Power Ball Goes to Eleven
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Power Ball Goes to Eleven

A roller-derby girl navigates Agathe Snow’s air-guitar maze.

If you’ve ever considered that it might be a fun idea to invite the local roller-derby girls to your next party, Thursday at The Power Plant cleared up that misconception. That night, the eleventh annual Power Ball art party fundraiser at Harbourfront’s contemporary art gallery filled every space with interactive installations. This included some unfortunately unavoidable interactions with some very determined girls on roller skates—determined to be noticed, to be outrageous. Fortunately, their grit was unnecessary. Power Ball 11’s sheer saturation of art upon art in every corner was a reminder of why the event is worth attending.

Dean Baldwin’s The Last Drop.

At least seven artists contributed works to the party, most on a rather massive scale, making each space an entirely new experience. The overall aesthetic was tragic, campy, and raw…a bit like rural Ontario after the apocalypse. Titled Power Ball 11: IT’S ONE LOUDER, event co-chair Clint Roenisch described it as “a bush party of the most cultivated order.” The illuminated dance floor and general propensity for all things sleek and shiny that characterized last year’s Power Ball were replaced by projected videos, car wrecks, and spruce-tree groves.
It’s also not just the density of the installations that established the character of this event. What seemed to set this party apart from other cultural fundraisers like the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Massive Party is the approach that the event itself is art, and everyone in attendance is a co-creator of the piece. This means that the installations occupy and engage the entire space, and require your participation to be realized. They’re not meant to be viewed like a piece on a gallery wall, or even enjoyed from a safe distance. They are tangled up in your navigation of the party.

Getting a drink at The Last Drop.

Toronto-based artist Dean Baldwin contributed The Last Drop, a makeshift bar set up outside on the patio. Referencing both a depression-era still and an impending “eco-future,” neon-coloured drinks from this bar were served in sawed-off plastic water bottles collected by an unlucky intern at the gallery. The simple gesture of getting a drink became a participatory act.
Agathe Snow filled a room of the gallery with inflated “air guitars” suspended from the ceiling (pictured at the top of this article). Their blatant occupation of an entire room ensured a level of direct interaction. This display was promptly dismantled by party-goers who chose to make the installation part of their outfit that night…but that may have been the intention. If it wasn’t, it should have been. Suits and inflated carnival guitars are a delightful combination.

Ruined Oldsmobiles project videos.

The event’s organizers decided to pile two beaten-down Oldsmobiles in the centre of one of the spaces as an excuse to house the projectors for some of the night’s video pieces. Projecting out of the destroyed head-lights of these cars, the videos shone on the walls and all passers-by.
It wasn’t all great, inevitably.
Toronto designers Castor recycled their still remarkably uninviting Winnebago installation from the Interior Design Show back in February. From their fire-pit to the pervasive logo-stamping, it seemed like an idea that might be good on paper, but it came off as a rather contrived combination of things calculated to make them seem cool.
Anitra Hamilton’s Adolph Loos Tattoo Parlour was both a hit and a miss. The idea was promising—(temporarily) marking willing guests with artist-designed tattoos. The execution, however, didn’t quite follow through, and participants ended up sporting small, dark rectangles of unclear design.
Critiques of the individual works aside, Power Ball 11’s relentless offerings ensured that guests felt like they were part of some shared creativity. This may be key for an event that, despite all of its aspirations for reckless debauchery, is really about raising money for contemporary art. Eye Weekly suggested that “the real story of Power Ball is that artists need donors, and that donors need to feel artistic.” Designing an event that satisfies both of those needs is no small task, and while making it louder or purporting to have the “widest mix of people” in attendance—as Clint Roenisch put it in an email to us—may not achieve that, a thorough dedication to making everyone a co-creator of an inspired experience goes a long way.
Photos by Amanda Happé/Torontoist.