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Interregnum: a conversation piece


 

Canadian artists Daniel Young and Christian Giroux installed a monumental sculpture in the atrium of the new Instructional Centre over the summer. The piece, Interregnum: Corner Displacement for John Andrews, is constructed of powder-coated aluminum and rises three storeys against a white wall. The ambitious piece of public sculpture is a first for UTSC. We talked to Ann MacDonald, curator of the Doris McCarthy Gallery, about the art work.

Inside UTSC: I’d like to ask you about the selection process. What did you want this piece to accomplish?

Ann MacDonald: The Doris McCarthy Gallery circulated an international call for submissions of interest. We received 92 submissions from artists from around the world. The selection committee reviewed the submissions using a criteria based on the quality of the artists’ past work as well as their degree of experience with projects of this scale. We narrowed it down to three finalists, and they came and presented their ideas.

The presentation by Christian and Dan was exceptional.  The narrow verticality of the wall provided a huge challenge for artists. They also had to engage with the protruding volumes of the staircase and the balconies. Additionally, the skylight projects a grid of light at varying locations as the daylight changes. So when you consider what type of art will function effectively with these particular conditions, it’s pretty tricky. Christian and Dan turned these challenges into strengths, which is really a feat. Considering that the piece has to be visually effective from the ground floor as well as from each of the three stories up — the outcome is very successful and I couldn’t be more delighted.

IU: Not every building on campus has a piece of monumental art. Why this building?

AM: The original plan was to have a green wall here, to have all plants coming down. It was decided the maintenance would be too expensive. That’s when the opportunity for a permanent art work presented itself.

IU: What’s the argument for public art in a university?

AM: I think that the strongest argument is that it contributes toward our intellectually stimulating environment and gives us opportunity to think critically in an unusual and challenging manner. It creates a sense of history and a sense of place. In particular this piece is interesting because it’s a brand new contemporary work meant to go into this new space, but it references the Andrews Buildings, which go way back to 1965. So it does tie our campus history together. The artists’ intention was that it might appear that the past is protruding out of this wall, into this new space. It’s a little thread of history.

I’ve hung around the building a little bit and talked to a few students. I’ve received a mixed response. Some people have looked at it and said, “When is the art going up?” And I’ve talked to a security guard who totally loved it and enjoyed how the piece worked with the sunlight. I don’t think a lot of people know about the installation yet. I’m eager to hear what the various responses will be.

IU: Is a mixed response like that necessarily a bad thing? Or is that the conversation a good piece of art is supposed to inspire?

AM: I would agree with that. I think that the work has to be challenging. If it’s something a person connects with immediately then it’s too easy and has not performed its function.

 

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