APP or Art in Public Places Kingston consisted of six concurrent public art installations at various sites throughout the City of Kingston from May 12-June 8, 2012; three Kingston-based artists and three artists from outside the region. The project took spectacle as its theme—examining spectacle as device and phenomena.
Featured Kingston artists and associated sites included Shayne Dark at the Pump House Steam Museum on Ontario Street, Michael Davidge at the Swamp Ward Window, a residential gallery space located at 448 Bagot Street, and a billboard presentation of Catherine Toews’ work located on Taylor Kidd Boulevard between Gardiners Road and Bexley Gate. These installations were in dialogue with the work of Robert Hengeveld at Lemoine Point Conservation area, Steven Laurie at Cataraqui Centre, and artist duo Millie Chen and Warren Quigley who presented a work commissioned by the Toronto Sculpture Garden at the site for the Anna Lane Downtown Condos at Bagot and Queen Streets.
Exploring the notion of public art as provocative, reflective, and sublime, these six installations were united under a theme of ‘Spectacle’. On the one hand, political and commercial forces have used spectacle as a strategy of distraction. Many have argued that, in this way, spectacle is an artificial, threatening force, embodying the power to divert attention from important social issues, and halting the potential for positive change. On the other hand, spectacle has been used by artists, activists, and individuals throughout history in a similar, yet more tactical manner. It has been employed to draw attention to causes that might otherwise remain unnoticed; it has cultivated unrest, instigated reactions, and incited activity. Indeed, spectacle can both unite and divide, engage and alienate. As a strategy or a tactic, it can be a risky undertaking.
Davidge, Towes, and Laurie’s work make for assiduously artificial presences both in formal composition and in content in order to evoke varied notions of consumption. Hengeveld, Dark, and Chen & Quigley’s interventions in already-existing ‘natural’ outdoor environments seem to pose questions about the relationship between our constructed cultural environments and our constructed natural environments. As a whole, APP Kingston is bringing these works together to ask where, precisely, the ‘spectacle’ really lies: in the idea of public art itself? Or are these artists creating work that brings out the spectacle already inherent in our environment? Finally, we would like to ask the viewer to consider what the legacy of these, and other public works of art, might be – lasting monuments to our contemporary historical context, or short moments of engagement destined to fizzle into the mundane of everyday life?
text by Riva Symko
Participating Artist Works