Exupery’s sentiment. Nonetheless, unlike the New York World’s Fair of 1939 or of 1964, the massive business presence did not trumpet the triumph of corporate capitalism but within the overall unity of the Fair site the priority of “Man” over corporations and nationalism was asserted. The interdependent global view of humanity was the central entwining myth that precluded the need for a central symbol for the Fair, such as the Crystal Palace, the Eiffel Tower at the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris or the Perisphere at the New York Fair in 1939. The lack of a central symbol belied the underlying unity of Expo ’67, as the Canadian writer Donald Theall wrote in the journal “Artscanada:” ”Expo has no single symbol, but is itself a symbol as a total environment, a work of art.”14 The de-centering of the Fair’s ideological message opened the door for the symbolic re-amalgamation of the Fair under the leadership of the United States with its synthesis of creative play and the downplayed pursuit of corporate modernity.
The Canadian pavilion actually aided to solidify the American strategy of asserting Cold War supremacy over the Soviet Union while presenting an image of national development conceivably bridging the gap between the most advanced Western industrialized nations and the Third World. By presenting an image of national purpose under the umbrella of transportation and modern communications, Canada manufactured an important contribution to the fair’s overall ideological coherence, spread over four acres and costing 21 million dollars. The Canadian pavilion was dominated by an inverted pyramid nine story high and entitled ‘Katimivik,’ the Inuit word for “meeting place.” Behind the main exhibition space were a series of timber and canvas-covered spaces providing rooms for a two-part display programme, one focusing on an exhibition of Canadian art and the other on modern forms of mass entertainment. The exhibits were intended to present a reassuring image of the compatibility between the benefits of technology and the creative arts. The formal arts were presented in a 500-seat theatre as well as in a separate exhibition space for a display of historical and contemporary Canadian painting. Popular culture was present throughout the pavilion although the climax of the displays was a mechanical sea monster named ‘Uki’ which would rise and belch flames, and which threatened at one point to inadvertently incinerate the completion of the Trans-Canadian Canoe pageant.
Never before in the history of Canada had Canadians felt so imbued with pride of nation and convinced that the colonial and provincial mindsets of the past had been swept aside. The incredible appeal of Expo ’67 as a successful “symbolic universe” is best captured in the words of the Canadian historian Pierre Berton,

And threaded through it all [Expo ‘67] is the constant moral: that man’s future, clouded and uncertain, rests in his own hands. ‘Look around you at these marvels’, Expo says, ‘and see how far you’ve come. Do you really want to louse it up?’ It is a soaring and noble theme, worthy of the global village we have devised for it; and any Canadian who walks those captivating streets can be forgiven if he feels momentarily a moisture in the eye and a certain huskiness in the throat.

Expo ’67 gave Canadians a momentary respite from their collective colonial pasts by asserting a national cohesion and unity under the veil of technological developments and a recast liberalism, illuminated by the political realities of the mid-1960s, including the Cold War, the threat of Quebec nationalism, and the anxieties over the pervasiveness of the economic, military, political, and cultural influence of the United States. The meta-narratives of progress and humanism, themselves products of the era that gave birth to the modern nation state, were harnessed to express a modern world which was rapidly undergoing the transition to an American post-modernity. The Canadian celebration of national identity belied the extent to which Canadian society had become embroiled with the post-war era of American hegemony. Rather than the post-colonial moment the Fair had tantalizingly suggested, Canadians ironically had affirmed the post-war neo-colonial relationship with the United States that had filled the political and psychological vacuum left by the collapse of the British Empire. As the Canadian political scientist Arthur Kroker has concluded, “Confronted with an American Empire, fully expressive of the lead tendencies o f modern culture (“mechanized communications” and the politics of spatial domination), the Canadian situation is precarious.”15 This precariousness of the relationship of Canadian society within the American Empire has accelerated since the Montreal Fair and, especially since Sept. 11, 2001. Despite the decision of the Canadian government not to participate in the coalition of the willing during the invasion of Iraq the US economic and military pressures on Canada (including restrictions on cross border trade and the pressure to join the Continental Ballistic Missile Defense system) that have arisen in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001 dramatically emphasizes the continuing precariousness of the Canadian position within a no longer transparent American Empire.

1. Berger, L. Peter and Luckman, Thomas, The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge. (New York: Doubleday and Company, 1966), 90.
2. Rydell, W. Robert, World of Fairs: The Century of Progress Exhibitions. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993), 5.
3. Foucault,Michael, Discipline and Punish: The birth of the prison. (London: Penguin Books, 1977), 217.
4. Counter-revolutionary theorist Walt W. Rostow, an adviser to President Kennedy, stated in an address to the Green Berets in 1961 that the changes in the superpower conflict necessitated new strategies of winning the Cold War, “Throughtout the world, old societies were trying to change to gain a position in the modern world and to take advantage of the benefits of technology. This was ‘the revolution of modernization.” Quoted in Louise Fitzimmons, The Kennedy Doctrine. (New York: London House, 1972), 8. According to Rostow, Communism could be out-maneuvered by depicting America and its technology as holding the keys to modernization and social progress and by convincing the Third World that the Soviet Union was archaic in its conception of modernity for its own development, let alone that of the Third World.
5. Joyce, Walter, The Propaganda Gap. (New York: Harper and Row, 1963), 51.
6. Lerner, Daniel, “Revolutionary Elites and World Symbolism,” in Harold P. Laswell (ed.) Propaganda and Communication in World History. (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1980), 392.
7. Joyce, Walter, The Propaganda Gap, 82.
8. The conference “The American Way of Life” as well as the role of MIT intellectuals in formulating U.S. Cold War policy at the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair is discussed in Robert Rydell, World of Fairs , 197-199.
9. Berton, Pierre, 1967: The Last Good Year (Toronto: Doubleday Canada, Ltd.), 258.
10. Beynon, S. John, “Saint-Exupery’s Pilote de Guerre: Testimony, Art and Ideology,” in Roderick Kedward and Roger Austin, Vichy France and the Resistance: Culture and Ideology (London: Crown Helm, 1985), 91-105.
11. Seminar ’65 Canadian Conference of the Arts, 9. The distancing of government art policy from supporting what was perceived to be an elitist tradition of modernism is reflected in Seminar ‘65’s desire to merge the worlds of business and culture as well as bridging the gap between High and Mass Culture. The following excerpt from Seminar ’65 is noteworthy for how it describes the growth of a more relevant national culture (particularly aimed at the middle class), “No longer must audiences politely ignore the ubiquitous reminders of last night’s basketball games: in many cities, they can now enjoy fine performances in comfortable air conditioned theatres and auditoria, as they soon will be able to do in those additional facilities being built to commemorate the Centennial. The gallery goer has a much wider range of museums and art galleries to satisfy his appetite, and cultural publications have increased markedly. All these privileges have been appreciated by an ever-increasing public. The cultural climate has been warmed for the many thousands of new Canadians, by the spread of higher education, and by the imminence of the age of leisure. The old charge of Canada’s indifference to the arts does not apply to the Canada of 1965.” Seminar ’65, 1.
12. The number of provincial representatives per province at Seminar ’65 revealed the ongoing over centralization of culture in Central Canada, which gave impetus to the demands for a new regionalism in the arts. The following is a list of the numbers of representatives drawn from each province of the country: Newfoundland (0/140), Nova Scotia (0/140), New Brunswick (1/140), Prince Edward Island, (1/140), Quebec (52/140), Ontario (72/140), Manitoba (3/140), Alberta (2/140), Saskatchewan (2/140), British Columbia (6/140).
13. The Canadian Conference on the Arts Supplementary Brief to the Royal Commission On Bilingualism and Biculturalism, Section 4, 1-4.
14. Theall, Donald, “Expo ’67: A Unique Art Form”, Artscanada (April 1967), 3.
15. Kroker, Arthur, Technology and the Canadian Mind (Montreal: New World Perspectives, 1984), 132.

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