The city's aggressive new public art installation is ingenious! I'm talking about those monolith-like illuminated billboard "garbage bins" on our street corners. How clever to juxtapose print ads and trash as if to say "advertising = garbage." As a critique of the use of public space for corporate advertising, this show is unsurpassed in the art world. Christo, schmisto.
The exhibit works on several levels. First, the ominously dubbed MegaBins maintain the facade of being legitimate civic trash and recycling receptacles. By pretending to be real, they mock similar deals with money-hungry companies such as Viacom, which controls our bus shelters.
At street level, the MegaBins' bold physical imposition lampoons the encroachment of advertising that insists the streets are no longer places for citizens to enjoy, but rather for corporations to sell consumption.
Practically begging for graffiti and vandalism, each MegaBin also works as a group project-in-progress, parrying with the public as any citizen unaware that it's not for real would naturally be driven to make his or her mark on the MegaBins' composite metal frames, weak hinges and broad Plexiglas canvases.
Rather than carrying ads, the MegaBins ingeniously bear signage that refers to their installation as a "test," extending the notion that if this were actually happening to our city, negative feedback from citizens would be enough to stop their encroachment. Just imagine the uproar if these bins were for real.
I hate to gush, but the more I look into the MegaBins, the more brilliant they seem. The artist has utterly hidden him- or herself behind a corporate shell called Eucan, again making the whole project seem impossibly genuine. Eucan actually checks out as a legally registered corporation. An amusing online sales pitch offers advertisers City Domination Opportunities and claims, "We can reach your consumer 24/7." For fun, I call to inquire about purchasing advertising space, and the company acts as though it's ready to sell.
I've never seen sculpture, installation, performance and conceptual art blended so well on such a large scale. City Hall also went to huge trouble to carry it off. In the hilarious document Minutes Of The Council Of The City Of Toronto, councillors hammer out an agreement to accept the trash sculptures on our streets. My councillor, Joe Pantalone, playing along, even "voting' for the test.
The ultimate breathtaking irony in the work cuts straight into rampant consumerism. Through the lens of the MegaBin installation, we see a city with a horrendous garbage problem attempting to reduce waste through recycling, while at precisely the same time it encourages more consumption and more waste through greater exposure to advertising. The MegaBins force the viewer to reflect on the probing question, what if we actually let this happen here?