Toronto's Beach Transformed Into Winter Art Gallery

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Toronto’s Beach Transformed Into Winter Art Gallery

Eight installations by international artists at annual public art event.

"North," by studioPERCH in Montreal, features 41 fir trees suspended in mid-air. Photo: Khristel Stecher | Courtesy of RAW Design

“North,” by studioPERCH in Montreal, features 41 fir trees suspended in mid-air.
Photo: Khristel Stecher | Courtesy of RAW Design

INSTALLATION: Winter Stations
DATE: February 20 to March 27
BY: Various participating artists

Southern California had its own imaginary sea dragon-shaped lifeguard station. Miami is known for its coloured Art Deco beach towers. Not to be outdone, Toronto’s beaches are hosting a temporary collection of whimsical lifeguard stands that pull inspiration from its surroundings and the natural environment.

Winter Stations, an outdoor exhibit of installations that uses lifeguard stands as its skeletal frame, is back for its third run, taking place from February 20 to March 27. Along the boardwalk—stretching from Woodbine to Balmy beach—you’ll spot eight pieces selected from hundreds of local and international submissions.

What started as fanciful sketches, the installations are now interactive works of art that turn the sandy expanse into a wintry playground.

“BuoyBuoyBuoy,” among the winning designs from Toronto, is an assembly of interlocking “mirrors” in the shape of a buoy. The artists behind the wall of mirrors—Dionisios Vriniotis, Rob Shostak, Dakota Wares-Tani, and Julie Forand—want people to recall their childhood memories.

Think of it as an invitation to project your own memories about your experience with water, onto “BuoyBuoyBuoy’s” reflective surfaces. “We hope people will take the time to think about their relationship to water,” says Shostak in an email. “Their first memory of swimming, the lagoon they stumbled upon on vacation, the summers splashing around in the lake at summer camp, that time they went skinny dipping at the cottage.”

"BuoyBuoyBuoy," by a team of Toronto-based artists, is made up of hundreds of interlocking buoy-shaped pieces. Photo: Khristel Stecher | Courtesy of RAW Design

“BuoyBuoyBuoy,” by a team of Toronto-based artists, is made up of hundreds of interlocking buoy-shaped pieces.
Photo: Khristel Stecher | Courtesy of RAW Design

“We used the iconic shape of a buoy for its connection to water and memory,” Shostak says. “From their appearance at childhood swimming lessons, or as hazard markings in open water, the buoys attempt to bring the human language of delineating boundaries to something that is in constant flux.”

The artists developed three separate designs for the hundreds of buoys that make up the piece. Most of the buoys are made of weather-treated wood, either painted in white or fixed with mirrored vinyl; others are milled from plexiglass, Shostak says.

From afar and up close, the mass of buoys are supposed to create a “blurry form on the landscape”—acting as an imperfect, foggy representation of the memories we try to reconstruct.

Whereas “BuoyBuoyBuoy” asks its audience to revel in the past, “I See You Ashiyu” wants people to soak up the present. “I See You Ashiyu,” by University of Toronto architectural students Asuka Kono and Rachel Palmela, adapts the Japanese design of a hot spring, or onsen, for the winter weather.

You can dip your freezing toes into the cool warmth of the makeshift “hot spring”—what may be a relaxing treatment for winter-weary feet. Unlike natural hot springs, which draws its source of heat from nearby volcanic activity, the artists had to build a wood burning stove into their design to generate heat.

"I See You Ashiyu" brings the concept of a Japanese hot spring to Toronto's shores. Photo: Khristel Stecher | Courtesy of RAW Design

“I See You Ashiyu” brings the concept of a Japanese hot spring to Toronto’s shores. Photo: Khristel Stecher | Courtesy of RAW Design

“I See You Ashiyu” recreates the communal experience of steaming in a hot spring, with a view that overlooks the shore.

“The concepts coming from onsen are physical warmth, relaxation, and interactions between people through water intervention,” says Kono in an email. “We become more open to others when we are warm and relaxed, without the barrier of clothing.

More than an opportunity to beat the winter doldrums, there’s much to be learned about how we—and other cultures—perceive and enjoy winter.

While the Kono and Palmela’s project didn’t directly stem from an exploration of the Japanese’s relationship to winter, it did spur them to think of how their culture engages with nature.

“Japanese culture celebrates nature in a much more intentional way than North America,” Kono says. “We do have opportunities to participate in winter sports, like skiing and skating … but [their] culture is much more about encouraging people to gather and talk in a comfortable environment.”

For Shostak, “BuoyBuoyBuoy” is about bringing back a “childlike sense of play to winter” for adults who may have outgrown engaging in snowball fights, sledding down a daunting hill.

“We hope to elicit that weird feeling of visiting something familiar, but through the eyes of an adult,” Shostak says. “…Only then can we really let go of the dreariness of winter and have some fun.”

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