Each week 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: stories about our city told in flip-book form, adapted for TTC screens.
Name of installation: Flip-Toronto
Artists: David Grenier, Aubrey Reeves, Alec Dempster, Cortney Stephenson, Mary Porter, Tania Ursomarzo, Patrick Jenkins, Lise Beaudry.
Location: At Pattison Onestop screens throughout the TTC network.
Date of display: Aug. 4-19
What’s it supposed to be?: The impetus for this project first arose from a trip that Susana Reisman—co-curator of Flip-Toronto, and Queen West’s Circuit Gallery—took to Beirut. While there, she stumbled upon a collection of 12 flip books by Lebanese publishing house Dar Onboz, each of which told a story about a different area of the city, and thought something similar could work in Toronto. After discussing the idea with her business partner Claire Sykes, the concept of Flip-Toronto was born, and a call was put out for artist submissions. “We thought the idea was a lot of fun, but the real challenge for artists was to see if they could tell a story about a neighbourhood in only 60 pages with no text or sound,” said Sykes.
Eight artists were chosen to create flip books that depicted brief narratives about the city’s neighbourhoods: David Grenier examines Parkdale’s social transformation from Queen Street West to Queer Street West; Aubrey Reeves uses archival footage of the 1950 Grey Cup to examine Varsity Stadium’s importance to the city; Alec Dempster presents the buskers of Museum subway station as a metaphor for how art can interrupt the banality of our everyday commute; Cortney Stephenson explores the transformation of The Junction, specifically an old bank at the corner of Keele and Dundas that now exists as a Money Mart; Mary Porter documents two blocks of modernist apartments on Jameson Avenue using photographs; Tania Ursomarzo documents the hustle and bustle of Chinatown, a neighbourhood she’s called home for 15 years; Patrick Jenkin morphs Old City Hall into New City Hall; and Lise Beaudry photographs a crossing guard at Dufferin and Bank Street who brings joy to the lives of neighbourhood inhabitants by singing and dancing her way back and forth across the road everyday.
And while the project was originally meant as a collection of simple flip books (much in the way that Flip-Beirut exists), a chat with Sharon Switzer at Art for Commuters gave Sykes and Reisman the idea of putting an animated (filmed) version of each book on screens throughout the TTC, to enliven the daily commute of Torontonians. “These ideas were just so quirky and most of them spoke to things that people just weren’t aware of, so having them in the TTC creates this great tension between using an old-school book format and analogue animation, and making it digital for everyone to see.” Displayed over the next two weeks on the TTC’s Pattison Onestop screens, Flip-Toronto may soon exist in handheld form as well, providing the Circuit Gallery is able to gain funding from this intermediate step.