You are now in the main content area

Toronto, at ground level

At WC2 Toronto 2018 Symposium, artist and filmmaker Cyrus Sundar Singh shows the city’s diversity… through its feet
By: Will Sloan
August 07, 2018
Cyrus Sundar Singh’s installation at the WC2 Symposium

Photo: Ryerson ComCult PhD candidate Cyrus Sundar Singh’s video installation foot[age] chronicles the comings and goings on Toronto’s streets from six- to 12-inches.

What do the 12 inches above the ground tell us about our city? Artist, musician, filmmaker, and Ryerson ComCult PhD candidate Cyrus Sundar Singh will take a ground-level look at Toronto during the WC2 Toronto 2018 Symposium.

Singh’s video installation foot[age] chronicles the comings and goings on Toronto’s streets from six- to 12-inches. As dozens of feet pass by his camera, viewers get a unique perspective of Toronto: its diversity, its fashions, its neighbourhoods, and its community events.

The project’s style was inspired by a Ryerson MFA course taught by Blake Fitzpatrick in which students were asked to create an artistic dogma: a set of aesthetic/ideological principles to guide their art. Singh’s dogma was influenced by the democratization of information through social media and mobile technology, as well as the desire to challenge the traditional tripod and satellite/drone perspectives of the camera. Like the citizen reportage that emerged from events like the Arab Spring, Singh’s videos have little or no editing, and are concerned mostly with bearing witness.

“It reveals that a lot is happening in the city,” says Singh. “It reveals the diversity of culture; the diversity of movement; and the diversity of the people themselves. It’s a little window into the city from a certain height.

“I tried to engage as many public events as possible in the city. I started with the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and then I hit things like the Santa Claus Parade or the Easter Parade. All these different things come into play: different neighbourhoods, different religions, I went into a Hindu Temple, a Mosque… I did an overview of the city, but I still stuck to my dogma.”

Also at WC2, Singh is developing a storytelling event that ties directly into the conference’s theme of “Migration, the City and the University.” At “Under the Tent,” students and faculty from WC2 university will share stories of their own migration experiences, to be performed on August 16 at lunchtime. Whether music, dance, visual art, oral storytelling, or any other form, there will be no limits to how the stories can be told.

“Something like 60.5 million people are living in forced migration daily. The tent now symbolizes that condition. I created this notion called ‘Under the Tent’—it doesn’t matter what space I’m in. Under the tent we gather to tell stories of who we are and where we’re travelling to.” What does he hope to see emerge from the event? “Communication,” says Singh. “To be in someone else’s shoes. Unless you walk a mile in someone’s shoes, you don’t know their burden.”

Both of Singh’s projects at WC2 see him ceding authorial control—an act that fascinates him. “It’s curated only in the sense that it will be done over one hour. But within that, I don’t know how the stories are going to be told.

“I like this idea of what musicians call jamming. You’re not starting from nowhere and trying to get to nowhere, but if you get into a room where a bunch of musicians can already play instruments, you’re starting at a certain level. Yes, you haven’t rehearsed, but it’s an opportunity to communicate through your instrument to the person sitting next to you. That has a whole different energy than coming in and saying, ‘Okay, we’re going to play this piece.’”

“Under the Tent: Stories from WC2 Village” takes place Thursday, August 16, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., and will be on the seventh floor of TRSM along with the foot[age] installation. The World Cities, World Class (WC2) Symposium brings together top universities from major cities to discuss the issues facing cities. This year’s event, with the theme “Migration, the City, and the University,” takes place at Ryerson from August 12 to 17. For more information, see World Cities, World Class (WC2) Symposium.

More News