LUIS JACOB at Toronto Sculpture Garden (115 King East) until September 15, 8 am until dusk. Rating: NNNN
Playful interaction has the power to change the world. This notion lies at the anarchic heart of Luis Jacob's installation Flashlight. Admittedly utopian, Jacob's proposition ties together a fascinating assortment of social concerns using a disparate mix of symbolically loaded objects.
In a circle of sand surrounded by grass, a dome of yellow and blue climbing bars sits under a turning disco ball powered by a small solar panel. Behind it hangs a banner. On a platform, two wooden deck chairs face the dome. Each has a set of pedals that when rotated light up the banner's LED lettering, a lyric from Parliament's 70s hit Flashlight: "Everybody's got a little light under the sun."
Go with friends. Pedal and climb, give yourself over to play. In the sun, the disco ball spins myriad lights around the garden, stalking the passersby who use the parkette as a thoroughfare between apparently important appointments. Flashlight becomes a kind of performance art infrastructure when pedestrians stop to watch you play.
The disco ball and sign recall 70s funk culture, the spirit of which Jacob (aka DJ Didi 7) also identifies in post-punk, hiphop, house and techno. Rhythm brings individuals together regardless of race, class or gender, and hints at universal equality. Really, the only thing missing from this piece is a soundtrack. Then there's the more obvious theme of power. Generating solar and pedal power, an alternative to environmentally disastrous coal, hydro and nuclear plants, can be seen as an act of resistance.
Symbols abound: the disco ball stands for the sun, the bars are the earth and the climbers the playful hope of the future. Those pedalling in the Muskoka chairs represent the reintegration of consumers into participatory democracy, illuminating the banner of equality under which we unite.
No small feat for a playground with monkey bars.