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ArtVenturist: Spin City

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Catherine Widgery’s “Liquid Echo”
Photo: Catherine Widgery

ArtVenturist is a new column where we explore public art throughout the city.

BY: Catherine Widgery
LOCATION: 750 Bay St., near Bay and College
INSTALLATION: 1999

People-powered installations are the ultimate crowd pleasers. With a standing invitation to participate, they constitute street art at its most democratic. Liquid Echo, though not the most obvious of examples, begs curious passersby to give it whirl. If you spin enough of the 24 stalks of spiral-cut steel in motion, you’re rewarded with a waterfall effect.

Catherine Widgery, the American artist whose works take on an environmental slant, didn’t intend for Liquid Echo to be that interactive. Wind from the fans of the underground parking lot were supposed to help power her installation, but the calculations were a bit off, Widgery says. To get it going, it now relies on the odd chance of someone deciding to give it a spin. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, she says.

“[Now] it’s almost like a performance—someone will decide how many they can get working all at once and go running around with a friend,” she says, adding that Liquid Echo has become one of her favourite pieces. “Suddenly, there’s a crowd.”

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Photo: Catherine Widgery

Widgery has a knack for staging urban habitats, marrying the spectacle of nature with what could otherwise be a “bleak” concrete landscape; she makes use of materials that can weather Mother Nature’s worst outbursts.

She completes Liquid Echo’s setting with partitioned seats that resemble boulders and raised planters with small groves of honey locusts, which, ironically, are quite vulnerable to windstorms.

These courtyard seats make the perfect perch for people watching on sunnier days; in the winter months, they’re meant to be appreciated as sculptures.

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