TORONTO'S WINDOW GALLERIES- All you need is love
(or How to live in the real world and still be happy)

by Suzanne Farkas

There's definitely something happening here. Window Galleries, a quirky Toronto phenomenon of exhibition spaces is adding a new twist to an old idea...Born of a mix of squelching economics , critical mass , and millennium fever, these small surprise packages are springing up to chase away the winter blahs of Toronto's cityscape. Unlike their sister, the window display, they are not harlots of commercialism-beckoning you to come on in and buy, buy, buy. They are not their brothers, the front man of storefront galleries, with "more of the same inside". They stand alone. The viewer can peep, anonymity in tact, no commitment or judgement required.

Window Galleries speak to the jazz of the street. It's the placement and juxtaposition of each note, unique as their creators, that add to their power of cool. Their installations are not intended as insinuations, to oil the unsuspecting passerby, but as potent rest notes. These galleries, whether calling to the wilderness of local parking lots or squeezed between the cacophony of retail stores, are proving that context is content. The teenage runaway, they perch on the boundary between the lifestyle art glitter of respectable establishment and the nomadic refugees of guerilla art intervention. Open to life on the street but securely protected from the elements, they evoke a possibility of home life.

No money changes hands. There is no limit on the media allowed. The challenge is to present a piece within a finite space, dimension and direction, but for an infinitely accessible audience and viewing scale. The trick is in being relevant to both the intimacy of eye level and lingering inspection, as well as the wide-angle views and drive by shootings of a distant traffic beyond. The thrill of learning, synergy, new audiences and community seem to be the guiding force of both the owners and artists of these spaces. By the sheer will and love of their creators and the fact of their location, these spaces can joyfully play with the language of the voyeur and the surveyed, consumer and the consumed, the homeless and the rooted, the private and the public. They are - as Toronto's The Fly Gallery points ou - a little gem of theatre.

I took to the streets to feel the buzz and here's a sample of what I found:

Solo Exhibition (787 Queen St W; shows monthly on the full moon)
Perhaps one of the most successful and consistent efforts has been that of Barr Gilmore and his Solo Exhibition. It has got to be one of the world's smallest exhibition spaces, a sliver of a window (18 inches wide, 2 ft deep but almost 9 feet high) inserted into what has become the object of our latest material lust, upscale design retail strips. Barr actually rents the space as part of a deal that includes his upstairs flat and rooftop workshop. It used to house the dusty old display of the former tenant's cooking school. He cleaned it up and found he had just enough resources to fulfill his dream of creating a gallery- his resistance against a cold and clique Toronto. Bracketed by the delectable 'Dufflet Pastries' and a sexy furniture shop, the gallery is, however, only a block away from the Salvation Army and a couple of sporadic junk shops. The viewing audience is decidedly of mixed social standing. Occasionally a lost soul has been found eyeing the window or resting against its side. People have mistakenly come into Dufflet's next door, in order to comment, question, buy and in at least one case, to complain. For a performance piece, Germaine Koh, sat in the window for three days, observant but unreactive to the shoppers on the street. This show was found to be quite unsettling for the observed, who tried to wave and smile or otherwise interact. One such subject complained to the Dufflet staff of Koh's "being rude". Barr is proud of the accessibility and how this little space has become part of the vernacular of the street.

Words: Suzanne Farkas
Artists: Steve Topping, Germaine Koh, Leslie Peters, Stefan Schmuhl, Isabelle Mignault, Daisuke Takeya
Time: 1.01-3.01
Place: Solo Exhibition, Fly Gallery, She Said Boom, Natural Light Window Gallery, Pages - Toronto
Barr Gilmore - Solo Exhibition
Stefan Schmuhl - Natural Light Window Gallery
Michael Alstad - Pages
Leslie Peters - She Said Boom
Isabelle Mignault - Fly Gallery
Steve Toppings interactive film loop installation at Solo Exhibition