The Power Plant – Harbourfront, Toronto

At the historical Harbourfront Centre nestled in Toronto’s Lakeshore lies The Power Plant, the once operational plant that supplied energy to Torontonians throughout most of the 20th Century is now an unexpected home for great modern and contemporary art in the city. Entrance to the galleries at The Power Plant is free to the public and is a great addition to a day exploring Toronto’s Lakeshore community.

Currently on exhibit at The Power Plant is a unique and intriguing blend of works and media — Ears to Speak Of by Amalia Pica is an in-depth study and exploration into various forms of human communication both verbal and non, and both auditory and non. The focal point of this exhibit features large-scale models of hearing aids carved out of marble, granite, and soapstone as well as cardboard replicas of acoustic radars. This visually striking exhibit is one that leaves plenty of room for contemplation and interpretation. I couldn’t help but notice that the gallery space was indeed very quiet.

The main attraction at The Power Plant currently is Urban Now: City Life in Congo created by photographer Sammy Baloji and anthropologist Filip De Boeck who have created a highly detailed exploration into life in the urban centers of a nation struggling with poverty and social unrest. The looming promise of a sprawling and decadent Westernized city and lifestyle beckon to locals from billboard advertisements yet despite these almost taunting promises, the Congalese nation remains heavily divided with the wealthy families residing in gated communities. The heart of this exhibit reveals how the current infrastructure of the Congo is in great contradiction with these broadcasted ideals — families, the majority of the nation, making do and sourcing the best they can out of what little they have while living in and among the ruins of buildings ravaged by war.

The exhibit is comprised of photography and video interviews and I was particularly intrigued by the video of a doctor taking the camera crew on a tour of a makeshift yet well-equipped hospital set up in the remains of an abandoned building. What I found most captivating was seeing this doctor’s enthusiasm and passion for offering aid for those in need despite being in a far from ideal economic climate. This exhibit, and in particular the photos that comprise it, is truly captivating and stunning to behold, though I did find myself rather uncomfortable by having the lives of these people on display for our artistic enjoyment.

Michael Landy’s Demonstration exhibit is one that is constantly growing and will be on display until May 2018. The public is actively encouraged to participate in this exhibit, a look at the public response to capitalism, injustice, commerce, value and morals, and creation. The results of these reactions take the form of red and white illustrations of slogans, logos, and protest statements on all matters large and small posted directly to the gallery wall of the Fleck Clerestory.

The public is asked to submit their own images, texts, slogans, and symbols so they may also be made into a cohesive red and white image, thus adding to the constantly evolving exhibit. It’s certainly interesting and amusing watching as art evolves over time and it’s easy to stop and gaze over the vast number of red and white images already dotting the very high gallery walls. This exhibit does not take a particular political or social side so there are slogans on display of various ideals that may not appeal to the masses.

Exploring The Power Plant certainly will not be a whole day affair but it can be if you feel so drawn to the works on display. It’s perfect for a leisurely afternoon of browsing and currently a great way to escape the bitter cold outside.  Not to mention that admission is FREE.  If you’re interested in these particular exhibits; however, you had better go soon as some of them are closing directly after New Years.  But never fear, there will always be new and innovative exhibits to take their place and keep art lovers coming back.

 

Review and Photos by Samantha Wu

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