LightSpell TTC installation

The TTC still won't turn on $2 million art installation

The TTC is remaining firm in its decision to leave a controversial art installation – one that's already been paid for – in the dark at Toronto's new Pioneer Village Station.

At least, until someone can figure out a way to prevent hate speech without drawing comparisons to North Korea for censorship.

This is what came out of yesterday's TTC Board meeting in relation to LightSpell, a gigantic, interactive, public message board of sorts by the German artist collective realities:united.

That, and the fact that this dormant installation was about $1.5 million more expensive than initially reported by the transit agency. Oops.

LightSpell, approved by the City of Toronto and TTC Board over five years ago as part of the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension, was widely believed to have cost about $500,000... until yesterday's board meeting.

A report for action from the meeting pegged the actual cost of designing and constructing the work at approximately $1.9 million – roughly $200,000 of which was paid to artists Jan and Tim Edler.

The artists have been vocal in opposing the TTC's decision not to activate their work, as have many citizens and advocates for freedom of expression.

"As a publicly commissioned work it certainly enjoys protections under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, both in its concept and in content," reads a letter to TTC officials from the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression regarding LightSpell.

"There are innumerous positive sentiments which can be expressed in 8 characters," it continues "The 'risk of hate speech' should never be cited as the sole reason to limit access to expression in public."

Still, on the advice of its lawyers, the TTC board has elected not to activate LightSpell until "mitigation features can be added to limit the potential for misuse."

"The current installation allows customers on the subway platform to type in any eight character message," reads a report from the TTC's legal counsel in regards to Thursday's board meeting.

"There is a significant risk that the system could be misused to include hate messages or messages that target and/or discriminate against a specific individual or group of people."

The lawyers set out some recommendations for further action, but those recommendations are at this point confidential thanks to client-solicitor privilege.

Lead photo by

Marcanadian


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