Terrarea by Janis Demkiw, Emily Hogg and Olia Mishchenko riffs on tourist kitsch.
STRIP MINING FOR CREATIVE CITIES at Toronto Free Gallery (1277 Bloor West), to March 1. 416-913-0461. Rating: NNNN
Who's afraid of Richard Florida? The guy's no Virginia Woolf. Still, some folks are spooked by his increasingly popular books on the "creative city."
On the plus side, Florida gives props to artists for helping stimulate economic development. But he glosses over the fact that this development often pushes artists and other low-income/low-rent folks out.
These issues lie at the heart of the group show Strip Mining For Creative Cities. Though far from comprehensive, it makes an important gesture supported by some interesting artworks.
Terrarea by Janis Demkiw, Emily Hogg and Olia Mishchenko is a highlight, luring sidewalk strollers into the gallery with a dense yet playful window display. It's a mini-landscape of CN Tower souvenirs, busted mirrors, cheap gold-coloured plastic and more - David Altmejd gone dollar-store and downtown-geographic.
Also strong is Janet Wang's Soft Spectacle, a tent that seems to be made from old-fashioned, dignified toile. But look closer and you'll see the toile pattern is made up of scenes of highway ramps, street corners and discarded coffee cups. It's all inspired by Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, where gussied-up buildings are putting pressure on the area's transient public-space population.
Videos reward patient viewers with surprising insights. Regent Park Focus's Myths Of Regent Park bravely positions Forest Hill as ghetto - and, conversely, Regent Park as a desirable neighbourhood with many comparable amenities. In a different projection, Parkdale Collegiate students examine local food sources, businesses and recreation.
From further afield is the Parfyme collective's playful film on attempts to reinvigorate a Copenhagen waterfront while negotiating both private developers and public police. Though a bit twee overall, Parfyme's "sea monster" boat is a terrific idea - one Toronto should steal.
No polished answers here, but plenty of productive questioning.