Finding the animatronic figures from the old Wilderness Adventure log ride dismembered and strewn around the site, the artist Max Dean reassembled the characters as an installation inside the ride’s artificial mountain. In one tableau, a team of “doctors” attend to a damaged bull moose in what the artist describes as a restaging of Thomas Eakins’s painting “The Gross Clinic.”
The scenario he’s working on: Once the mannequins realize the park has closed, they begin to repair themselves.
“The figures decided that they have to take matters into their own hands,” he said. “What do we do with what we’ve got?” The mannequins have evolved a sense of consciousness and responsibility, he said, adding, “Let’s make the realization that we have that capacity, too.”
The curators have a special interest in reactivating transitional, under- and unused spaces through art. Their bicycle-led art tours, Art Spin, have presented group exhibitions in decommissioned schools, vacant factories and buildings slated for demolition. “Our city, over the course of the last 10 years or so, has been going through incredible, unprecedented development,” Mr. Pimenta said. “Our industrial history is literally disappearing in front of our eyes. What we do provides an opportunity, fleeting as it might be, to intervene and reimagine those spaces.”
Dumped on a pad of land as if by a truck, an installation by Ben Watt-Meyer, a Toronto-based artist and landscape architect, is a mound of wave-eroded bricks collected from Ontario Place and the Leslie Street Spit and ordered into a rainbow from asphalt-colored through clay to bone. “It doesn’t seem out of place as a site in obvious transformation,” he said. The work, “Rubble Pile,” recognizes Toronto’s quick, thorough and ongoing transformation, emphasizing a mostly forgotten cycle: Ontario Place itself was erected on artificial islands created by the material from demolished buildings. The cycle is about to begin again.
What the new site will be exactly, the province, which owns and operates Ontario Place, hasn’t yet said. Since it shuttered the amusement park for flagging admissions, a number of ideas have been debated: a casino, commercial and residential development, public green space. Eberhard Zeidler, 90, the original architect of Ontario Place, said that a new vision is exactly what the park requires. “It needs a strong mind to say, ‘Here we do something, and we do something right.’”
Occupying one of the smaller concrete silos, formerly the tornado simulation from the Wild World of Weather exhibit, a Toronto-based artist and curator, Heather Nicol, has hung a delicate polyester structure resembling a seedpod or a womb from the ruins of the display. Over a speaker, a young girl reads from a children’s book about tornadoes: “Ontario has more tornadoes than anywhere in the world with the exception,” she stumbles a few times on the word, “of the United States.” The sound of thunder interrupts. “Tornado Pod” is an expression of both the hope and anxiety that accompany the exercise of planning for the future.
“I think that artists have an interesting role to play in transitional places,” Ms. Nicol said, “I think they can wake them up. They can trigger reflection on the past and the future.” Ms. Hinton said something similar: “Art is the first thing to bring energy and life to certain areas.”
Each night, weather-permitting, the Cinesphere dims its lights and the Sweden-based, American performance artist Mary Coble climbs to the top. With her LED lamp, she signals protest chants in Morse code. “I’m up there,” she said, “demanding that we look at our history of protest and what needs to happen in the future.”
Her relayers, stationed on bridges and stairways throughout the park, copy her message. The signals crisscross Ontario Place and shoot off into the world. “It’s not a lone figure demanding change,” she said. “It takes a community of people coming together night after night after night, working together, relaying this demand.”