October 24, 2008
By Elaine Wong
Today festival Éminence Grise Glenn Lewis performed the first portion of A Sweeping Statement down the streets of Toronto. Clad in a green jumpsuit with ‘HOPE Engineering’ cheerfully printed on the back, and armed with a dustbin, broom and his bright orange cap, Lewis walked amicably down the sidewalk, his garbage can bumping and rattling behind him. Pausing often to sweep up or grab trash castaways that caught his eye, he walked along Dundas and Queen Streets, weaving between pedestrians, cyclists and baby prams; reaching through fences; reflecting in storefronts and even momentarily passing under the gaze of stone angels outside a Catholic Church.
A bit surprising was the lack of garbage on the street—in fact, there were two others cleaning up the streets (a city worker and a community environmentalist) that we encountered on a walk that lasted less than two hours. I guess this is how Toronto is managing to keep clean!
Lewis hearkens this work to a previous action of his on the streets of Vancouver in 1969, marking out city blocks with blue surveyor’s tape. This appeal of negotiating urban spaces also exists in A Sweeping Statement. He admits that observing others on the street acts as a secret pleasure, finding it enjoyable when others are able to find ways around obstacles, around the powers that be, by “creating little areas of freedom within everyday life; little free gestures.”
Today’s documentation will be paired with its twin, to be gathered on Monday, and the two will be projected side-by-side as part of Lewis’s final presentation: an Abyssinian sanctuary inspired by “Scoop,” a short story by Evelyn Waugh. To be constructed at the Toronto Free Gallery, Lewis’s structure will be a lifelike model that reflects the sanctuary’s fascinating geometric architecture, and incorporating the trash that he has reappropriated/salvaged.
As a note, Lewis’s second walk will be held at 12 pm Monday October 27, moved due to unfavourable weather conditions. It will begin at Queen East and Dalhousie.