Toronto Art: Where Giant Bubbles and Old Mannequins Meet

 Decommissioned Unilever Soap Factory, Toronto

Decommissioned Unilever Soap Factory, Toronto

What do gigantic bubbles, Ontario Place and an old soap factory have in common? They're all part of Canadian artist Max Dean's art / photography installation Still Moving, on through June 3 at the old Unilever Soap Factory as part of the 2018 Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival.

 Canadian artist Max Dean watching the bubbles

Canadian artist Max Dean watching the bubbles

Operational from 1985 to 2011, Ontario Place's Wilderness Adventure Ride was in the late 1980's most popular amusement ride in North America. (Just ask those who remember standing in line two hours.) The entirely synthetic ride (even the mountain was artificial) was meant to portray living as a logger in northern Ontario, with various animatronic human and animal mannequins demonstrating daily life. After 2011 the ride decayed from neglect, the once proud mannequins becoming a motley crew of dismembered and decapitated relics.

Enamored with these mannequins, Dean successfully petitioned the Ontario Government to acquire them, finding a home - temporarily - in the soap factory. However, the government being the government, they required Dean to photograph the mannequins as part of the deaccesioning. The result is a series of beautiful and often creepy photos modelled after the Victoria "Hidden Mothers" style, with Dean draped in grey material acting as the "mother", photos that are filed in a large metal cabinet on the upper floor of the exhibition, waiting to be discovered by the visitor. (All 30 photos were shot in less than two hours.) On the same upper floor in "Nozzle Land" is a 138-foot photographic story of the mannequins based on Thomas Eakin's The Gross Clinic, where the Ontario Place mannequins realize they have to take matters into their own hands and repair themselves.

The highlight of the show is on the main floor, where the mannequins are present, including Dr. Gross (presiding from the staircase), Sandy Andy and The Boy, who in 2018 is doing exactly what you would expect: taking a selfie with his phone. But the best part is the bubble making machine that hypnotizes you with colossal bubbles, a nice hat tip to its soap factory location.

Still Moving is on until June 3 (open Fri - Sun 12 - 6 pm).

P.S. Check out our instagram for a short, mesmerizing video of the bubbles being made.