Montréal street artist Peter Gibson, a.k.a. Roadsworth, well-known for his clandestine and eye-catching works of pavement art -- is back in Montréal making his mark again. But this time, instead of being arrested for using spray paint for the greater urban good, he and artist Brian Armstrong have turned to recuperated materials like plastic bottles and cardboard to make a large-scale art installation mimicking an ecosystem, now on exhibit in a downtown Montréal shopping center. Check out how it was made:
Completed over a period of three weeks and spanning over five floors of the Eaton Center, the sculpture uses 13,750 plastic bottles, cardboard, cans, bubble wrap and hangers to create an artificial ecosystem of fish, frogs, dragonflies occupying ponds, waterfalls, water lilies, cattails, algae and trees.
It took Gibson and Armstrong a year to gather and assemble the materials needed for the piece, which is titled "Fragile." In La Presse, Gibson says that the work attempts to bring awareness to the increasingly hackneyed nature of 'green' consumerism:
It has become a cliché to talk about the fragility of our planet, the fragility of our ecosystem. It has become an overused term that does not mean anything. Even the cardboard boxes on which were marked 'fragile', the movers threw them out without paying any attention. In this sense, what better place than a mall to expose all these products?
From crossing the line to commissioned art
This legally authorized work in Montréal, among one of his many recent commissioned works worldwide, is a shift from Gibson's beginnings as an masked street art provocateur who eventually came up against the law.
Starting in 2001, Gibson, whose works have been likened to those of British street artist Banksy, began to stencil over asphalt markings all over Montreal during the dead of night, transforming crosswalks and bare pavement into new visual delights. Many Montrealers at the time believed that the city was commissioning the pieces, but soon it became clear that they were done by an independent artist.
Gibson's thought-provoking imagery ranges from being playfully accessible to politically charged, all animating otherwise bland or over-commercialized urban environments. As he recounts on urban blog Spacing, his goal was to challenge car culture and the corporate monopoly on public space:
I think my intention was to create a language that would function as a form of satire, accentuating the absurdity inherent to certain aspects of urban living, urban space, [and] public policy. [..]
Painting images on the street is actually a very innocuous gesture in the face of the problems that exist. We are living in serious denial if we feel that business as usual is going to ensure our continued survival and well-being.
However, the city and the police didn't see it that way. In 2004 Gibson was caught and charged with 53 counts of mischiefs and brought to court. But Gibson had the support of the public, both in Montréal and internationally. The resulting controversy between public policy, art and the law is highlighted in the 2009 documentary Roadsworth: Crossing the Line.
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