This black and white photo shows the inside of a movie theatre where a film is projected. The close-up of a face appears on the screen.

Janet Cardiff

(b. Brussels, Ontario, 1957)

George Bures Miller

(b. Vegreville, Alberta, 1960)


The Paradise Institute (inside view)


DVD player, video projector, electronic controls, amplifier, film screen, 16 headsets, 13-minute digital video disk (DVD), 16 theatre seats, synthetic carpet, halogen and incandescent lamps, wood, plywood, retail trade oil paint, polystyrene and fabric
300 x 511 x 121 cm
Gift of an anonymous donor, 2002
National Gallery of Canada, 41156
© Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller. Photo: National Gallery of Canada

The Paradise Institute is a free-standing installation. Inside, sixteen red velvet seats are installed in front of a hyper-perspective model that creates the impression of watching a film** from the balcony of an old movie house. On the screen, a tense situation involving a nurse, a patient and a doctor plays out in film noir fashion. At the same time, viewers hear sounds that seem to come from their immediate surroundings: coughing, laughing, voices whispering in their ears. Little by little, the auditory mix blurs the difference between film and theatre; the characters’ voices leave the screen and emerge in the audience. A crime is about to occur, and viewers feel somehow complicit. A sense of disorientation sets in as a house burns on screen and the enigmatic sound of counting is heard.

Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller created The Paradise Institute for the Canada Pavilion at the 49th Venice Biennale (2001), where it won a special jury prize and international critical acclaim. Cardiff and Miller have collaborated extensively since 1995. Based on the sophisticated use of sound and the manipulation of perceptions, their installations are spaces that arouse the visitor’s sensory memory. In these unstable environments, narrative structures shift and identities blur. 

** This clip comprises the first six minutes of the video shown in the movie theatre created by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller. The aesthetics are reminiscent of Hollywood’s film noir genre: the segments are shot in black-and-white, with sharp contrasts; the soundtrack and cuts to black heighten the suspense; and the protagonists are often framed in close-up. To respect the work's integrity, this video does not have captions. 


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