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Toronto
Terence Dick
Making Models at the Art Museum
September 27, 2017

Toronto is a city doomed to suffocate due to its own lack of imagination. As more people arrive and more buildings get built, one would hope creative ways to absorb the increased density would be entertained. Sadly, the same old glass towers and the same old denial of the need to invest in infrastructure (most drastically transit solutions that should have been enacted yesterday) rule the day. If this inevitability is getting you down (as it does Christopher Hume), then the forward (and lateral) thinking proposals of the Art Museum's Making Models exhibition will come as a breath of fresh air.



studio junction, Intimare

The result of an open call for experimental architecture collectives to create something for a grassy quad adjacent to the gallery, these nine displays all deal – with an eye that is more often ambitious than it is realistic – to the question of activating outdoor public space. Truth be told, this is an area that Torontonians have independently managed to change in creative ways (see Dufferin Grove Park, among others), but the spirit is there. So is the inclusion of many folks recognizable for their contributions to the local art scene. Mitchell Akiyama is a well-known musician who (along with Brady Peters) imagines human-scale parabolas to bounce sound long distances across the grass. Artists Nestor Kruger and Yam Lau come up with the most abstract of proposals with their linear sod cuts and displacements. Janis Demkiw, Emily Hogg, and Olia Mishchenko (aka Terrarea) add a needed imaginative whimsy to the proceedings with their dreamlike rearrangement of boulders, paths, and landscaping.

The circular sitting room designed by Peter Tan and Christine Ho Ping Kong’s straight-up architecture and design practice studio junction struck me as one of the more feasible (and retro) of the models, and therefore likely to win the opportunity to be realized in full scale and on location. Instead, the jury picked architecture studio Uufie’s benign suggestion to sprinkle convex mirrors of various sizes in a rough circle around the chosen zone. The result is decorative and elicits a “meh” rather than the “wow” or “WTF?” that something challenging demands.



Public Studio, STAGING REVOLUTION

Amongst the experimentalists, Public Studio provides the most radical response in the form of a nightmarish maquette of quad-as-riot-site. If only it had been realized and they somehow managed to bathe the surrounding buildings permanently black and suffuse the grounds with charcoal dust. How else do you create the sensation of a public space ripe for uprising? Theatre aside, Elle Flanders and Tamira Sawatzky (along with additional collaborator Kyle O’Brien) make a lacerating model accompanied by archival footage of student demonstrations to highlight the historical precedents for these exact spaces, while also insinuating that the youth of today (and perhaps the citizens of this city as an amalgamated whole) are missing out on their political imperative to fuck shit up. The irony is that there’s no model for that.


Making Models continues until October 7.
Uufie's public installation is on display until November 25.
The Art Museum: http://artmuseum.utoronto.ca/exhibition/making-models/
The gallery is accessible.


Terence Dick is a freelance writer living in Toronto. His art criticism has appeared in Canadian Art, BorderCrossings, Prefix Photo, Camera Austria, Fuse, Mix, C Magazine, Azure, and The Globe and Mail. He is the editor of Akimblog. You can follow his quickie reviews and art news announcements on Twitter @TerenceDick.

 

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