ArtVenturist is a new column where we explore public art throughout the city.
|LOCATION:||70 Roehampton Avenue|
It’s a yearbook for the ages. With a sampling of names and signatures stretching back almost a hundred years, “What’s Your Name?” taps into the historical memory of North Toronto Collegiate Institute, a high school whose alumni includes the likes of Christie Blatchford, David Cronenberg, and Camilla Gibb.
Two sheaves of stainless-steel paper make up Ilan Sandler’s participatory art piece, which is etched with names of alumni from 1912 (two years after the school opened) to 2010. “What’s Your Name?” speaks to the fluidity of identity as students come of age and start to craft their own signature, says Sandler.
The tented structure, 4.2 metres high, is large enough to walk under as you leave or enter the public-private grounds shared by the school and Tridel Condominiums.
As one pores over the chronological list of printed names, a rough sketch of the city’s waves of immigration reveals itself.
“[North Toronto] has always been a feeder school, drawing students from the wider city,” says Sandler. “In the ’30s and ’40s, you see a lot of Eastern European names, and then there’s a large Middle Eastern wave in the ’70s and ’80s.”
It was a feat for Sandler to collect 2,053 names and signatures of students over a period of six months. He dug through the school’s archives and discovered far more details about students than one would expect. Back in the ’30s and ’40s, Sandler notes, it was routine to ask parents to divulge their occupation, mother tongue, and origins in an effort to determine if English was a second language.
For the signatures, on the opposite sheaf, he enlisted the student council and the alumni network to marshal participants. There were a few who saw it as yet another homework assignment, which he found amusing. Fortunately, Sandler says, there haven’t been any instances of graffiti. “Some people have added signatures—and I suppose if there’s anything added, it might as well be a signature.”
ArtVenturist appears twice monthly.