Transitions in Progress: Making Space for Place is a bike-powered mobile lab, the TiP lab, an online archive, and an exhibition, engaging with the city’s structure and its multiple protagonists through an in vivo, bottom-up approach. Drawing on Toronto’s socio-historical, natural and urban transformations, this project explores the city through the relationships between human and non-human, official history and personal memories, traditional mapping and collective cartographies, by collecting real time testimonies from its very residents. By interpreting the city as a dynamic ecosystem, Transitions in Progress aims to evoke the affective geographies that permeate the city, and to unveil its ecological and naturecultur(al) complexity, rather than mimicking its defined and immanent economy. Its goal is not to not to generate more data, but to call attention to the many layers and the stories that those data often hide under a patina of rhetoric, formality, and scientific accuracy.
Transitions in Progress: Making Space for Place is part of an international artist collaboration titled Performigrations: People Are the Territory, which explores issues of mobility and migration, featuring seven artists and arts collectives in seven cities across Europe and Canada (Bologna, Lisbon, Klagenfurt, Athens, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver). Transitions in Progress will constitute the sixth instalment of this international project and is scheduled to take place between September and October 2015 in different locations along the Queen Street corridor (September 1-5) and in the Paul H. Cocker Architecture Gallery at Ryerson University (October 19-24).
TiP (Transitions in Progress) is conceived as a three-pronged project: a mobile media lab, a gallery installation, and an online archive.
1) On September 1-5, the TiP Lab will travel along Queen Street, stopping specifically at the Parkdale Ampitheatre, Trinity Belwoods Park, the north-west corner of Church and Queen Street East, and the Lower Don River Trail below the bridge on Queen Street East. The TiP lab is conceived as a multipurpose mobile station, which can quickly be attached to a bike for easy travel (see supporting material # 1-2). In each location we will engage with passers-by and with the local community. We will encourage people to offer their own memories and experience of the neighbourhood via interactive exchanges that will prompt them to engage with the natural, architectural and political histories of their immediate surroundings. The TiP lab will contain a display case and three mini “memory engines” (see supporting material # 3-4). The display case will contain found objects from the neighbourhood – such objects could range from symbols of corporate homogenization and gentrification, such as a Starbucks cup, to very local and very characteristic artefacts, such as food items or heirlooms specific to the communities that live in the neighbourhood. The “memory engines” consist of three immersive wearables, which will enable users to view the history of the neighbourhood via an Augmented Reality (AR) application, and to record their personal memories via a mounted sound recording device attached to the wearable itself. Individuals and members of the community will be invited to actively participate by becoming the “urban curators” of the TiP (Transitions in Progress) Museum, which will be displayed in the gallery installation in October. Participants will be asked to add descriptions and captions to the objects on display and/or to bring a small object themselves. We are hoping that this playful invitation will initiate conversations about the different impact that corporate and informal networks of global consumption and exchange have on the lived experiences of trans-locality in the city. In addition, by engaging with people in situ, and asking them to view and record their own histories of the neighbourhood via the “memory engines,” the mobile lab will both disseminate and collect –public and personal—memories and current stories about the neighbourhoods and their transformation.
2) The TiP Museum in the Paul H. Coker Architecture Gallery at Ryerson University will display a video documentation of the interactions occurred during the mobile lab itineraries. As well, it will display the material collected and ordered by the urban curators, becoming thus a repository of all the experiential material, the stories, and the performative expressions emerging from the passage of the mobile lab across different neighbourhoods. We plan to invite and credit the urban curators to the gallery installation itself. In addition, we want the installation to become an occasion for further conversations with the gallery visitors, who may have a very different sense and perception of the neighborhoods explored via the mobile lab.
3) The TiP Website (initiated in May 2014, see supporting material #5) is complementary to the installation. In addition to collecting ongoing research material pertaining to the four locations where the mobile lab will stop, this online archive will provide supporting material for communities and gallery visitors, featuring research and projects that artists and activists have done to uncover the hidden stories of these neighbourhoods. The three components are meant to build a stratified, living and constantly evolving map of the city as a space of unevenly valorized and yet constantly happening affective interactions, whose simultaneously local and transnational dimensions will help surface and honour imperceptible and frequently difficult histories of how people make “space out of place” — that is, how they manage to turn a street corner, a park or a neighborhood into something friendly and familiar, a space one can call “home.”
We have chosen four densely symbolic areas that have been subject to countless urban, natural and human reshaping, whose changes have been unevenly acknowledged – if not utterly neglected – in the city’s public consciousness. This includes different migration flows in and out of the neighbourhoods, and plans for revitalization, gentrification, and commercialization. Publicity and rhetoric have offered accepted narratives about these neighbourhoods, leaving behind many blind spots. The areas surrounding the Parkdale Amphitheatre, Trinity Belwoods Park and CAMH, the corner of Church and Queen Street East, and the Don Valley viaduct encapsulate and subtly reveal a much richer diversity and many more layers than the official narratives can call to mind, as both the people who live there and those who traverse these neighboughoods for purposes of work or entertainment constantly cross each other’s paths, contributing divergent perceptions of the spaces themselves.
Through its mobile lab exchanges, the gallery installation and the website, Transitions in Progress (TiP) draws attention in particular to four dimensions of the urban environment that intersect and affect to different degrees the lives of city dwellers: the historical, the socio-cultural, the architectural and the hydrogeological dimensions. In addition, the TiP Lab, the TiP Museum and the Tip Website seek to enable the participation of two types of public that seldom meet in the same place: individuals immersed in their everyday life, and a public accustomed to detached gallery viewing. While the mobile lab encourages participants to ask questions, comment on, and share their personal experience of the city as a space of settlement and displacement, home-making and home-leaving, the gallery installation and the website, insofar as they provide evolving archives for the materials and stories recorded in the mobile lab, aim to offer a set of more complex mappings of the submersed dynamics that make up neighbourhoods, beyond the idealized and simplified iconic traits within which the local BIAs (Business Improvement Associations) squeeze them.
In general, the goal is to create a multimedia and evolving representation of the city grounded in, and enhanced by, multi-sensory experiences. In this way we seek to evoke the affective geographies that inform the city, thus enabling participants to learn, remember and contribute to building shared memories of the layers of city life that have accumulated over time, some times grating against one another in ways that have yet to be recorded and honoured. In this way TiP offers a renewed perception and appreciation for the urban environment as a whole.