When residents of a Northwest Saskatoon neighbourhood heard their street was slated to receive its own piece of public art, many were ecstatic. But when the big reveal finally came last November, the piece was greeted with overwhelming confusion. The result of the city’s $4300 investment, titled Found Compressions One and Two, was literally two bundles of shrink-wrapped garbage.
The most extreme reaction came from Saskatoon resident Luke Coupal, who took it upon himself earlier this month to cover up the “offensive” installation. After tying a black tarp to the piece, Coupal attached a note explaining his outrage. “Our tax dollars are for keeping garbage OFF the streets,” the sign read. “Please help us keep our neighbourhood clean.”
While many critics of the piece were concerned that Found Compressions was not achieving the city’s goals of “beautifying the city,” first-time public artist Keeley Haftner says that wasn’t her intention.
“The question of beauty has been brought up a lot in this debate, which is a really provocative and sometimes problematic conversation,” she told CBC Saskatoon. “I don’t think all work that is made in a public setting should necessarily be made with the mandate of making a space more beautiful.”
The Saskatoon controversy comes on the heels of another public art squabble in Vancouver, where that city’s Mount Pleasant neighbourhood became home to a $100,000, seven-foot tall, porcelain poodle. The statue inspired a satirical Twitter account on which the “Main Street Poodle” could air his thoughts, such as “Tried to get into @FanExpoVan as an albino wookie. No luck.”
The Main Street Poodle remains uncovered, and objections to it seem to have died down. Maybe Found Compressions needs its own tribute twitter feed. Hashtag: HeyAtLeastYouCanSitOnMe.
– Drew McLachlan