In 2009 Montreal based artists Stephen Lawson and Aaron Pollard (2boys.tv) created boutiqueARCADE. The project takes its inspiration from the urban environment in which it is crafted, specifically the indeterminate spaces of the city and the people and places that live in-between, below and hidden within its shadows. ARCADE seeks to shed light on dark, and often overlooked urban spaces by creating an exhibition of miniature dioramas, performances and cinemas that centre on forgotten and displaced parts of the urban landscape.

The completed project takes the form of a retail outlet that holds a special collection of shoes corresponding to shoeboxes that contain tiny dramas, narrations, recordings and objects. The concept and process employed for creating these miniature artworks is inspired by the flâneur as classically defined by Charles Baudelaire, Walter Benjamin’s reflections on allegory and the ruins of nineteenth century Paris Arcades (or “Passages”), and the city as palimpsest.  The scenes contained within the shoeboxes together make up one larger urban imaginary, a psychosocial map of a city, or of a particular urban location or neighbourhood. The miniature visions inside the shoeboxes are revealed using a variety of methods, from simple static maquettes or tableaux, to more technically involved stereographic 3D video and audio works, to participatory works (ie. chapbooks or maps) that invite viewers to inscribe their own reflections on the city within the shoeboxes.

Upon the invitation of Professor Laura Levin, Graduate Program Director of Theatre and Performance Studies at York University, the ARCADE project was transformed into a collaborative, curatorial, and pedagogical undertaking between Lawson, Pollard and urban curator Shauna Janssen. One of the pedagogical aims of this project was to bring forward performance as a critical spatial practice and methodology for engaging with the spatial politics of urban change.

metroARCADE is a collection of miniature performances, theatres, and cinemas about the forgotten and displaced parts of Toronto’s urban landscape. This collection of shoes and shoeboxes, was the culmination of two weeks working with graduate students as part of York University’s Joint Summer Institute in Theatre & Performance Studies and Cinema & Media Arts, School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design. The exhibition was held at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, May 19th and 20th.

While the shoes and shoeboxes in metroARCADE were inspired by Toronto’s shifting urban landscape, this collection created by York University’s Performance, Theatre, and Cinema studies students, also engaged the city as a collaborator in the creation of these works.   Themes evoked by the artists in this ARCADE collection include: the interior street, the dialectics of feminism and history, isolation as a spatial practice, kid power, the city and temporality, the invisible flâneur (Wilson, 1995), ruin as allegories of urban futures, and the performance of identity through the built environment.

Artists: Devon Bond, Marco Castelli, Thea Fitz-James, Tabia Lau, Signy Lynch, EmmaRose Macdonald, Carly Maga, Daniel McIntyre, Shazia Mughal, Michael Palumbo, Sina Pishgah Gilani, Haritha Popuri, Hannah Rackow, Tania Senewiratne, Rasha Shehata, Erica Smith, Anthony Spataro, Oksana Unguryan.

Facilitators: Shauna Janssen, Stephen Lawson, Laura Levin, and Aaron Pollard.

Text, shoe photos, and blog design: Shauna Janssen 2016 ©