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Photo by Mariah Wilson

Calgary installs new $1.2-million invisible public art piece

By Devin Aggarwal, September 21 2017 —

Calgary city council came under fire again this week after revealing a new piece of public art purchased for the downtown core. The project, conceptualized by Moldovan new-age artist Clara Fischer and titled “Winter in Prairie,” cost the city 1.2 million. It is completely invisible.

“The sculpture embodies the emptiness and loneliness of life on the plains of Alberta,” Fischer said, motioning towards an empty space over a mound of dirt. “I really tried to draw my inspiration from first-hand accounts of the daily struggle to survive on flat land devoid of resources. I think this piece accomplished that.”

She describes her installation as “spirited, free and thought-provoking, yet subtle and refined,” so as not to alter the feel of the surrounding community too drastically.

When asked to respond to the sculpture, Mayor Naheed Nenshi told reporters that he would reserve judgement until he saw it in person and was able to appreciate how it contributed to the atmosphere of the core.

“We specifically choose pieces that we know will make Calgarians as angry as possible,” he said. “They have short attention spans though, and will move on to being exceptionally angry about something else soon.”

However, it may be difficult for Calgarians to take a good look at “Winter on the Prairie.” The sculpture, located at Stephen Ave. and Centre St.  in front of La Clair Bistro, lacks any physical existence.  

“It was nice for the first day or so,” La Clair Bistro owner Jacob Glass said.  “Curious people came from all over downtown to see it and stopped by my café to grab a bite to eat.  Then, once people realized it was impossible to see, they got angry.  The city had to put up huge metal barriers around the empty spot where the sculpture is to protect it from the mob.”

Ward 15 City Councillor Bob Binkerson is defending the installation.

“Although I’m tired of defending the public art policy in Calgary and agree it needs to be changed, I don’t see at all what the fuss is about this particular installation,” he said.

He went on to argue that the sculpture brings a valuable piece of Alberta’s history to the public while still blending nicely with the area’s general atmosphere

As public art remains a controversial topic within Calgary, several city council candidates are campaigning on a “low-cost/no-cost public art” platform ahead of next month’s election.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous,” said Bill Leblanc, one of the candidates. “We should never be spending this much money on something that should be made by the public for the public.  The real solution is to find some poor, starving art student, give them the location and general size of the art and tell them they’ll get extra credit and a $5 Starbucks gift card for making something. It really would be a win-win situation.”

This article is part of our humour section.

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