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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Gallery Guide: David Rokeby’s Plots Against Time

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WHERE: Pari Nadim Gallery, 254 Niagara, Wed-Sat 11AM-5PM

WHEN: Runs until April 26

This is bit late notice in terms of exhibition life, but as you wander down Queen West between Wednesday and Saturday this week, be sure to take a quick diversion a block down Niagara Street to the Pari Nadim Gallery and check out David Rokeby’s wonderful Plots Against Time exhibition. Rokeby is a Toronto-based internationally-famous art star who has been working with new media, video and public spaces for over twenty-five years, even developing his own real-time video processing software called softVNS (very nervous system).

Plots Against Time includes three different video installations that look at public spaces in Toronto (the TD Centre plaza & the Richmond and Spadina intersection), Montreal and Venice. Each give the visitor a new appreciation of how objects, and bodies, move through public spaces as well as an appreciation of how time passes.

Machine for Taking Time (boul. Saint-Laurent) (2007) is the second in an ongoing series of works in which video cameras on motorized mounts survey particular places over time, building up large image databases from which the final work is constructed. 2 high definition cameras observed the city of Montréal to the east and to the west from the top of a 5 story building over the course of one year. The computer now wanders through these databases, stitching together leisurely continuous pans around the city, staying true to the original spatial trajectory but shifting unpredictably through time.

Machine for Taking Time alternates with a 7 minute looped view of Richmond and Spadina on two large plasma screens. On one, everything “not moving” is blurred, leaving only moving objects vivid and clear — on the other side the opposite happens. When we think of a public space — an intersection, a courtyard, an alley — our idea of it is made up of hundreds of different bits of information that seamlessly stitch together in our heads, creating the image we know and remember. What this piece does is isolate movement — letting us focus on the action — perhaps allowing us to rethink how that space works, reminding us things are never static, but maybe some parts are.

The video loops that depict the TD Centre and Venice’s San Marco Square give the moving objects a sort of blurred trail that slowly decays and dissapears, a ghost presence of an event that happened only a moment ago. Tourists, shoppers and even strollers leave an impression, then fade away. Seeing the hundreds of pigeons running around the square is worth the price of admission alone (which is free). Rokeby was at the gallery last week when I took my OCAD classes on an end of semester field-trip-walk around Toronto, and he said he was overjoyed when the pigeons were present on the day of filming. Never have our poor “flying rat” friends looked so beautiful and elegant.

When you leave the gallery, you might look over your shoulder to try and catch a glimpse of your own comet-trail.



  1. hmmm. gonna have to snap this gallery….:)