lightspell ttc

Controversial TTC light installation might be coming back to life

The story of Lightspell vs. The TTC continues this week with news that $1.9 million of city funds may not have gone to waste after all.

The TTC has come up with a solution that, if all goes well, should allow anyone to post their own giant message in lights on the ceiling at Pioneer Station — unless that message contains "words that could incite panic or cause harm to passengers."

As you may recall, the TTC suddenly and without warning decided not to activate the art installation described above back in December, just two days before opening up Pioneer Station and five others on the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension

The work, called Lightspell, had already been approved by the City of Toronto and TTC Board in 2009, but officials put the project on ice over concerns about hate speech and profanity — despite the fact that it had already been paid for in full.

What ensued was a widespread debate, led in large part by German artists Jan and Tim Edler of realities:united, about censorship, free speech and wasteful spending.

The installation has remained dormant ever since, awaiting a decision from the TTC board about what to do.

That decision came down during a meeting at City Hall on Tuesday, when board members approved a proposed solution that involves activating the work — but with four "mitigating measures."

"The TTC has had a number of conference calls with the artist to come to a consensus on the best means to manage any misuse of the artwork," reads a report that went before the TTC board today. 

"It was agreed that there is potential for misuse of the artwork by the public and that the public could be offended by particular content that might be posted."

Thus, the transit agency will be developing "terms of use" signage to be prominently displayed at Pioneer Station. Limits will also be placed on the times of day in which the installation is accessible to the public.

A list of words that either compromise public safety or contradict the laws of Canada will be prohibited from appearing, though the TTC can also immediately take down any content based on complaints from the public.

Messages that are removed will be reviewed by an independent, third party panel with experience dealing in Canadian free speech and hate speech laws.

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