A sneak peek at the giant immersive art installation that has taken over Ontario Place

A sneak peek at the giant immersive art installation that has taken over Ontario Place

Take a stroll through Ontario Place over the next 10 days, and you’ll find your childhood memories morphed into bizarre and beautiful art installations. For the inaugural In/Future festival, which runs from September 15 to 25, over 100 artists have taken over all 14 acres of the decommissioned west island. Two former arcades are now whitewashed gallery spaces with installations hanging from the walls and ceiling; the Wild World of Weather silos are filled with immersive sculptures and soundscapes; and the animatronic mannequins (in varying states of decay) from the log boat ride have been repurposed for a piece by Governor General’s Award–winning artist Max Dean.

The festival was conceived by Layne Hinton and Rui Pimenta of Art Spin, an organization that curates art-themed bicycle tours across the city. Last spring, Hinton and Pimenta got permission to use the closed portion of the island for an Art Spin installation. After the success of that tour, Hinton and Pimenta realized the place resonated with Torontonians who grew up going to the park. In/Future is an expanded version of that initial experiment, complete with music performances. The pair even managed to get the island licensed, so it’s possible to take in the art with a beer in hand.

Pimenta and a few of the participating artists give us a tour of 10 different In/Future installations. Here’s what we saw:


Noel Middleton, Untitled

“This is a piece that Layne and I first saw at Narwhal Contemporary in January 2015,” Pimenta says. “Noel repurposed that work, which is a reference to classical ruins. A lot of the materials he foraged from the Ontario Place grounds, like the piping, rebar and many of the stones. He then applied plaster and paint to the objects.”


Kristiina Lahde, “A Sequence of Lines and Links”

“This is a newly created piece that’s largely inspired by the iconic Cinesphere,” Pimenta says. “It uses the same geodesic geometry, but with a collapsed quality. Kristiina made this work using metal rulers; a lot of her work incorporates measurement devices. This piece has something interesting to say about how Ontario Place has transformed over time.”


Michael Toke, “Beacon”

“During a visit to Ontario Place, I saw this little cottage across the water and it occurred to me that it was flowing out in some kind of future way,” Toke says. “There will be a video playing on one of the cottage’s walls, of these very strange dwellers doing regular things, like washing the dishes, making love. It’s very amorphous, so you can project whatever you want on it. This installation is the only structure around here that isn’t some sort of retro-future idea. It’s just a little cottage.”


Marco D’Andrea, “I Was Born a Thousand Years Ago”

“My piece is a sound installation inside an 1971 Cadillac Coupe de Ville,” D’Andrea says. “The car was made the same year Ontario Place opened. I picked a Cadillac because it was modern, luxurious and represented dreams of progress and the future. I also liked that it was white, because it matches a lot of the great architecture here. For the audio piece, I sampled the minimalist composition ‘Rothko Chapel,’ by Morton Feldman. The Rothko Chapel was a real building that was built in 1971. I’ve slowed down the samples, layered and chopped them. There are also some vocals that come from Elvis Presley’s, ‘I Was Born A Thousand Years Ago,’ which came out in 1971. During the festival, the car doors will be open and people will be able to sit and listen to the composition.”


Ben Watt-Meyer, “Rubble Pile”

“Ben was inspired by the fact that Ontario Place is built on landfill,” Pimenta says. “He got permission to collect landfill from the Leslie Spit and created this pyramid-like structure using different colours of bricks. The finishing touches were finding landfill on the South Beach on this island. It’s a piece that beautifully speaks to the land we’re standing on.”


Gareth Lichty, “Warp”

“This installation is located in one of the silos from the Wild World of Weather,” Pimenta says. “Each silo was dedicated to a different climate phenomenon. Gareth came up with a project that spoke to the silo’s unique architectural features. Each structure is around 40 feet tall. When the silo is lit, the field tape is reflective. The space is dark and austere, and Ben wanted to counter that with something bright and colourful. When people pass through these corridors, the field tape will move in the wind.”


Ed Pien, “Revel”

“This was originally the rain silo,” Pimenta says. “There were around 50 umbrellas hanging from cables, which created a false ceiling. This piece is an existing work of Ed’s that we chose for its spherical structure. It just seemed perfect for the silo. The piece is a reference to childhood—those are dollhouses hanging in the middle—and it has a lot to do the stereotypes that precondition young girls for specific roles. When this work was being installed, Ed was so excited because of all the interesting reflections on the walls, which typically wouldn’t happen in a conventional gallery space.”


Simone Jones and Laura Millard, “Recursive Tracks”

“This was the ice silo, and it had didactic material about ice and that type of thing in the light boxes,” Pimenta says. “Simone and Laura really liked all the wacky signage, the painting and the iceberg sculptures. Laura is responsible for the photographs in the light boxes. They’re topographical photos of Ski-Doo markings on a lake that have been copied, so they have an almost drawing-like quality. There’s also an audio component by Simone. It becomes this really lovely immersive space.”


Max Dean, “Still”

“Max Dean is a Governor General’s Award–winning artist,” Pimenta says. “He was fascinated by the mannequins from the log boat ride, and he’s made use of an automaton moose and other mannequins. He’s created this tableau in conjunction with his photos in the light boxes.”


Cole Swanson and Jennie Suddick, “Kuckucksuhr”

“Cole and Jennie have created this very ornate cuckoo clock in an old guard tower for the log ride,” Pimenta says. “There would have been an attendant up there to make sure the boats weren’t getting too close or bumping into one another. A lot of this piece is made with peanut butter and seed, which they deliberately used to try to attract animals. There’s a blue light in there that they chose specifically because it attracts certain insects.”