Victoria has a history, and I think a proud history, of shitty public art. Until recently, the scope of debate could be summed up as a war between abstract sculptures that annoy old people and hockey fans, and a teeming horde of orcas.
Orca murals, orca mosaics, orca sidewalk chalk, maybe an eagle or a salmon painted somewhere for good measure, but most prominently, a whole army of mass-produced, fiberglass Orcas In The City sculptures, each decorated by a different local artist.
Orcas In The City were bland and oppressive (seriously— the organizers put ‘Arts’ in quotations in their goal statement), but no one was supposed to complain about them because they were only temporary and they were auctioned for charity. Think of the children.
I flipped the bird on one of the more overtly branded Orcas at least once, but I regret never having ruined a tourist’s Orca family portrait by humping an exposed tail flipper or something. I have a lingering vendetta about the Orcas, with apologies to The Children.
Enter Spirit Bears
Suddenly, this spring, a new menace. Sir Bartholomew is not alone, and he’s even less distinguishable from the other Spirit Bears In The City than was the typical Orca In The City. A spirit bear is a white grizzly bear, if you’re not familiar with Pacific Northwest variations on junior high unicorn-and-kitten fetishes, and the decoration jobs seem to have been rationed out exclusively to the artists who made their Orca contributions look the most like the inside of a Starbucks. It’s wall to wall funky neighbourhood scenes. I know I’m biased towards neon red and blue as the official colours of 2006, but I don’t think I’m alone in believing that yellow and purple should take a well-deserved break. Let yellow and purple recover from their hard work portraying free spirits and Italian snack foods.
Worst of all, the Spirit Bears have broken free of the tourist containment zone and have been popping up as far from the Inner Harbour as Island Blue printers. I yelled out loud when I spotted the specimen at Fort and Quadra.
What’s a concerned citizen to do? How are we going to get all these bears back in?
Toronto got saddled with Moose In The City, so apparently this ride doesn’t hit bottom until it has dipped deep into Canadiana cliché pap. This aggression must not stand! Besides writing to the organizers at the Lions Club and begging them to at least consider funny animals for future mass-blanding fundraisers (goats are a good standby), what is the fitting response?
Three different people have suggested blowing up the bears somehow, but I’m taken with this Knitta Please textile graffiti. I don’t have the time or the tendon health to knit any quantity of bear shrouds, but I think some sewn hoods secured with zip ties would do the trick. As much as the bears stimulate my gag reflex, I’m a non-destructive kind of person and I wouldn’t want to actually destroy someone’s art.
I favour a sign reading “Out of Order” as the finishing touch.