Friday, August 6, 2010

A Yarn-Bombed Tree and Unexpected Street Art

Yesterday in Toronto's Trinity Bellwoods Park I came across this tree at the Queen St edge that had been yarn-bombed, a kind of graffiti using yarn instead of spray paint. It reminded me of those spinning tops with the pen fastened at the tip that create a kind of geometrical drawing as it spins, except this one is full of linear lines.

I also liked how it took the natural chaos of the tree and imposed something grid-like and orderly.

I sat near the tree for awhile and watched as people walking by stopped and stared at it for a second before passing. It turned the tree, briefly, into an event, a kind of temporary sculpture in the park.

This is the thing I like most about street art as opposed to art you might find when you are walking through a gallery or museum: there is a surprise factor involved with street art. When you're in an art gallery you are expecting to see capital-A Art, but not so when strolling a park or walking the streets. Street art kind of comes out of nowhere, or so it seems, and that is part of its greatness, its ability to be truly eye-catching and thought-provoking simply because we aren't expecting it.

Another aspect of street art that I love is that it is often anonymous and ephemeral. Not only do I have no idea who wrapped the yarn around the tree, but I have no idea how long it will be up there before it is removed, which gives me a greater sense of appreciation for having stumbled upon it when I did. I suppose when the notorious Banksy visited Toronto a few weeks ago, the people that found his art on the street had a similar feeling of surprise and fleetingness (much of the work was erased or defaced soon afterwards).

Finally, I love street art because it re-imagines street surfaces and parts of the city in a totally different way than we are used to experiencing them. The tree turns into a giant crotchet project; the alley wall is a canvass; a stop sign a chance for a statement; a dumpster a vehicle for a declaration of love; and, as I saw once in Vancouver, a mattress left in an alley used as a farewell.

It's a contentious issue as many of the surfaces used are private, but when thrown up on alley walls or unused surfaces and objects it can be thrilling. In a time when much of what we see in our city streets is corporate, paid-for advertising, it's refreshing to come across something truly novel and there for no other purpose than to be looked at, like a tree covered in yarn in a park.

1 comment:

  1. It's nice to see yarn bombing move past making a single point (ie: hey look, it's knitted and it's on a tree or whatever!) This one expresses a little something more. You're right, it looks like a 3D spirograph. It also reminds me of a spider web. You should check in on it in a couple of months when it's caught all the leaves above it!