I know it when I see it …

 I attended a planning course at the City a short while ago and part of it was a presentation from the public arts people. The question came up about a large rock placed in front of a transit station somewhere. Apparently, it is much beloved. Is it art?

The answer from the City was if a landscape architect put it there, NO. If an artist put it there, YES.

Alas, no one asked about a landscape architect who also produces city-sanctioned ART. Maybe in that case it depends on which budget envelope the rock came out of.

Mind, all this was in pursuit of understanding the interaction of the Community with our shiny new LRT Stations, and their role in promoting Art in our City.

This is relevant for other reasons too. The proposed Soho Italia 35 storey condo will have a number of floors of above ground parking garage. Urban Planners frown on these things. The developer proposes to hire an artist to design something to wrap around the exterior of the garage. Thus, the garage will become a giant art installation, which will persuade the politicians to approve the building over the objections of staff.

But will that turn all the demeritous elements of an above ground garage into a public asset? Can we turn a pigs ear into an artpiece by applying some artist time and skills to the façade? Does hiring an artist to work with the Bronson reconstruction turn an ugly too-wide blighting road into something else?

 Instead of waiting til the snow flies, the other day we dug out the xmas lights. These are all LED strings purchased at Galen Weston’s emporium in Westboro, in  a fit of energy saving bravado. Alas, the bulbs may last forever, but the wiring doesn’t last a year. So these multiple strings consist of half lit and half unlit sections. I refuse to throw away the 50% strings because that would be just like throwing out a 50 string light. For several years, I just kept adding more strings of lights to the front yard tree.  This was easy to do as long as there are teenagers in the house who can be bribed (with cookies) into climbing trees. But with the last teen gone out of town to uni, I didn’t look forward to sessions atop the step-ladder with broom and hockey stick in hand, pushing lights into place.

We also had to find a place to stash those wire tomato cages from the garden, and we no longer have a garden shed. As for the basement, don’t even think of going there. So in a fit of giddiness, we pushed the tomato cages together and wrapped them in the xmas lights:

Then we stuffed the object d’art into the front tree, and plugged it in:

You can see this light tube for blocks. We also had some overgrown evergreen vines we had pruned off a trellis. Rather than cut the long whips into short pieces to stuff into the green bin, we wound them up into a six foot diameter wreath, added some more of Galen’s PC lights, and presto … something:

 Now I may feel artistic in making these … things, but I now know with confidence that they are not art because my municipal art instructor tells me real art is only made by Artists.

That brings me back to the title of this piece, I know it when I see it. I am referring to art. But of course the phrase is equally often applied to pornography, another notoriously hard to define term. In that context, I know it when I see it carries with it a bit of a salacious element. And that brings us to the next post, entitled CFNM in Ottawa, where I will explore some other goings on in our west side neighborhood.

6 thoughts on “I know it when I see it …

  1. Great post, as usual. Maybe you can merge your love of creative lighting and cycling by decorating your bike and participating in the Help Santa Toy Parade this Saturday, 5 p.m.

    It starts at the Garden of the Provinces (Wellington near Bronson) and ends at City Hall.

    Lots of human-powered vehicle operators are lighting up their rides for this night parade. Photos from last year are at http://tricolour.net/photos/2010/11/27/hpv.html

    I’ll be piloting the Bells Corners FREE Bike-taxi.

    The rules for the parade are at http://www.toyparade.org

  2. Hey Eric, I quite enjoy your blog. Have a westend question for you…..say it isn’t so…is it true that the big hole at the north-west corner of Carling and the Queensway is doomed to become yet another self-storage facility?

    1. Treehugger: yep, another dynamon self storage box for all that junk you cannot fit into your overstuffed house, and this time a 4 or 5 storey high building just for unwanted junk. I share your amazement. What are people saving it all for? Are they going to ship it ahead when they die? Are they waiting for mcmansions to become fashionable again. I think we are at peak junk now.

      1. There must be boatloads of money to be made in self-storage….for it strikes me that this is a prime real estate lot….

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