The Big Red Ball
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The Big Red Ball

There is something undeniably joyous about a massive red ball. One that eases itself into unexpected public places is rather impossible to resist. During the course of this year’s Luminato festival, Kurt Perschke’s RedBall project is making a tour of six downtown locations. This giant, inflatable ball occupied spaces at Nathan Phillips Square and Old City Hall on Friday and Sunday, respectively, and will next appear at First Canadian Place at 100 King Street West on Tuesday.
Toronto is not the first city to be visited by RedBall. Previous sites include Barcelona, Busan (Korea), Portland, Sydney, and, most recently, Chicago. The project’s global travels reveal one of the most interesting things about the work: the way it interacts with these unique urban landscapes. It is the ball’s malleability, its acquiescence to the particulars of each environment, that makes such a sympathetic visual relationship to the iconic and mundane landmarks of each city. The ball gives way to overhangs, hugs fire hydrants, and squeezes tight for narrow alleyways. Arguably in opposition to the hallmarks of Christo’s environmental interventions that wrap and conceal to reveal shapes, Perschke’s RedBall maps the negative space.

The project’s Facebook group explains that the artist “pursues ideas about sculptural presence and the visualization of environments…RedBall Project seeks to translate that ephemeral experience into a public context.” The project, however, is not just about spaces and encouraging the public to see them in a new light; it is also very much about members of the public themselves.
Some of Perschke’s previous photographic and illustrated work focuses on the movement of people through public space; a person’s changing relationship to the surfaces and shapes of the built environment as they navigate a place. With the RedBall project, people are not integrated into the work by the artist, but are invited to involve themselves by its sheer delight and accessibility. The ball is surrounded by viewers feeling the surface, posing for photos, and even pretending to be trapped under its soft mass—all smiling immensely. A visit to its Flickr pool shows photos of the project eliciting engagement from audiences in every city.
The artwork exists partially in its intent, its design, and its installation—like most public art—but the final component seems to be our reaction to its intervention into the spaces of the city. If you would like to contribute your reaction to the project, RedBall will be at First Canadian Place, 100 King Street West, on Tuesday, June 9; the alley between 13 and 15 Elm Street on Wednesday, June 10; the Podium Building at Ryerson University, 350 Victoria Street, on Friday June 12; and the alley between 567 and 569 Queen Street West on Saturday, June 13.
Photos by Michael Chrisman/Torontoist.