Philosopher’s Spiral Walk

I was invited to participate in the Environmental Studies Association of Canada’s Ninth Annual Conference taking place at the University of Toronto in May 2002. I was asked to create a site-specific work in response to the campus and was given an installation space inside Woodsworth College.

The U of T has a long history of being on its current site and has some interesting land elements within the campus. It isn’t a ‘closed campus’ it’s actually a series of buildings integrated and set throughout a downtown area. Philosopher’s Walk curves its way between Hoskin Avenue and Bloor Street and is only a few blocks from Woodsworth College. Taddle Creek once ran along the bottom of Philosopher’s Walk and there have been many attempts made by environmentalists to have it converted back to a creek from a sewer.

I walked along Philosopher’s Walk for a few days as well as through other sites on campus before deciding that it not only echoed the long hallway space I was working in, but also was an area that viewers could come to and forget that they were in a city at all. Over the course of a few walks, I gathered natural materials along the walkway and clippings from a variety of trees that line and shelter the pathway. 

I could leave no marks behind in the exhibitions space – no nails, glue, or tape. I had to take advantage of the large benches that were placed against the wall down the length of the hall. There was a space between the seat and wall that allowed nine individual strips of spruce to be slid between the wall and bench. A small clear water filled vial was attached to the top of each of the strips which held the clippings taken from the trees – lining the hallway with green, reminiscent of the actual walkway. Viewers were given the opportunity to study each tree clipping in a much more intimate manner than they could have at the site itself and were encouraged to take an even closer look with magnifying glasses.

The long line of tree clippings led the viewer to a large window at the end of the hallway. The window became the support for the actual spiral made of natural materials collected along the site. The spiral was made up of 72 small suction cups attached to the window with fishing line used to attach the natural materials to the cups. Each piece metamorphosed as it sat in the window: dandelions flowered and turned to seed while leaves changed colour. 

Viewers were given directions on how to find Philosopher’s Walk from Woodsworth College. This work was installed for five days and the spiral slowly began to disappear, piece by piece.

Woodsworth College, University of Toronto, ON, 2002