The one thing you should see this week: a virtual tour of Toronto’s streets
This week’s pick: Luc Courchesne’s You Are Here
Tucked away on the 68th floor of First Canadian Place sits a tiny space. And in that tiny space sits a domed, circular screen, so small that it can only surround two people, but so big it contains entire blocks of downtown Toronto. It’s a visual riddle befitting Montreal artist Luc Courchesne, whose early adoption of computer technology in the 1980s has led to dozens of intricate, interactive video installations. Courchesne was at the top of curator Dawn Cain’s list when she first conceived of the BMO Project Room, that tiny space she hoped would attract daring artists up to the challenge of creating a piece that could be housed in the room for a year. So far, so good: Adad Hannah kicked things off in 2009; Micah Lexier followed him in 2010.
Launched last week, Courchesne’s exhibit uses photography, 3-D software and a 360° projection system, all of which adds up to the artistic equivalent of a very clever amusement park ride. In a move akin to slipping inside a large hoop skirt, visitors scoot under the circular screen in the middle of the room, and pick up the tricked-out iPhone sitting there. Using it as a controller—Courchesne has taken serious advantage of the phone’s compass function—you can walk through the walls and works of art on the 68th floor, propel out windows, fly over downtown and zoom through its streets—even scale the CN Tower.
The higher up you go, the more abstract the image and the accompanying soundscape become. It’s a lovely, haunting effect. Shimmering pods at street level provide entry points into videos of business district denizens doing what they do: eating in an outdoor food court, standing at street corners, avoiding each other’s gaze. A virtual Courchesne sits sphinx-like on a window ledge, answering a series of increasingly absurd yet insightful questions about himself and his art. (Blissfully, he also offers operating instructions for the technologically challenged.)
With You Are Here, Courchesne moves art out of the gallery space, into our streets and then back again. And like our streets, his richly layered work is complex and exhilarating.