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Terence Dick
Place and Placement at Re-Imagine Galleria
June 14, 2017

Toronto, I love you but you continue to fail to live up to your potential. You’re a classic underachiever, which makes it so frustrating to walk your streets. A really great building will catch my eye and I'll imagine a city full of such buildings, only to turn the corner and see cookie-cutter condos stretched out to the horizon. Or some visionary will propose a park that’s not “just like the High Line,” but then everyone who should get behind it will talk about starting a biennial like it’s the 1990s all over again. And the most frustrating thing – which also happens to be the most hopeful thing – is that you still have artists proposing wild and woolly public art, there are still architects finding adventurous developers to build their ingenious towers, and imaginative urban planning advocates continue to swim upstream against bureaucracy to PowerPoint their dreams of something better. As long as that keeps happening, we can still hope to live in a place that uplifts rather than numbs us.

Eric Anthony Charron, Skylights, 2017, LED lights, recycled plastic bottles

Dyan Marie is one of those people who stubbornly manage to inveigle their way into the public sphere in an official capacity and bring a coterie of creatives along for the ride. To wit, she is an artist with a vision. Her current proposal involves including public art and gardens in the redevelopment of the Galleria mall and its surrounding area. Long accepted as the Tdot's grimmest shopping concourse, the site at Dupont and Dufferin has been swept up in the gentrification that moves ever outward from the downtown core as real estate prices surge. Artists play an undeniable role in that transition, but they are also effective in fighting to maintain something of the original character of a place or at least help create the kind of neighbourhood that makes a million dollar condo worthwhile.

TIMEANDDESIRE, Experience Changes, 2017, mixed medium

The maquettes on display in the pop-up space Marie has curated are bewildering in their variety, but inspiring in their bewilderment. The late Noel Harding’s rotating tree plot in a silver teapot is reminiscent of his unforgettable water filtration bioforms in the Don Valley. Edward Burtynsky’s foray into sculpture would make a suitably horrific memorial for the elephants that were mutilated for its materials. Heather Nicol’s gum and glass tower takes a turn for the light-hearted, as does the duo called TIMEANDDESIRE with their instructive (and, I would argue, grammatically problematic) street sign. Taken together, they manage to balance the needs of the public with the criticality of art that aspires to more than just decoration.

Marie isn’t interested in the inert as her inclusion of gardens make clear. There are instructions for creating “spot gardens” throughout the city and a workshop this Saturday (June 17) to create way-finders for navigating the city on foot. The optimism of such endeavours is contrasted with the claustrophobic Earth Room Wormhole installation by Interspatial (aka Natalie Bakaeva and Mark Francis). The small lights that are supposed to be found in the blackened void of this small room were burnt out when I visited, so I think I missed something positive that I will have to return to experience. Without those lights, navigating this space of enveloping darkness was intense and disorienting, heightening my senses while deadening my sense of independence. As a lesson in what we have to be thankful for, living in relative harmony in this moderately dense city of ours, it was a harsh but necessary one. Toronto, I love you, but no more nightmares. Let’s keep dreaming.

Re-Imagine Galleria:
Civic Studies:
Place and Placement continues until July 15.

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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