Below is a somewhat incoherent article from the Toronto Star
describing Toronto's newest piece of public art, located on a street
corner near Ft York. Copeland, btw, is probably best known for his
unusul takes on Canadian culture, including the mural on a Toronto
subway station wall which depicts Queen Elizabeth riding a moose.
A photo of the monument has been posted in the PHOTOS section.
Nov 04, 2008
TO: KOPUN, FRANCINE
ART THAT MAKES YOU THINK
My dad was in the Canadian Air Force (not the Armed Forces ... he's
picky on that one) and so I grew up surrounded by military objects
and imagery everywhere: crests, weapons, pictures of my father flying
jets and on and on. Growing up, Nov. 11 was a huge deal and I get
sombre on the subject quickly.
A few years ago I was on a train in England on Nov. 11 and suddenly
the train stopped halfway inside a tunnel and everyone went silent
for two minutes and it was a haunting experience for me, as if
everyone died and their souls were collectively agreeing to go to
heaven. It was like time stopped. And then the train started again
and life resumed but it was different because of that small moment. I
think Nov. 11 is a day when everyone, to some degree, harmonizes with
everyone else in the best possible way.
FROM: KOPUN, FRANCINE
What did your family do on Remembrance Day?
DC: In general there's an unofficial dinner at my parents' place,
poppies mandatory, and Dad talks about his military experiences and
old friends. Most of them are gone now and so there's a wistful side
to things. Dad's 83 he loved every moment of military life.
FK: Do you remember what you thought of it then?
DC: My earliest war memories are of Vietnam on the CBS news on this
ancient B&W TV in the living room. I remember that it never seemed to
be going well. Even in kindergarten you could sense that it was a
useless stupid war.
FK: How long should society continue to honour Nov. 11?
DC: Always. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, and to not
remember old wars is to diminish vigilance.
FK: Do you think there's any chance some veterans might regard the
sculpture as lacking in gravitas?
DC: I don't think so. I think it's pretty obvious what the piece
says. Yes, it's partially about war in the abstract, but it's also a
reminder to passersby who might not be fully aware of the importance
of the War of 1812 to our history. It's also bait to get people to go
and see Fort York (where, BTW, you quickly learn how short people
used to be in 1812).
Much cheer and fire away more Q's if you like,
TO: KOPUN, FRANCINE
Yup, I'll be at the unveiling. The event itself will be on the short
side (cold out) and afterwards I donate scale model maquettes to Fort
York inside the building's lobby.
To more IMPORTANT subjects ...
FK: You say: "It's pretty obvious what the piece says." What do you
think it says?
DC: I guess what I want to happen is for people to walk/drive/ride by
and see these figures and say, "What the heck is going on here," and
then maybe they'll stop and come over and see the figures in
relationship to each other. And then they'll find out what they are
and what they represent. The piece isn't so much an anti-war
statement as it is a reminder of a) that there was once a War of 1812
when the Americans tried to take Canada and lost, b) Toronto exists
because of this war, c) Canada exists because of this war, d) there
are people out there trying to (literally) rewrite history to make it
look like the U.S. didn't lose and, e) why not take a stroll over to
Historic Fort York, a trip rendered extra-surreal by the presence of
FK: As the author of books of iconic Canadiana (Souvenir of Canada),
what do you think is our most iconic statement on war?
DC: There's a photo of the trenches in WWI that I've never been able
to shed from my mind. It's from the National Gallery, I think and has
FK: What do you think of the red poppy pins?
DC: Please, dear God, can somebody invent a better pin so that they
don't always fall off in the first three minutes? And I remember they
used to be three-coloured growing up. How hard is it to add a touch
of green to it? It's as if by not taking pride in their craftsmanship
we're forgetting something.