nuit blanche 2022

Massive structure made of picnic tables is being built under a Toronto highway

A massive storage chamber under the Gardiner Expressway will soon transform into an art installation made of picnic tables, and Toronto residents will be able to see it for free. 

Called Confluence, the installation is inspired by the water systems that have shaped Toronto and "invites visitors to flow through an engrossing convergence of natural and human-made forces."

Created by Maine-based duo Striped Canary (Stephen B. Nguyen and Wade Kavanaugh), the artists use the picnic table — a familiar fixture in parks throughout the city — to create a twirling, cascading sculpture that evokes Toronto's lost rivers. 

"One of the ways we connect with our audiences is with a shared way of seeing," says Striped Canary of the piece.

"Confluence adopts the vernacular of public space to create an immersive environment that is at once familiar and foreign. The work will use a form that is highly recognizable - the picnic table - to give shape to an invisible natural phenomena, that of the waterways that have flowed beneath Toronto."

The exhibition is constructed using standard 2x4 lumber, turning the picnic tables into "waves" that dive in and out of the concrete architecture of the Gardiner.

Once the exhibition ends, the wood will be disassembled and distributed to designated community organizations for repurposing. 

"Toronto's waterways charted important walking trails and gathering places for Indigenous peoples (including the Mississaugas of the Credit, Anishnabeg, Chippewa, Haudenosaunee and Wendat peoples) across millennia," reads a statement about the installation. 

"Since colonization, many of the city's rivers and creeks have been buried underground or rerouted to carry sewage and stormwater, demonstrating how essential resources can be irreparably altered by urban development."

When visiting the installation, residents will also hear sound work created by Toronto artist Anne Bourne.

The installation, which is is the result of a partnership between The Bentway and Exhibition Place, will run from Oct. 1 to 30, making its debut on the night of Nuit Blanche.

While the exibition is pay-what-you-can with a suggested donation of $5 and no minimum contribution, tickets are still required and can be reserved online

Lead photo by

Sam Forgie

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