The Art of Quote-Unquote

22 June 2017 – It began with an email from my friend Sally, off kickin’ up her cowgirl heels in Alberta, sharing a quote she read on the washroom wall in the Bear Paw Café in Jasper:

Off to the woods I go

To lose my mind

And find my soul

The washroom scribbler helpfully added attribution: Scottish-American naturalist John Muir (1838-1914),  whose poetry is very findable online. As well as on washroom walls.

All of which got me thinking again about quotations, and how we use them, and respond to them, in public space.

A thought process much stimulated by the tail end of a long walk into/through/out of Stanley Park, ending in downtown Vancouver, where walking companion & friend Frances pointed out some landmark buildings, including the soaring Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel.

It was sufficiently intriguing to pull me back downtown the next day, solo, to look more closely.

Enroute, walking north on Hamilton St., I did a head-snap at this line of text on an otherwise unremarkable little building.

Confession. I originally read the text as: “Unlimited Growth Increases the Dividend.

This is richly ironic, given that artist Kathryn Walter’s 1990 installation is meant to decry rampant capitalism, and honour Del Mar Inn owner George Riste, who refused to sell out to BC Hydro and continued to offer clean accommodation at modest prices.

A major contrast, in scale and price point, with the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel, at Cordova & Burrard!

But look. They have something in common.

Text.

This time in two-foot-high letters, Helvetica Bold (I love that detail), the 2010 work of British artist Liam Gillick. Repeated, again and again, between floors 5 & 22, dividing the hotel portion from the 25 additional residential floors above.

A single sentence, wrapping two sides of the structure.

lying on top of a building

the clouds looked no nearer than when I was lying on the street

I really love this, even if the unspaced letters make it hard to read.

Frances & I spent perilous long moments mid-street, puzzling it out. (Changing traffic signals & some vestigial instinct for survival caused us to scurry to the sidewalk in time.) I am more prudent on my return visit.

Safely back home again, I think about another artist who makes brilliant use of text in some of his public pieces — Toronto’s Eldon Garnet. A favourite example: his 1995 Time & A Clock installation on Queen St. East, which includes this adaptation of a Heracleitus quote on the façade of the 1911 bridge over the Don River.

Sometimes, words & images fight it out for supremacy.

Sometimes, though, the fit works perfectly.

 

 

 

Salute to Spring

18 May 2016 – The temperature begins to rise, and we get all excited. Body language changes, our use of public space changes. Even when the temp is still only mid-teens — because we’ve waited so long & we are so over-eager & anyway we are rough-tough Canadians (aren’t we?), so we act like it’s really, really warm.

Office workers, & for all I know tourists as well, bask in noon-day sun on tiered benches in Nathan Phillips Square, facing the Peace Garden.

noontime sun-bathing in Nathan Phillips Square

Even a bronze lion — paired with a lamb in Eldon Garnet‘s sculpture, “Equality Before the Law” — lifts his snout to the sun in drowsy contentment, right next door in the McMurtry Gardens of Justice.

detail, Eldon Garnet sculpture "Equality Before the Law"

A man down on Richmond West bends to his smartphone — sockless!

among office towers, Richmond St. West

A woman stares peacefully into space, enjoying every moment of her lunch hour.

office worker, Richmond St. West

Up in C0urthouse Square, just south of the old Adelaide Street courthouse, the tender new leaves of espaliered shrubs shimmer in the afternoon light.

shrubs, Courthouse Sq., 10 Court St.

The Square’s water fountains are turned on again for the season, gush happily into their troughs.

1 of 2 water fountains, Courthouse Square

A young man stretches (I swear) every muscle group in turn, then begins kicking his soccer ball all about the Square. Just for the sheer delight of it. Because he is young, & nimble, & full of springtime energy.

in Courthouse Square

Across the street, next to St. James Cathedral, a young woman eyes her smartphone …

N/W of St. James Cathedral, King West & Church St.

while east of the church, in St. James Park, another woman patiently eyes her dog, who is busy sniffing up every odour he can catch on the newly-green grass …

in St. James Park

and a couple only have eyes for each other.

in St. James Park

Ahhhh … spring!

Comment Catch-Up

  • Remember I showed you a blue-figure sculpture in my previous post? Now, thanks to Mary C (visit her blog As I Walk Toronto), I can tell you the artists: David Borins & Jennifer Marman.
  • Remember my post, Danger at the Cliff Edge, in which I lamented being unable to walk Gate’s Gully due to repair work, but more than compensated for that frustration with a walk first in Sylvan Park, then through Guildwood Park and down to the lakeshore? Popo posted a great comment, giving the link for a wintertime walk that virtually mirrored my own. Go see for yourself.

 

 

 

  • WALKING… & SEEING

    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

    "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" -- Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

    "A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities" -- Rebecca Solnit, "Wanderlust: A History of Walking"

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