Ah, passive-aggression. It’s the preferred conflict style of many an introverted arty type, myself admittedly included.
Despite being a fan of the technique, I’m a little perturbed to see it exemplified to a T (to taxpayer-and-public-spacer-expense) in the Art Gallery of Ontario’s latest outdoor signage.
If you look at the photo of that signage above, you’ll see the end of their large-print “We’ve closed up shop… for now” slogan followed by an overthunk admonition: “But feel free to visit
the competition our friends: Bata Shoe Museum, Canadian Opera Company, Casa Loma, CN Tower, Gardiner Museum, National Ballet of Canada, Ontario Place, Ontario Science Centre, Royal Ontario Museum, Textile Museum of Canada, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and Toronto Zoo”
At first I actually thought that the strikethrough and “our friends” scrawl was a witty graffito on the part of a Sharpie-toting copy editor. But no, it’s part of the original poster print. So apparently, this mixed message is what made it through the AGO’s own bureaucratic review chain as the acceptable way to publicly express its relationship to other Toronto museums and cultural institutions.
The result is a mode of parlance that maddens in the same way as any snotty-ex email might.
First, there’s the backhanded compliment. Is it a better thing to be off the list (and therefore off the AGO’s frenemy roster) completely, or is exclusion from same a snub? Dunno, might want to ask the Power Plant or the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art or the Toronto Public Library or the University of Toronto or the Design Exchange next time you see them.
Second, there’s the self-congratulatory wit. Ha, ha, ha, really darling, now really—are we or aren’t we going to be civil when we bump into each other at Nuit Blanche or the Toronto International Art Fair this fall? Who knows, maybe I’ll get a special preview and you won’t, so it won’t matter! Ah, I kill myself.
Third (and this, the least snotty-ex-like part, is really the most maddening) it’s symbolic of how catty and uncooperative relationships can be between Toronto museums and institutions. I know I can well be accused of starry-eyed Montrealism from time to time, but here that town shows us up yet again. Why? Because despite whatever internal ill will surely exists on some level, they actually have a little something called the Board of Montreal Museum Directors, which unites institutions across the city in cross-promotional ventures like Montreal Museums Day. (FYI, Montreal Museums Day is an earth-shattering (by Toronto standards) event where all the museums in the city are free for one spring Sunday, with transit shuttle buses provided to ease travel.) Of late the BMMD has also launched a nifty all-museums pass that lets you visit 32 museums for 45 to 50 bucks.
I think this might be a good time to point out that while I’ve seen about a dozen “Visit the ROM” billboards in the past few days, I have yet, in 12 months of the Museums and Arts Pass program, to see a single billboard advertising that.
But… maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there really was a Sharpie-wielder somewhere out there who can prove my paranoia’s unwarranted. But as far as I’m concerned for now, this “small” ad gaffe is symbolic of a larger set of TO probs. Here we have million-dollar institutions behaving with the demeanor of gossipy, text-messaging, Hills-watching high schoolers. Like OMG ppl, WTF?