Monday, June 27, 2016


It sits on Toronto's waterfront like something from out of another time. A massive building, entirely pragmatic, at first glance featureless, like something from Soviet era Russia. This is not the pretty part of the waterfront where tourists stroll the quays and sight seeing boats criss cross the inner harbour. Down here at the foot of Carlaw Street, this is the Toronto of old, when the waterfront was the home to industry, the Portlands, where immense piles of salt are shrouded in rubber, like old men in rain coats talking about other days while drinking vodka and squinting against the setting sun

This the Hearn, a building that opened as a power generating plant in 1953. At one time this was one of the largest buildings in North America. You could take the Statue of Liberty and lay it down inside the structure. It was coal burning back then, later converted to natural gas but it was always just a machine, and despite a couple of Art Deco touches at the entrance, this place was never designed to influence art.

And yet, it has

Luminato is an art festival that this year, celebrated its tenth anniversary. They wanted to do something special to further that celebration and indeed they have. They opened up the Hearn, this functional machine and not only did they make it a place that hosted art they have, in a way, made it into art itself

It was no easy undertaking. The Hearn, still owned by the Ontario government, has been vacated since 1983. Some "urban explorers" and photographers over the years have ventured into the Hearn, sending back pictures of vast huge galleries defined by arches that seemed to have a Mayan influence, and huge spaces, now empty of their machinery, guarded by girders stretching up hundreds of feet

The place was not safe. Bare dirt floors and broken windows and darkness that concealed sharp angles and steel shards, cables and wires coiled underfoot and pools of water that were still and glossy as ancient black glass

The people at Luninato did a hell of a job, building walkways, installing an elevator, creating theatres and lounges and even a restaurant. They had to pour cement down on the main floor to provide people with safe passage.

It's an interesting concept, converting this entirely prosaic building into a place for art and music and theatre. They staged plays here, and concerts and discussions about the nature of art. There were art installations of course, and they went the way that these kinds of installations go, sometimes interesting, oft times just ... odd

One of the more successful installations was Trove, a series of images painted onto the walls of the Hearn's upper gallery, reflecting the location, the neighbourhood and the history of the area as it moved from industry to re-gentrification

Then, there was the disco ball. Yup, a mirror disco ball. A huge one, suspended from the Hearn's ceiling. And revolving. Well, of course revolving, what kind of disco ball does not spin. When I first saw it the first thought was "How the hell did they get that thing up there" and the second thought simply was "Why"

But as the thing spun, its reflections moved across the vast spaces of the Hearn. Whimsical shapes, organic, flowed across the girders and arches and walls, as if they were alive, aquatic shapes you could say, moving silently, slowly, chimerical lights floating in a place that had never been intended to host such whimsy

That was the beauty of the whole thing, the Hearn became its own work of art, it was transformed by the art that had been installed within it. It was pretty amazing experience, to walk in this place where we had never been intended to walk, to view the art that should never have been placed here, to experience something that had been abandoned, become something alive

There was also something alive just outside the Hearn. In a tiny clearing surrounded by waist high weeds, behind a chain link fence, a human figure reposed on a bench. Not a human of course but a sculpture, rather Greek in its proportions and attitude. What was not Greek was the statue's head. A bee hive. With real bees surrounding it. Another example of combining something organic with something artifical

The song that I chose for my video is Conquest of Spaces by Yoann Lemoine who records music under the name Woodkid. In part, the song says "Beyond the laws of density, Towers of glass and steel, Temples and fragments of memories, Drifting away from me" Very appropriate. And more art, in a place where art was never meant to be.

Conquest of Spaces: Luminato Festival 2016 from Victor Kellar on Vimeo.

Friday, June 10, 2016


Dear Ms Wynne

I am writing to you as life long resident of the province of Ontario. My wife and I, both in our 50's, have lived here our entire lives, as have both our families. We were raised here, met here, established careers here, paid our taxes, bought goods and services and contributed to the fabric of the province

My wife has worked for a public school board in Ontario for over thirty years

In the last couple of years, as we've gotten older, we have permitted ourselves some small luxuries and have tried to pursue our dreams. Recently we bought our first dishwasher, a small thing perhaps, but something that we put off for years. A little luxury, rewarding ourselves for years of saving and working. We also moved into a house with central air conditioning, another luxury to be enjoyed as we have gotten older and to make our house comfortable for our two dogs, one of whom is senior and has trouble in the heat

Five years ago we bought the second new car in our lives. The monthly payments were high but this was another luxury we permitted ourselves and we looked forward to when the payments stopped and we could turn that money to other pursuits

Three years ago I pursued a dream, a dream of working with dogs, I gave up a small freelancing business in order to pursue this dream. Part of this job requires me to drive every day, picking up the dogs and taking them to a private outdoor play area. I knew that gas for the car would be an expense of this job but I factored that in to my operating costs, factored in the fluctuating gas market

But now, gas will be going up another few cents a litre irregardless of the free market. And the Hydro expenses for our house have increased dramatically, and I understand that more increases will be coming

Our Hydro rate has increased so much that the "free" money we gained when our car payments stopped, is now going to pay off that bill. After years of planning on how we would use that money to better our lives it will now be used just to pay a bill.

Our dishwasher, that little luxury we afforded ourselves, is now sitting in a corner unused. I can't afford to run it. We barely use our central air system, even when it is very hot, because we can't afford to run it. We worry about our senior dog who must be left at home when I go out to work.

As for that work, I despair for that. The coming increase in gas prices will dramatically affect my business. Frankly, I may not be able to afford continuing to do this job. This job that I love. My dream job.

What are our alternatives here. As our Hydro bill currently sits around six hundred dollars a month and more increases to come, how will we continue. We have stopped using the dishwasher, we virtually live in the dark, we have most of our devices turned off, I no longer use the microwave.

Are we to leave the province? The place where we both raised, where are families were raised, where all our families and friends live; shall we leave all that behind; shall my wife, who has worked as a public educator for decades leave her school and her students behind and shall we, people in their 50's, move to a strange place and try to start all over, simply because we can no longer pay our bills?

I understand that your government has put these measure in place in an effort to curtail global warming, reduce carbon emissions and help the environment. Noble aims. An aim to improve our world

But when measures deny you luxuries for which you have worked long and hard and perhaps force you to give up dreams, these measure do not feel like improvements, they feel like punishment

Ms Wynn what are we do? Why are we being punished? Why were we not, along with all the other people of Ontario, given an opportunity to consult and comment on these measures? This province is or home. My home. And my home is becoming a place that seems determined to deny me my dreams, deny me the quality of life for which I have worked so hard

The environment is an important cause. But I am not a cause. I am a human being. For all my life I have paid the taxes, I have followed the agenda of governments, I have been a contributing citizen of this province

Now my life has changed. As hard as we work we will have to work even harder, just to get back to the point we had finally reached after all these years

Ms Wynne when you write legislation think about us. Think about two people, children of this province, a part of this province, think of us and our lives and our dreams. Don't just think about numbers and stats and a future, think about our future, about my future and what it is becoming. It is becoming something very different now and I don't really know why


Monday, June 6, 2016


Stop it. Please stop it. Just don't do it. You don't have to do it, so don't do it. Hang it up, put it away, set it to vibrate, close the screen and look me in the eyes

After all, we're having a conversation. About nothing. About everything. No agenda. No focus. One of those conversations. Just you and me or just all of us. Chatting. Just shooting the shit. We don't need assistance to do this, we are humans, we've been shooting the shit our whole lives.

The conversation can be formless, driven by our need to connect to each other, not by some agenda.

"How are you, how's work, what are you studying now, how's your other, did you ever figure out what that sludge is in the bottom of your fridge you know the stuff we now call Bob"

Conversations should be organic, not augmented. There are times when a conversation needs facts and figures and objective perspectives. But not now. Let's just relax around this coffee, this beer, this glass of wine, watch the sunset, listen to the music, watch the road roll by

We can be imperfect now. We can forget things and not quite remember things and Hell, what was the name of that show and you can say Oh yeh I know the one even though neither of us remembers its name. But we know what we mean. That's connection. Human connection

Let's keep it human. Let's keep the screen in our pocket. We don't need to light it up and swipe the screen and let our thumbs ago. We don't need information now. Sometimes we don't need to know, we just need to understand

That screen does  not really encourage understanding. It will give an answer but while you look for that answer or get distracted on the way to the answer the conversation has ceased to be organic. It's become less human

Now you are not looking me in the eyes, your eyes are down, your fingers are moving, your attention is elsewhere. Now you are having a conversation with me and you are having a conversation with the web. Two at once. Sure, you are good at multi tasking but why would you do that? Why would you suddenly talk to someone else why talking to me, someone else with whom I cannot properly engage

Please don't do that. Sometimes there is a need for that but not now. Let's not rely upon the data whipping around the world to inform and entertain. Let's rely upon each other. Just you and me. All of us. The ones gathered here, engaged, looking at each other

Eyes not screens. Let's do that.
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