It was a cold, gray, depressing weekend, typical of Toronto in January when my husband (aka assistant) and I decided to head down to the waterfront to indulge in some art. I had heard about the Ice Breaker event back in December and had been excited to partake ever since. Ice Breakers is a set of five public art installations along the Waterfront put together by The Waterfront Business Improvement Association, Winter Stations, Ports Toronto and Waterfront Toronto. The bleakness of the weekend clinched it for me. I needed to get outside and feed my soul with sculpture and kinetic art.
Well, I came home somewhat hungry.
Firstly, I think I’ve made it clear that I am not an art critic. I am not trained in art appreciation or anything like that. So in general, unless I make a particularly witty observation about a piece of art that I am reviewing, I feel loathe to actively criticize someone’s work.
But sometimes the presentation overshadows the art, which is a shame. Or the context is wrong, or it doesn’t match what you’re expecting. I think Ice Breakers has a lot of potential, so instead of just criticizing it, I’m going to make suggestions where I think the Waterfront BIA can make improvements.
To support the Ice Breakers exhibit, the Waterfront BIA has created an app for both iPhone and Android to help visitors navigate the installations. I knew this, but I didn’t want to download an app for the sake of a few hours wandering along the lakeshore. I have an older phone, which means the bluetooth link up for the app would drain my battery at an accelerated rate. Plus, there was no free wifi in the area of the sculptures so I would have had to use data in order access any of the information. I honestly didn’t think it would be worth it. Call me cheap, but I didn’t want to use up my precious gigs for this when there was a perfectly good website that would answer any questions I had when I got home. I had downloaded the PDF map and I figured that would be good enough for me.
We walked past the first installation, Leeward Fleet, three times before we realized it wasn’t trees wrapped in burlap against the cold. From the website, we were expecting this….
What we got was this.
Not quite what we were expecting.
This is why signage is so important. My first suggestion is to please improve the signage. Make them visible from multiple directions. Don’t be so dependent on mobile and Bluetooth technology that you make it the only means of accessing the information about the installations. Part of the fun of an exhibit like this is tripping over the installations when you don’t expect it. And given that I haven’t seen any publicity for Ice Breakers since before Christmas that is most likely how most people are finding them. So, make the art obvious to foot traffic. Indicate clearly that there are more installations to be seen, in which direction to walk and the estimated time to get there. This will be particularly appreciated by people with accessibility issues so they can know if they can complete the entire route, or if they should plan to come back another day.
Leeward Fleet was the first installation on the path west from Queen’s Quay. The installation was designed by RAW Studios, a Toronto architectural and design firm. They design everything from single family dwellings to mixed-use commercial properties. Their contribution to Ice Breakers is inspired by the history of the Toronto Harbour, sailboats and the icy elements.
It’s a cool idea but the execution definitely could use some improvement. Honestly, this was probably the most disappointing of all the installations. Nowhere were the vibrant colours promised on the website. Like I said earlier, I thought I was looking at garden supplies. Sadly, there was also some wear and tear to the sails which had the entire installation looking ragged and neglected.
Not an auspicious beginning.
All five Ice Breaker installations are available for viewing from January 21 to February 26, 2017. For more information, please visit The Waterfront BIA website for more information.