Please don’t feed the exhibits

FESCHUK: Welcome to the audio tour of our federal leaders. If you hear sobbing we have begun.

It’s tourist season in Ottawa, and the Parliament Hill experience is better than ever with this exciting new audio tour.

Hello, and welcome to the Audio Guide. Please step through the doorway of Centre Block, proceed up to the fourth floor and push open the big wooden door. Do you hear sobbing? You have arrived at Michael Ignatieff.

Created in 1947, Michael Ignatieff has recently become available for viewings in his native Canada after a lifetime spent on display around the world. We’re very lucky to have him, he tells us.

Walk around the Michael Ignatieff. Gain an appreciation for how the contours of its rhetoric create only the flimsiest illusion of substance. Also, check out those eyebrows—two artistic flourishes that most experts interpret as a cheeky homage to the hedgehog.

Scholarly thinking about Michael Ignatieff is evolving. Once considered exotic and original, it is now perceived as an almost perfect representation of mid-period Exasperationism, the school founded by Stéphane Dion. Up close, you can see the hundreds of individual errors of judgment. Only when you stand back far enough do they come together to form a sense of futility.

Take the time to appreciate the signature element of Michael Ignatieff: the two-sided mouth. Watch how the one side issues threats, denunciations and apocalyptic warnings, while the other offers equivocation and backtracking.

How daring to place these opposing philosophies in such direct and constant conflict! The overall effect is the triggering of a powerful nostalgia—a yearning for days gone by and leaders past. This sentiment is only enhanced by the recent and curious decision to bring the Jean Chrétien out of storage. You’ll notice it positioned directly behind the Ignatieff, smirking.
Time to move on. Proceed along the hallway and come to a stop in the rotunda. No need to go looking for our next exhibit—Jack Layton will come to you.

Regard the dignified visage, the serious suit—at a glance, you’d never guess this work was created without a single ounce of shame. Take a moment and experience how the Layton evokes emotions ranging from “That’s kind of interesting” to “Is it still talking?”

Jack Layton is not a particularly important piece, yet it remains a source of some controversy. Some experts claim it is a forgery—a crude knock-off of an older and more respected work, Ed Broadbent. If true, this means the Layton has duped at least two sets of scholars, in that it is on loan to us from the Museum of Perpetual Outrage.

Turn now and walk toward the staircase, away from the Jack Layton. It’s following you, isn’t it? Speed up a bit.

We close in now on our final work—and what a treat! Stephen Harper is usually available for public viewing only in select Tim Hortons. Savour the opportunity to stand in its presence: it’s so lifelike, so human!

Do not attempt to move any closer to Stephen Harper. That moat is there for a reason. No flash photography or personal interaction with Stephen Harper is permitted—unless you’re an accredited member of the press gallery, in which case you’re also not allowed to make eye contact.

The detail in the Harper is striking. Take a moment to appreciate the intricate weaving of its political image, crafted over years of tightly controlled kitten adoptions. Marvel at the eeriness of its forced smile, forged by cursed artisans. Truly, the Harper makes an indelible statement about the human heart, and how not everybody has one.

As is true of all major works, symbolism is important in any interpretation of Stephen Harper. For instance, why has it chosen a stapler to hurl at its hapless aide? Was the lamp out of reach? We may never know.

Sadly, historians report the Harper has suffered wear in recent years. There has been erosion in its ideology—and its commitment to restraint and accountability, once the focal point of the work, has all but vanished. Attempts at restoration will be made once experts have finished trying to remove all those stains from the Brian Mulroney.

Thank you for visiting the national federal leaders. Upon returning this Audio Guide, please be sure to visit the gift shop, where replicas of these works—and the actual Michael Ignatieff—are on sale at reasonable prices.

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