In What’s the Meaning of This?, we explain what those weird public-art installations you walk by every day are supposed to represent. This week: a temporary installation at Brookfield Place may get you thinking about all those long-disused electronics in your closet.
Name of installation: BLAST
Artist: An Te Liu
Location: Brookfield Place at 181 Bay St.
Date of display: April 2–20, 2012
What’s it supposed to be?: Created by artist and U of T Associate Professor An Te Liu, BLAST takes its name from the literary magazine of the Vorticists (a modernist art and poetry movement, not dissimilar to Cubism), written and edited by Wyndham Lewis in the early 20th century. Suspended in the lobby of Brookfield Place, the installation consists of dozens of common household devices, including fans, air purifiers and even first generation Nintendos and PlayStations, all painted white and organized into a tornado-like structure.
According to a plaque that accompanies the piece, BLAST is meant as a criticism of consumer culture, showcasing once-coveted items representing domestic comfort that have since fallen into disuse—though that doesn’t necessarily mean Liu is critical of the people who buy these products. “I tend not to be too preachy with my work,” he said in a recent interview with The Grid. “It’s more of an awareness and rumination on use and disuse of technology and the kind of changing cycles of innovation and then obsolescence. But I’m not trying to say ‘you’re bad’ if you buy these things—I love this stuff too, and I’m not gonna stop buying it.”
And just where did all that stuff come from? Liu says he spent a week scouring every Salvation Army, Value Village, Goodwill, and thrift store in the GTA to find the dozens of appliances he needed, even if some of them were virtually unrecognizable. “Frankly, I don’t even know what they all are,” he says. “But it’s just amazing how much stuff you can find at [thrift stores], and how recent some of it is. At any given Value Village you can find, like, 15 PlayStations—people used to line up around the block for those things!” Created last year for an exhibit at Ossington’s MKG127 gallery, BLAST has been temporarily acquired by Brookfield Place and will act as a sort of bridge between Earth Hour (March 31) and Earth Day (April 22).