Mar 21

Jill Anholt TransitStory - Calgary Public Art

by Downtown Calgary · 1 comment

There is an old joke by legendary comedian Louis CK that puts a funny spin on an everyday occurrence:

“Have you ever seen someone you didn’t know… again?”

Of course, Louis CK is talking about one of the many commuters he shares the New York Subway system with everyday. He surmises that the sheer number of people in NYC should ensure you will never have to see the same stranger twice. As we go about our day-to-day lives, our story lines brush shoulders with those that are completely unrelated. Whether we realize it or not, these stories have an impact on the people and environment around us, no person an island.

You may not notice the redhead on the bus that wishes you’d talk to them, stealing glances as you wait for your stop. You may not notice that the gum you spit out one morning missed the garbage can, and went on an eight-month journey on the bottom of someone’s shoe that landed it in a garbage can in Dubai. Every little action, and every fleeting moment contains a story, whether we like it or not. The banality of a C-train ride downtown might be roused into the plot of a star-studded movie if a commuter only paid enough attention.

Some of Downtown Calgary’s newest public art touches on this concept. TransitStory showcases 30 steel sculptures artfully sandblasted and painted. Installed on the Centre Street C-train platform, the sculptures resemble steel shadows of commuters that have been frozen in time.

“The artwork evokes the ephemeral presence and memory of past travelers” says Artist Jill Anholt, a former Calgarian whose site-specific sculptures investigates the qualities of movement, light and materials. Through the most casual of glances, these qualities are drawn to the forefront of the sculptures. Walking past the sculptures, you will see the forms change as your perspective changes. From orange to blue, the colours change as the viewer passes by, the materials and the movement of the viewers play with the light and the sculptures appear different from each angle.

This dynamic mimics the city around it, Calgary is a booming oil-hub for some, a burgeoning artistic community to others, and the heart of an agricultural centre to more. The artist hopes to intrigue passers-by, to rouse them out of their sleepy commutes and explore the art and the city that surrounds it. It’s hoped that it will inspire the people of Calgary to continue writing their story, no matter how insignificant they think it is. After all, we should all know by now how a confluence of small and seemingly insignificant details can amount to something extraordinary.

Looking straight on, the sculptures all but disappear

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