Friday, October 5, 2012

Recent Things and Where Will I Live Once Toronto Is a City Full of Glass Towers That Cost A Million Dollars

Hello there friends, I am here with an update and also a rant,

The Sappyfest Zine fair was pretty fun dudes! I sat across from Chris Foster (this guy is the best guy) and my friend Jesjit (another good guy) who runs Colour Code printing. Everyone was really friendly, I made some nice trades and sold some work and even missed Calvin Johnson because I was having such a great time. Here's me! Vince took this.

Oh yeah and here's another picture he took of me at the OCAD zine fair which I forgot to publish.

Thanks Vince!

My time out east was pretty special. Its a funny thing, I used to travel a lot and it's slowed down since I moved to Toronto (probably because I don't live with my mom in Ottawa anymore). I get a pretty strong urge when I go new places to start thinking about the possibility of living somewhere different. I used to say that I was completely satisfied in Toronto, and though I still think that's true, the city has been going through a lot of changes lately. There's been much talk about how hospitable (read: affordable) this place will continue to be for artists. (And it's standing on thin ice as is)

Lets talk about where I live for a second. Here:

If you are my friend or an artist in Toronto then I'm sure you are more than familiar with the Niagara St studios, aka The Coffin Factory. I'm fortunate enough to be living in a large live-work studio in a very central location (but, as it stands I have to live with four other people to make it affordable, which I'm not complaining about). My building is on the way to being converted into condominiums, they will be building two towers in the back to pay for the renovation of the inside of the building that I currently live in, which is a hundred and twenty year old factory. Here are the offical plans:

 During a public meeting about the proposal for redevelopment, my neighbour asked probably the most relevant question (as a tenant) you could possibly ask to Alan, the owner of the property: "Do you think any of us will be able to afford the new units?"

Alan's response was "Well, I don't see why not."

I think that was a pretty honest answer to the question, but it points out a larger problem, which is that the people who are responsible for new residential and commercial studios and artist spaces, have no concept of how little money the average young emerging artist or musician actually makes. Everyone I know is in debt, everyone I know has to work a full time job to be able to afford the standard 600-700 dollars a month rent (that is getting harder and harder to find in this city as it is). Friends and peers of mine who are even more successful have a corresponding deficit (aka the people I know who are recognized the most in the art world have the least money and most debt). I know I am making some generalizations, but you get the picture. The point is, we cannot afford the new units.

David Mirvish and Frank Gehry are in the process of planning 3 supertowers in the west downtown king street area (a ten minute walk from where I live). Over eighty stories high, these towers will comprise of commercial and residential units, including a gallery for Mirvish's personal collection of abstract art, and a new OCAD gallery. The project is ambitious, the buildings are beautiful and almost terrifying to look at (they are going to be SO TALL), and they are probably going to redefine the skyline of Toronto or something like that. Great, new art spaces, great, Gehry is a famous architect and he will pretty up the city with his nice steel towers, but the point is, we cannot afford these new units.

King and Bathurst, Photo By Brendan Ko

The condos and cranes, from various points around our building, All photos by Brendan Ko.
I look out my bedroom window every day and see cranes. If I go for a bike ride east or west of my building I will almost definitely run into not one, but several condos under construction that did not exist a few months ago. MOCCA is getting kicked out out of their queen west location in 2014 for, guess what? Condos, probably for people who want to live in the 'hip, arty neighborhood' of the west end.

I get how gentrification works, guys, but what if we lived in a world where art spaces remained affordable? Oh well, see you in Hamilton in a few years? Just wait 'till they extend the go train line.

I love Toronto, I really do. I have never once regretted my decision to move here, and I become defensive when either people who live here complain about it, or people who don't make fun of it. It's a fucking awesome city full of great music, food, art, and independent business. It's huge and exciting and although sometimes people can be stuck up, you can create whatever world you desire and surround yourself with like minded peers and a supportive community. It's safe and fun and I like it and I always have. But even' I've become skeptical this past summer. When I go on the roof of my building and see the fort of cheaply made glass condo towers I wonder if maybe it's time to jump ship, because I don't know if this city that I love is going to be the same place in the next five years. I'll be travelling a lot more hopefully and scoping out new possibilities. I would love to stay in Toronto, but when I am physically being enclosed every day by this false lifestyle utopia, I feel as though me and all of my friends are literally being squeezed out.

Or maybe I just need to move away from King West?

Ok so whatever speaking of HAMILTON I did an art project there with En Masse in September at the design annex.

Myself and several other artists made these on large, blob-like pieces of primed birch wood.

Also, I did a mural project with them behind El Gordos in Kensington Market. Here's a photo of me and my good pals Alex Mackenzie and Nic Robins.

And, if you are interested, here is an opinion piece/rant about the demise of artist squats in Berlin by my friend and roommate Vanessa Reiger. I understand that this happens in all major cities, especially ones with thriving art communities. I suppose it's almost a backhanded compliment, kind of an 'hey we like what you're doing, lets make some money off it'. Vice did a historical breakdown of Tacheles and it's pretty informative. My neighbour Wilson (who I have yet to meet personally) is taking portraits and profiles of people who live and work in my building too. Change and so-called 'progess' is inevitable, I get it, but at least there are people out there documenting the history of these spaces. After the public meeting I attended, I couldn't help but see myself in ten years, walking down Niagara, looking at my building and remembering what it used to be like (and I haven't even lived there that long). It made me feel pretty bummed, dudes, being in the present and already seeing it as a past that can never be recovered.

Ok that's it! It's my brithday in 3 weeks! Also, what should I be for halloween? Vince suggested this (not idaho).



Alexandra J Auger said...

Yes yes yes yes yes.

And I feel the same way about really liking Toronto and always, always defending it, usually to people who have been living here their entire lives. I think it's a place I will come back forever but it's becoming sadly clear that I won't be able to stay here while I'm repaying debts and 'figuring things out'. Didn't know that about MOCCA though, wtf?!

ana omega said...

I've been to these studios - they're amazing and it'll sad to see then go. And you know, I wouldn't care about all the rich people moving into "our" neighbourhoods, and I wouldn't even care about their shitty taste and ugly buildings, if they ever used their money to support the people who made those neighbourhoods cool in the first place. Unfortunately trickle down economics is a load of feel-good baloney.

Hamilton IS pretty cool though.