Œuvre d'art public

Still Life

Carl Skelton, Still Life, 2006
Carl Skelton, Still Life, 2006
401 Highway, Toronto, ON, Canada
Artwork creator(s): 
Skelton, Carl
Text author(s): 
Skelton, Carl
Installation year: 
Remarks on location: 

Côté nord de l'autoroute 401 entre Renforth Drive et Dixie Road.

Text of the artwork: 


Artwork theme: 
Nature morte, changement, instabilité, le quotidien

Exposition «Artstage», Toronto, ON, 28 septembre 2006

STILL LIFE is intended to respond to its circumstances: long sightlines, a drive-by experience that is by and large going to be experienced many times by people who travel that road on a daily basis, albeit at very different speeds according to traffic conditions, and in very different states of mind, not to mention from a wide variety of cultural perspectives.


In the first instance, STILL LIFE is a gentle pun on the situation: a work of art where a billboard would normally be. Any number of artists have pastiched or deconstructed Billboard advertising… this is simpler, a play on the ironies of the phrase’s constituent parts, “still” and “life”.


STILL Under these viewing conditions, anything ARTSTAGE includes will be un-still: the works of art may not be “kinetic” in their construction, but they certainly must be in their public’s experience. If you only see the work from the highway, it’s effectively kinetic unless you stop the car. On the other hand, the work is hyper-still too: it is a regular reminder that no matter what else has happened since the last time you drove by, this pocket of reality is “still” what it was, unchanged at least provisionally. That characteristic, of anticipating and yet stepping out of the flux of change surrounding us, is fundamental to art’s role in both public and private spheres.


LIFE “Still life” is a simple tag line, but it has a lot of layers to play with. At one level, the aggregate of all the installations that add up to ARTSTAGE itself will be a large-scale still-life arrangement. At another, the phrase will evoke an incredible variety of specific experiences of works of art in the minds of drivers and passengers on the 401. One can almost see a cloud of memories of still life paintings forming in the minds of people as they pass, and then dispersing through all the different trains of thought down the road. As the genre most typically associated with details of daily life, and most broadly experienced as historical “ART” in mainstream culture, “still life” will be just about the exact contrary of most of the genre and associations it names… the other end of the spectrum of what a work of art can be in relation to time, space, and place.


STILL LIFE What proportion of the millions who will drive by, how many times, will the reading actually not even register as an “Art Thing”? Out of context, the simple reminder that whatever you think is all change, speed, instability… something in the way of the world is actually not changing. In some small measure, the piece responds to Heraclitus - where his saying that “you never step twice into the same river” describes the instability of the phenomenal world as an absolute, STILL LIFE implies something quite different. The viewing of it will unfold differently every time, for every person, from the first sight of “STILL” in the distance, to the breaking-up and re-resolving of the letters and words across the lenticular surface, to the much shorter span of time “LIFE” can be read at the other end of the viewing sequence. In some of the minds, all of the time, the question will seem to come from nowhere: what HASN’T changed since the last time you passed this way?

Source : Artstage (2008). Cark Skelton.



Cark Skelton

Artstage (2008).  Cark Skelton. <http://www.artstage.ca/> : ARTSTAGE