Published Date: Apr. 27 2022
Image: Full view, photo credit: Loraine Luong, 2022
Pool Lane (La vélocité de l’eau, 2016) is a sculpture located at the entrance of the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre, a sports facility that many Torontonians have enjoyed regardless of the weather throughout the year. Co-owned by the City of Toronto and the University of Toronto Scarborough, the centre is often selected as the host site for various swimming events for its excellent aquatic facilities.
Pool Lane was envisioned by the Quebec City art collective BGL, founded by artist trio Jasmin Bilodeau, Sébastien Giguère, and Nicolas Laverdière in 1996. Although the trio put an end to the collective in the summer of 2021, their work continues to stand for playful and site-specific public art. The overall structure resembles a distorted swimming pool lane with bright yellow and red lane markers. The curve is organic, following the pattern of a wave or a splash in the water. Set against the straight lines of the building, the sculpture appears lively just as its original French name suggests, the velocity of water.
Pool Lane is a rare piece of artwork that successfully balances the concept of artificiality and naturalness. Its structure resonates with a man-made swimming pool while the additional effects remind its audience of the ocean. Walking underneath the sculpture, a view above includes a sky that is finely sliced by lines of metal squares. Geometry collaborates with colour contrast responding to the natural environment. With the intermittent wind, the metal squares shake and make a gentle sound while the light and shadow create wave-like effects, mimicking the ripples in an actual pool lane.
For any large-scale artwork, maintenance is an important issue to be addressed. In Pool Lane’s case, some metal scales have fallen off and the fading blue colours are not as bright as when initially installed. Although the change in colour bears witness to the effect that time has left on the work, the reduction in colour contrast takes away from its original visual impact. It is common for public artworks to experience the cycle of construction, decomposition, and restoration. One example is Mark di Suvero’s No Shoes, originally built in 1967 for the International Sculpture Symposium in celebration of the Canadian Confederation Centenary. The artwork was left to decompose in High Park after the symposium only to be restored and relocated to Corktown Common in 2012. Looking beyond those vacant, collapsed squares, I wonder whether this cycle could be avoided and what Pool Lane’s future holds.