A new exhibit tells the city's story in maps.
As artist Flavio Trevisan will tell you, a map is out of date as soon as it is made. This should come as no surprise; cities are, after all, constant revisions of themselves. (Those in doubt can peer out any downtown Toronto window and see for themselves a horizon scattered with cranes.) The map, then, is a snapshot of a given moment in time, a representation of the city at a single glance. It’s for that reason that Trevisan decided to name his current exhibition of Toronto maps Museum of the Represented City.
“Maps are a representation of space, and the political and social ideas of what a city is,” he explains. “Place represents us, and we represent the place.” And, as he points out, all of these elements are in constant transition.
Through the guise of a museum tour, Trevisan explores Toronto in representation.
Trevisan keeps a constantly-updated digital file of Toronto maps, though he admits it’s inevitably out of date most of the time. He uses this raw data to create his own maps, which are pared down to highlight a single key element that becomes its own urban narrative. There is, for example, “Pink Republic, “a model of the pre-amalgamation Toronto core as it might appear on a map, sharp-outlined and coloured the hue of a classroom eraser.
“It was made right after the last election, after some disparaging remarks were made about the historic centre of the city as being full of bike riding Pinkos,” Trevisan explains. “And also, this to me represents the Toronto I know. I get around mostly by bicycle or TTC, so I don’t go out very far beyond this boundary. In a sense, the Pinko Toronto is the Toronto that I know.”
Then there’s the idea of Toronto as a city of neighbourhoods, translated into a series of tiny, crest-shaped emblems (and yes, the series is also named “Emblems”), mounted to the left of the “Pink Republic.”
“It’s playing with the idea of these kind of republics within the city itself,” Trevisan explains of the feudalistic shields chosen to contain each small map.
There’s also “The Blade Between Queen & King,” a map of the space bordered by the parallel streets shaped into a blood-red spear, solemnly lain on a pair of metal arms like a broadsword in a Medieval weaponry exhibition. More feudalism.
“I’ve never considered myself to be a very political person, and I’ve never considered my art to be political. But once I mounted this show and grouped this stuff, I realized I can’t say that anymore. It’s kind of inevitable. You end up being political, whether you are outwardly political or not.”
Museum of the Represented City runs at the Koffler Gallery Off-Site at 80 Spadina, Suite 501, until April 8.