Duck poo, aisle six

Posted on September 20, 2009

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 It was with great anticipation that I warmed up to CAFKA Veracity 09 (Contemporary Art Forum Kitchener + Area). I started anticipating it when the last ended and have recently dove fully into this amazing cultural experience. In the next several days, I hope to be covering the fabulous things I witness about the city as CAFKA and IMPACT (International Multicultural Platform for Alternative Contemporary Theatre) unfold with amazing sights and sounds.

The first piece I have chosen to cover is one that is wrapped in direct controversy it seems, however, few will know to seek out the creators or the sponsors of the piece to complain. Instead, they will be calling the parks department.

In the middle of Victoria Park Lake, there now resides a shopping cart. Yes, it is in the middle; several tens of feet from the banks on any side.

Let’s first consider the position: 
 Anyone who has ever pushed a shopping cart knows that they are awkward at the best of times even on the most smoothly tiled shop store. They skip, bop, jump, drag and weave despite our best steering. This particular shopping cart somehow made it out into the center of a small lake. Shopping carts are generally not lightly floating items like paper boats but weigh a proper solid weight worthy of their stainless steel construction. To get one out to the centre of our lake would require a small feat of engineering for the average soul who may be attempting a covert placement. However, when an uninformed person views this cart, it isn’t the mechanics of impossibility (or perhaps difficulty) that they perceive. Instead, what runs is a social commentary.

Cart in Vic Park Lake

Again, lets consider the shopping cart as an item that is wrapped in meaning:

A shopping cart’s primary function is for… um… Shopping.
Shopping carts are a dangerous vehicles for children with thousands of tykes being injured per year.
Shopping carts are frequently stolen by carless folk bring home their purchases. These are discarded and then seen as a sign of ghetto-type living. Discarded carts are also responsible for the injury of children.
Shopping carts are used by some of the homeless to carry their possessions.
Shopping carts are also stolen by pranksters and ne’er-do-wells for either idiotic games (Jackass style) or used for other non-shopping purposes.

When you see a cart in the center of a beautiful lake, the thoughts of what could have brought it out there swims in the minds of the viewer. Thoughts of ne’er-do-wells, homeless folk, or (for those so inclined in this belief) alien abductors discarding large stolen items into our pastoral downtown lake. Never would you consider that this is in fact a piece of work created by a contemporary artist by the name of Robert Hengeveld. This particular piece is called Uprising and is not a real shopping cart at all but a convincingly fabricated piece that is meant to challenge our sense of  "real". I guess it is no coincidence that the cart is out in the middle of the lake and not discarded at the usual side-of-the-lake-shove position.

My thoughts on this was whilst viewing it from the sunny patio of the Boathouse, sipping back a spicy Caesar were not far from considering "the real". Everyonewho came out mentioned some comment about the cart and what a shame it was that such litter had been deposed into the lake (and some even mentioning their own thoughts of those famous ne’er-do-wells who do such things). One chap even mentioned the impossibility of the location of the cart. I had an internal monologue cheering him on, "You almost got it! Just think a little more!!!". 

Through interactions with others I especially saw the irony, or "the real": Victoria Park Lake is positively polluted with a meter of toxic sludge residing just below that perfectly crafted objet d’art. The litter floating in it is certainly not a critical environmental factor, it is just ugly. The lake however will require millions of dollars to be made environmentally sound. 

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Posted in: art, contemporary