Sonic Boardwalk on the Ward's Island and Centre Island boardwalk, to October 1. 416-910-7231. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Nature installations are tough for art reviewers, because part of the pleasure of site-specific art is the surprise in finding it.
Saying anything too detailed seems like a spoiler. So imagine cycling or walking on your idle summer afternoon in the park and coming across something odd that isn't industrial, commercial or informational. Did someone really put this out here? Is this an elaborate prank?
As part of a larger series of interactive sound pieces, installations and concerts sponsored by the organization New Adventures In Sound Art, Kristi Allik and Robert Mulder have set up a small interactive sonic sculpture on the boardwalk between Ward's and Centre islands.
It's a sonic "mapping" of cricket sounds and high-pitched bell-like "micro-sounds" that they've placed as a counterpoint to the "cantus firmus" (background sounds) of Lake Ontario. All this means that if you walk across their piece, you'll hear high-pitched chirping and bell sounds, and you can control these at will.
Cycling along the boardwalk in anticipation, I found myself immediately more attuned to the sonic environment. Bike tires make really pleasant ultra-low marimba sounds running over wooden planks, which sound even better against the cool lapping of Lake Ontario and the squawks of ring-billed gulls. I kept coasting along and asking myself, "Is this it? Was that it?" Ward's Island had never sounded more interesting.
We rarely pause to think about our sonic environment unless it's traffic or our neighbours, so the artists had already fulfilled part of their mission.
When I finally found the piece, I was slightly underwhelmed. I'd been beaten to it by two other cyclists - a young couple who, unlike me, had happened upon it by accident. One of them was walking across the boards and listening to its chorus of natural sounds, a look of childlike wonder on her face.
"You can make music on it," she told me.