Go as far back as you like in urban history – right to square-one if you want – there was always a square involved. I bet they even did temporary art installations at Sumer. Nuit blanche is an odd tradition in Toronto – a transplanted all-night art festival – which is a very cool concept in many ways. I’ve always loved night-walking, and it’s great any time people are encouraged to look at and think about their city in a new way.

That being said, cooler at night or not, I really wish the thing wasn’t staged in such a super-perishable way, so if you blink for those few hours that one night, you miss absolutely everything – and why the next-day tear-down has to be done so incredibly (and expensively) fast, and to thus utterly exclude those who might wish to partake of lovely meaningful aftermath photography, also continues to baffle me – at least wait until lunchtime – Sunday evening would be even better! Sunday strollers like art too! Have mercy!

I am invariably busy with something else, just when I ought to go check it out – but this year I was lucky enough at least to catch some of the setup for the part just in front of city hall, in a square that we use the name of so often in this city, that it made one of our cheesier mayors make establishing his very own (also constantly self-advertising) square, a major priority of his term in office.

The header photograph first, I figure it ought to be called –

Big box of kick-ass

Patria o muerte venceremos – Our country or death, we shall prevail

Comes from a revolutionary speech first delivered by Che Guevara at the UN and then repeated and embellished by Castro many times, over the years. Both supremely interesting characters worth discussing further. For today, an art observation I find fascinating. The incredibly famous (flag and T-shirt) graphic of Che we all know, was given away to the public domain by it’s photographer consciously, as a deliberate act at the time – to, in effect, help it become one of the very first spontaneously-viral graphical memes.

What it has meant since, has varied a lot depending on circumstance – but that the artist took that decision when young – and still does not regret the forgone royalties, because of the life and political effect of the image in the world, strikes me as worthy of celebration, all on it’s own.

Empire unpacked on the square

The Canada life (insurance) building isn’t precisely imperial – but it certainly projects authoritative grandeur – in front of it, mostly hidden, Osgoode Hall (old, very grand courts) – and in front of that? One gets the feeling that a bit of juxtapositional incitement at very least, was a part of the planned menu for the night to come. Squares have much important peoples-history. Again – very much worth discussing, now more than ever.

Framed aimer

Here’s one of a surprising number of statues within the oddly charming though brutalist (okay, I’ll name it), Nathan Phillips square – but I have to emphasize, I have yet to meet a single Torontonian who can name a single thing he ever did, other than getting the square named after himself.

More important by far is the sculpture framed by these de-paned and reframed containers – the archer. Despite early controversy, it was an important piece for it’s creator, Henry Moore and for the city – as an (architect-suggested) part of our ultra-modern city-hall, and ultimately became locally famous and beloved.  Moore liked the city so much, that when it came time for him to bequeath a major collection of his massive indoor sculptures, he chose our AGO – and the Moore gallery there is still one of my favourite rooms in the city – has been ever since I was a kid. It remains the largest public gallery of his sculpture in the world, though the park on his estate is an over-all bigger show. He even has a huge bronze beauty outside on the corner, which looks even nicer now, next to the new (Toronto-born) Frank Gehry facade – and which every parent who comes to the city finds absolutely irresistible, for perching their kid inside, in order to snap a photo.

(Hey, don’t look at me, as far as I was concerned when I was five, it was a climber – and a really good one, too!  Even back then, I just figured Moore really liked and understood kids)

And if by-chance you yet doubt that Moore was a mensch – how about this? The guy made a ton of money late in life, and yet lived frugally (within his own socialist principles) so that he could best endow a foundation that continues to actively fund arts education, three decades after his departure. Righteous legacy indeed, to cap a truly extraordinary arc of work. (More on Henry soon, promise)

Right back at ya

And here is a reverse-angle on that same early friendship-making sculpture – the archer. Behind it, you will see our old city hall. Incredibly, decades ago, there were several different modernist plans which seriously suggested demolishing it – in favour of a bigger shopping mall. Madness averted, phew!

And yes, I did goose the saturation on this one just a bit, thanks for noticing – but then, who doesn’t love a bit of hyperbole when it comes to verdigris and sandstone, hmm?

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