Sunday, October 23, 2016Mostly Cloudy 15°C

Floating art space draws the ire of boat club members

Posted by Derek Flack / September 21, 2012

Water Walk Sky Artist Residency and Exhibition SpaceSometimes it really does seem like that this city is determined to wage a war on fun. The other day we got an email from Felix Kalmenson, an artist who's been running a floating exhibition and residency space in a lagoon near the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse on the Toronto Islands since late June. The 8'x8' foot room didn't have a permit to operate in the lagoon, so was eventually asked to leave by the Police Marine Unit.

That, for the record, makes sense. One can only imagine the liability issues associated with something like this. And the Marine Unit did everyone a favour by forcing the space to relocate to a dock. But, where it gets interesting/frustrating is the next step. Let's give it over to Kalmenson to explain:

Water Walk Sky Artist Residency and Exhibition Space"The project was towed across the Toronto Harbor to a boat club called Sunfish Cut. The minute we docked at the new harbor we were met with a mixed reception. Several of the more arts-oriented residents approached with curiosity and ultimately approval, while another group was inflamed by a particularly disgruntled citizen vehemently opposed on the grounds that it was either not to their aesthetic taste or it wasn't officially a boat and might as they claim, jeopardize the dock (a dubious claim). The commodore of the boat club gave the okay for the move but now the group of disgruntled boat club members are threatening him with litigation, so he is backing out."

As a result of the static the project has received, the makeshift space is set to be evicted later today at Algonquin Island. It's not difficult to see both perspectives here. While the idea that the space would jeopardize the dock borders on ludicrous, I can understand why some boaters wouldn't want it around. Maybe they just think it's an eyesore.

But, then again, perhaps it's time to lighten up? Oh, Toronto. Stop being so damn stiff! And, more importantly, anyone want to volunteer their dock for a floating art space?

Photos courtesy of Felix Kalmenson



MikeB / September 21, 2012 at 11:45 am
I am all for public art, and exhibitions, even neat "resedencies" for artists, etc... but I'm not sure what this is, other than an eye-sore. My ice fishing shack is nicer than this. Yes. I have an ice fishing shack.
Me / September 21, 2012 at 11:52 am
So, let's see, they tow a piece of garbage to a boat club, get asked to remove said garbage and get all offended. Oh boohoo.
Really? / September 21, 2012 at 11:52 am
I'm a 20-something-going-on-30 Torontonian artist. Look guys, Toronto HAS an amazing art scene. It can't be denied. We basically have free reign in much of the city (especially the core) to do what we want art-wise. I've worked in a lot of others places, and this is basically art heaven. :)

The reason I say this is that...well...what do you expect? You can't just put up art installations on the water without permits. Just because we're artists doesn't mean we're too disorganized to follow a few basic rules! :) But further still, what does one expect from a boating club? I mean, the only reason those people are there for their boats. Not for art installations. Again, this is an art-loving city, full of opportunities for artists: I think we should be happy with what we have. If boat club people don't want art floating in their waters, so be it. Their loss, but nothing to cry about.

Just my 2.5 cents.
McRib / September 21, 2012 at 11:56 am
Sean / September 21, 2012 at 12:08 pm
People out in the west coast are getting nicer looking things showing up on their shores from Fukushima.

This isn't art, it's trash!

You need a special boating license these days. I don't see any markings on the floating garbage.
MS / September 21, 2012 at 12:15 pm
It's an eyesore. And people are supposed to go in it and see art? Let me pre-write the next headline: "Makeshift art space sinks, 3 drowned".
Keith / September 21, 2012 at 12:30 pm
Correct me if I am wrong... don't the people who dock at the marina have to pay to do so? It does cost to live the high life. That piece of trash would be an eyesore anywhere it was towed (at whose expense?)
Jefferson / September 21, 2012 at 01:07 pm
The Sunfish Cut boat club apparently charges an annual membership fee plus a dock rental fee. From this article, I was left with the impression that the artist did not pay these fees. If that is true, then it would be arrogant of him to think he could use the club's space for free, especially when their website indicates there is a waiting list for dock spaces.

I don't think aesthetics should matter at all (an artist should be free to say whatever they need to say however they need to say it), but if you practice "guerrilla art" and break the rules, you can't act all surprised when people get pissed off.

If I owned dock space, I'd consider donating it to an artist. God knows I couldn't afford to own or operate a boat...
mike / September 21, 2012 at 01:11 pm
Blogto is really big on telling people to suck it up when it doesn't affect them in any way. I wonder what this post would be like if someone started dropping obstructive art installations in the middle of bike lanes.
asdf / September 21, 2012 at 01:34 pm
"floating exhibition and residency space" - translation, 'shitty shack used by friends to sleep in overnight on the island'. Get a tent and go camping where your supposed to - at least that's legal.
EricM / September 21, 2012 at 02:01 pm
Well... if it was interesting and didn't look like a piece of junk perhaps it would stay. Come on Toronto art community, surly you can create something better than this!
jro / September 21, 2012 at 02:07 pm
This is the same guy who was driving nails into trees on Trinity Bellwoods park in the name of art.
TO Artists are.... / September 21, 2012 at 03:15 pm
Another self entitled Toronto artist. I'm shocked. I am, however, all in favour of Mike's suggested middle of the bike lane "art installations", which would serve to piss off TOs second most self entitled community: cyclists.
Pk replying to a comment from TO Artists are.... / September 21, 2012 at 03:35 pm
I think your comment reveals more about you than it does about cyclist or artists.
seanm / September 21, 2012 at 05:49 pm
I'm all for public art, but it seems almost anything gets passed off as "art" these days. This is nothing but a heaping eyesore, and thankfully it's been put out of its misery.
Baffled / September 22, 2012 at 04:13 pm
I'm not sure what is wrong with Toronto right now that is giving people the idea that this is in any way, shape, or form "art".

I am willing to accept many abstract or unconventional styles of visual and/or auditory art. I can even accept that certain structurally-unsound, derelict buildings in industrial wasteland can have some artistic merit, when viewed with an open mind (and with the right camera!). But this floating whatever tells me that our city is aiming far too low in its artistic goals right now. I shudder to think that this artist might have fans, or even buyers. If he has transcended to a new plane of thought, then it is a plane that is simply inaccessible to me.

Why is blogTO writing about this in the first place? If two random homeowners in Vaughan are squabbling over where one of them can park his motorhome for the winter, would that make the news? Of course not. So why is this squabble making headline news? If you take away the starving artist vs. well-to-do boat men theme, then this anecdote is no different than the unworthy motorhome issue.
Lmao replying to a comment from Baffled / September 22, 2012 at 06:05 pm
I guess you don't understand the meaning of the word BLOG.
Where on BlogTO does it say it's a NEWS site?

You might need glasses to see it / September 23, 2012 at 03:45 am
@Lmao: What does BLOG mean to you? Your logic is a bit messed up. I agree with Baffled's comment, and with most of the other previous comments. Going through the comments, my sentiments are exactly like EricM's, so I'm not going to repeat what he said so well and succinctly.

"Where on BlogTO does it say it's a NEWS site?"

Actually, at the bottom of each and every page. Look for the words "news coverage." To be fair, the full description at the bottom of each page is "hyper-local arts, music, film, fashion, food and news coverage" so you can argue this whole floating shack thing fits into local arts coverage. If it were art, I guess, and if there was something to cover. The point is, BlogTO exists to give information of interest to local T.O. folks. Right? Or does it exist for some other reason? Not sure this shed, floating or otherwise, is that interesting.
floating artist / September 24, 2012 at 09:27 am
It's like, a statement on society, duuude
The nomadic way of life is being oppressed by the MAN, maaan
Ron / September 24, 2012 at 08:56 pm
WOW Like the closest thing to " art " is the fact that some of the supporting 2 x 4's form a right angle triangle.
Gabe / September 24, 2012 at 11:41 pm
Holy Snappers!!! IS Tent City on the Float now?
peer / October 24, 2012 at 04:42 pm

Being inside This installation was one of the most moving art experiences I've ever had!

please see image link above.

Why do you people hate? because you don't create anything? because you're envious of others who do?

or because: you're spoiled- rich-white -right wing Ontarians who have zero perspective on the world of art, and only care about buying new shoes and going out for brunch?

I believe the latter to be the case.

Stop belittling a beautiful gesture, and grow up.

Julia Dickens / October 24, 2012 at 07:18 pm
Oh my god, and the Trolls come out...

Listen, for all of you above calling Felix (and artists in general) 'entitled' and the floating dock 'garbage'....

You may not like something the way the box looks and that's up to you to decide, but to call it 'trash' and 'garbage' is just trashy itself. It makes you look like a fool that has nothing better to do than put down the hard work and achievements of others. And more importantly, it speaks to your total and utter ingorance of contemporary art. You may as well have just said 'I don't contribute anything and I sure don't know what I'm talking about, but I love to put down people who do.'

For the record, Felix Kalmenson is an extremely hardworking and dedicated multi disciplinary artist. I was doing an artist residency on Toronto Island while he was building the floating box through the Whippersnapper Gallery residency. The work to build the box, and the work that went into moving it to the lagoon, building the roof and the weather proof siding took not only an immense amount of work from him, but also from many dedicated friends and peers. It makes me furious, knowing and seeing for myself, and being one of the people who helped him during some of the process, to hear people call this floating box 'trash.'

Also, the space was being used for artists to create work inside the room itself. It was created for the purpose of facilitating exhibition space, not a free crash pad for Felix and his pals.

You people don't know anything about this project, not a single thing other than what you read in this article and the photo above. I would love to see what you have to contribute to the world other than hateful comments. Like the boat club members, you jumped to conclusions before you even knew what you were talking about, or rather what you were looking at.

And for what? So you could feel good about yourself for half a second by anonymously writing something hateful on the internet? That's pretty sad, dudes.

Anyone who is aware of this project, participated in it or witnessed any of the exhibitions that took place before the box was removed know what a great experience it created, and appreciate Felix's hard work to contribute an alternate space for artists. Let's hope that more spaces like this will be created in the future.
Felix / October 24, 2012 at 07:54 pm
If anyone is interested in seeing the kind of work that was made and exhibited in the space have a look at Melissa Fisher's website, she has some great photo's up! :

The residency has been relocated to Don Miller's farm (of Don Blanche Shelbourne, ON an will continue in the next year.
VR / October 24, 2012 at 08:18 pm
Hahaha, trash.
That's funny.
Guess who's "trash" this piece was made from?
The "trash" from the marina.

That's right. The barrels were re-used from docks that people from the island and the marina threw away. Totally useable, and totally fine for them to use when it directly benefits them... but for an art project? Well, what would the boat club members do with that? Actually give it a chance and try to see the value it in... other than the dollar and cents value? Obviously they didn't even try. Or think for that matter... of why they were so offended.

I can understand how it's hard for people with expensive yachts that gas guzzle by the gallon have a hard time seeing the perspective of an artist and his work who directly confronts then with these issues of consumerism, waste and ultimately their privileged way of life.

Is it an "eye-sore" to you because it reminds you of things you'd rather not think about? I.e. your waste, what happens to your waste when you discard it, and perhaps makes you question how it effects your environment?

Calling an artist entitled because rich people got mad... is really hypocritical wouldn't you say?

Oh, and for the record... other than the barrels and the base of the floating structure.. all the rest of the materials (walls etc) were bought brand new, made with new hardware by hand by Felix who is an architecture graduate. And the roof was made by an up-and-coming furniture design student who specializes in the reuse of materials that are mass-produced and carelessly discarded by society. If this article listed their resumes, would it effect the way you look at it? If David Suzuki gave it his officially stamp of approval, would you like it then? Of course you would, because people who are so concerned with "aesthetics" usually are concerned about their public image... and wouldn't want to have David Suzuki call them an asshole.

Projects like these, projects that think "out of the box" and come up with alternative ways to re-use and recycle "trash"... are projects that will ultimately benefit all of us in the future when we have no room for our "trash" anymore, when we're so over-populated we run out of housing... and not to mention when we finally deplete our resource of oil from this earth... you wouldn't be able to get enough fuel for that yacht to boat away from all the garbage and human waste that will be all around you.

Personally, I think any artwork that makes people upset, uncomfortable, makes people question their lifestyle/reality IS ART totally validated. The impressionists did it, during the time of the mechanical revolution, and were at the time disregarded by other artists, collectors, institutions and "rich people" accusing them of painting "garbage". Now, look at impressionism. I wouldn't be surprised if the Yacht Club and it's members have a Monet "Lillies" hanging over their couch.

Felix / October 24, 2012 at 08:50 pm
Just for the record I paid out of pocket for the towing and docking fees, I was not expecting free mooring. And as for the aesthetic element, the cube itself is just a utilitarian vessel built to withstand the elements, hence the siding, a cheap alternative because this was funded by myself and a limited fundraising campaign. The art was what happened inside as I mentioned earlier. And for those who think it was shoddy, it survived two trips across the Toronto Harbour in sizable waves without a hitch. :) Thanks for all the support!
Nali Snibor / October 25, 2012 at 01:15 am
Judging by the comments people who respond to blogto are very narrow-minded and quick to assume that the art piece is junk based on a photo of the outside of it. Shouldn't artists and their art be welcome anywhere in Toronto not just being tolerated in "most of downtown". Guess I'm not from Toronto so I don't have a hateon for anything different.
Vince Vining / October 25, 2012 at 02:44 am
Well, Toronto, you had your chance, but you decided to judge this book by it's cover, get inexplicibly disgusted by the idea of something new, and have it removed. Now you'll never get to enjoy something that makes you feel something different than you are supposed to feel on any old day, or even in any old art gallery. If you actually bothered to check this place out for one of it's exhibitions, like it's debut at New Traditions, you may have felt something, oh I don't know, human? Phew! Dodged that bullet!

It's in a better place now away from the fearful burocracy of every square millimetre of this city, at Don Miller's farm. Maybe you'll actually have a chance to finally check it out this summer for Don Blanche art festival? It's free, hospitible, and everyone is really nice and inviting. Oh wait, I forgot, you hate that stuff. Stay home, trolls.
Vince Vining / October 25, 2012 at 02:47 am
I spelled Bureaucracy and Hospitable wrong.
Other Cities: Montreal