Curated by Christopher Hume
Featuring work by Ian Amell, Broken City Lab, Eric Cheung + Sean Martindale, Desire, Rocky Dobey, Tina Edan, Christine Elson, Doug Geldart, Helena Grdadolnik + David Colussi, Josh Hite, Tyler Hodgins, Stuart Keeler, Mark Krawczynski, Marissa Largo + Sean Bennell + Daniel Pierre, Frances Patella, Allison Rowe, Kevin Scanlon, Laura St. Pierre
January 20-31 @ Propeller Centre for the Visual Arts
Review and photographs by Tina Chu
(MONDO does not hold the rights to the original images.)
What first drew me to The Propeller’s latest exhibit was an image of Eric Cheung and Sean Martindale’s Poster Pocket Plants. The last time I’d encountered these plants was around the corner from Bathurst and Harbord. Seeing the works in a new context required a follow-up.
Curated by Christopher Hume, Public Realm turned out to be a noteworthy exhibition of interventions into, meditations on and proposals for public space.
Cheung and Martindale’s urban-hack, for example, serves as a reminder of spaces that are erased from our consciousness of useful public space. Love it or hate it, it’s a fresh spin on doing something with advertisements other than watching them rot and get covered over.
In Rocky Dobey’s Yonge St…1970, a public sculpture installed at Yonge and Wellesley, the artist is ensuring that his unique experience as a Yonge Street shoeshine boy in the early 1970s is not forgotten.
Drawing attention to his experience, Dobey simultaneously emphasizes how mutable one’s experience of public space can be, depending on one’s circumstances. More than generational gaps, circumstances include one’s access and ability to enter the public and private realms.
Today, much of the city is centred on private realms, with too few truly public spaces in comparison to the private. What is public is often only a transitory space between private realms—and not everyone has the privilege to enter them.
Even in public spaces, many are suspicious of spontaneous interaction. To challenge this, Tina Edan’s I See You/ICU is a series of cards on which remarks have been printed for viewers to take and distribute to strangers. In doing so, it is Edan’s hope that the activity will highlight how people contribute to the experience of place, even if it is not habitually expressed.
Beyond how people interact in public space, Laura St. Pierre’s Untitled (Urban Vernacular Series) re-imagines the city altogether. Applying the concept of architecture vernacular, defined as the practice of building with abundant, locally available materials, St. Pierre’s adopts this on a city-wide scale and proposes to construct home and city from what we have most—garbage.
Her work is a photograph of one such example, an ad-hoc home held together by salvaged scraps and trash dead centre in a residential neighbourhood. By suggesting this clearly flawed strategy, St. Pierre hints at the larger failure of a culture centred on the fashionable and therefore, disposable, identifying its excess and the mammoth amounts of waste generated from this way of life.
Sharing the same passion for examination and change, Broken City Lab asks viewers to fill in the blanks on what the city needs and is all about. In Talking to Walls, a projection performance on the night of the opening, questions about how people experience the city and how they feel about public space were projected into the streets.
Unexpected, the questions invite passersby to be critical of public space and in its critique reassures them the city is theirs to participate in and belong to.
Asides from these pieces the exhibit features many other works and food for thought. If you can’t make the show, there will be a final piece performed in April as part of Public Realm.