Much has been written about Phantom Wing this past week or two. This is entirely understandable given that it was a five day exhibition which ended a couple days ago. It is a building (or at least the Phantom Wing portion of it) which is scheduled to be demolished at some point, in the next few months and eventually redeveloped as an arts incubator.
In that context it is interesting to compare this project with another that is happening simultaneously at the other side of the country, just outside of Toronto, in Markham entitled Land|Slide: Possible Futures.
Like Phantom Wing, Land|Slide is a large-scale, temporary public art exhibition with a short duration (five days, September 24-29 as compared to three weeks, September 21 – October 14). The similarities continue where both events:
- Started within days of each other
- involve(d) over 30 artists
- incorporated built infrastructure connected to the public arts and culture sector (the open-air Markham Museum and cSpace’s planned arts incubator at King Edward School)
- a large number of temporary site-specific works that often utilized resources available on site was exhibited
- artists from various stages of their careers were involved
- free busing to the event was offered from arts institutions (MOCCA in Toronto and ACAD in Calgary)
- have a lineage that ties back to The Leona Drive Project which took place in Toronto during 2009.
On the surface both would appear to be doing similar things in their respective local areas – one in the Greater Toronto Area and the other in Calgary. As a result it is worth talking about both projects in context with each other.
We have seen the similarities, now what about the dissimilarities:
- Facilities used in Markham will remain; whereas in Calgary they will be demolished
- Financial support from all levels of government and private industry was indicated and community partnerships were listed in Markham; whereas the only stated support was received from the building owner and developer in Calgary
- There was one curator in Markham; whereas there were five artist-curators in Calgary
- The artists selected in Markham on average tended to be more established, with broader exhibition experience than was the case in Calgary, which tended to be more locally focused and by extension presumably less-established.
- The artists work with a museum collection in Markham with a long history limits options (or alternatively expands the options); whereas in Calgary those limitations were not present.
- The work selected in Markham tended to be more socially or politically-engaged; whereas in Calgary there was little evidence of this.
The main difference can be clearly stated by what the curators held up as their intent for each event as stated in the introduction to each project in each website.
Phantom Wing (http://phantomwing.wordpress.com/about/) described its objective this way:
- PHANTOM WING proposes the creation of an architectural phantom limb – an event designed to resonate long after the building is severed from its adjoining sandstone counterpart.
Land|Slide: Possible Futures (http://www.landslide-possiblefutures.com/site.html#about) describes the event this way:
- (Land|Slide is a) backdrop for artists to explore some of the most pressing issues facing Canadians today: how to balance ecology and economy, farming and development, history and diversity. . . in a unique community engagement initiative that pays homage to the past and imagines possible futures.
Both events allude to the place of suburban (and urban) development in cities that are rapidly expanding.
It is my wish that I was able to make it Markham before this event ends so that I could make a proper post-partum which would open the door to further dialogue surrounding both events and the issues relating to development and cultural infrastructure, which both cities must deal with.