THE STATE OF THE ARTS: LIVING WITH CULTURE IN TORONTO edited by Alana Wilcox, Christina Palassio and Jonny Dovercourt (Coach House), 350 pages, $24.95 paper. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
The second volume in the utopia series, which asks contributors to comment on T.O. culture past, present and future, is rich in ideas and energy.
It's especially rewarding when writers fulfill the series mandate to imagine an ideal future for the city's cultural life. Almost every time one of them looks to the past, the book falls flat on its face.
Jason Anderson's survey of films that use T.O. as a real location feels old, as does Amy Lavender Harris's look at how literature regards the CN Tower. We don't really need rehashes of the new music and video scenes. And a piece on the Stille Post website's influence on the indie music scene deserves two pages, not eight.
But The Hard Loft, in which Kate Carraway asks pointed questions about the tendency of artists to happily embrace downward mobility, will really raise some hackles in a good way.
And check out Michael Redhill's soulful lament for Toronto's history of tearing itself down literally.
It's when writers reach for the future that the collection really rocks. Natalie de Vito's Mom, Dad, Will You Co-sign My Mortgage? wonders, among other things, why the city can't put its money where its ad campaigns are by co-signing artists' mortgages. Liz Forsberg's fantasy about turning laneways into outdoor art installations is totally exciting.
And the entire project is elevated by Carl Wilson's brilliant essay The Party Line, about the surging phenomenon of relational art and participatory aesthetics or what happens when the art party becomes the art.
Get this book just to read his piece.