An official public installation of Scotiabank CONTACT, Contacting Toronto: Under this Ground offers a glimpse of the unseen spaces that exist below the streets of Toronto - our buried waterways and sewers. In this site-specfic public installation on subway screens and posters, artists Michael Cook and Andrew Emond make the scope of Toronto’s sewers visible to the public for the first time.
Cook’s compelling photographs, shown on subway station posters, represent a metaphorical and physical shining of light on this unseen layer of the city: first, the artist had to discover a way of entering each sewer; then light had to be brought in so that the impressive physical spaces of this network could be photographed. Cook’s work dispels the abstraction of the sewer network, which encloses old waterways and follows their courses, shaping the possibilities of the built form above. 33 unique photographs (45 posters) transform St Patrick station for the run of this project.
Emond has focused on underground infrastructures beneath the cities of Montreal and Toronto, turning here to three of Toronto’s sewers - Garrison Creek, Small’s Creek and Black Creek tributary. Shown on TTC LCD screens, his stop-motion animations lead the viewer through these tunnels, highlighting their geometric features and the buried creeks and rivers that flow through them. Emond’s work plays once every 10 minutes on over 300 screens across the subway system, and non-stop on dedicated Pattison Onestop ‘Art Zone’ screens for the first week of the exhibition. Bloor, Dundas, and St. Andrew Stations all feature Art Zone screens.
The Toronto subway system is the most common place where people come in contact with the city’s underground. It offers a perfect location to view this project, allowing viewers to reflect on a layer of the city to which we are all connected, yet rarely have the opportunity to see.
Curated by Sharon Switzer. This exhibition is co-produced by Art for Commuters and Pattison Onestop in partnership with CONTACT Photography Festival. Supported by the Ontario Arts Council.
For more information contact:Marie Nazar, Arts Publicist, Pattison Onestop - firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael Cook has been delving into underground and marginal spaces since 2003. While focused on urban drainage and sewer systems, his inquiries have also included utility networks and abandoned hydroelectric and nuclear infrastructure, and railway landscapes. He has pursued graduate studies in geography and landscape architecture. Cook has contributed words and photographs to HTO: Toronto’s Water from Lake Iroquois to Lost Rivers to Low-flow Toilets (Coach House Books, 2008), the BLDGBLOG Book (Chronicle Books, 2009) and Water (Alphabet City, 2009). His photographs have also appeared in Domus, Canadian Business, the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, and the Hamilton Spectator, and have been previously exhibited at Fort York, the Toronto Free Gallery and the Hamilton Museum of Steam and Technology. He appeared in the documentary Lost Rivers (Catbird Productions, 2012).
Toronto’s sewers are dark infrastructure: documented only in proprietary mapping, associated with grime and hazard, and physically devoid of light. It is too easy to imagine sewers as an entirely abstract network, as a magical black box that transmits sewage from one’s home to the treatment plant. My work has been an effort to physically shine a light on this unseen layer of the city, and to reveal the size of these spaces and their complexity.
Below the streets of our neighbourhoods, there are surprisingly large and legible tunnels that carry our stormwater and wastewater; these are spaces that we need to be able to imagine in order to do a better job of managing pollution and living with this water. Toronto’s sewers enclose old waterways and follow their courses, they shape the built form and the possibilities of the city above, and they often mix rainwater and household sewage so that all of it must be intercepted and treated, denying valuable water to the landscapes we value. My photographs are an effort to reclaim our sewers from obscurity, to allow us all to view, imagine and talk about them, and to gain a new measure for our relationship with the water that we have sent underground.
Andrew Emond is a Toronto-based photographer and digital artist whose work explores our relationship to the built environment, from vacated industrial spaces to the underground spaces that exist beneath our cities streets. A recipient of awards from Photolucida’s Critical Mass competition and the Ontario Arts Council, his work has been published in Report on Business Magazine, COLORS, Time.com and the 2010 book, Elevator Alley, co-created with Michael Cook. Most recently, his work has been exhibited during Montreal Nuit Blanche 2012, the 2013 Format International Photography Festival and featured in the 2012 documentary Lost Rivers. He is currently represented by Circuit Gallery.
Between 2006 and 2012, I clandestinely photographed the sewers of Montreal in hopes of better understanding a layer of the city of that is deliberately kept out of view. What I discovered was a system containing not only a city’s sewage and stormwater, but the flow of creeks and rivers that once flowed across the visible landscape. For the the work presented during Contact 2013, I photographed water courses in Toronto that suffered a similar fate by being pushed underground as a result of pollution and city planning practices. Through the use of multiple exposures I give these darkened conduits a sense of life, motion and surrealism to offer a reflection on both the beauty of their geometry and the unfortunate state of the natural waters now contained within them.