Thursday August 13 2009 provided a unique glimpse into the brilliant mind that is Justin Broadbent. Absolut Vodka had approached him with the opportunity to create a one-day, experiential public art exhibit. Creating his interpretations of the phrase: “In an Absolut World, Opportunities Always Pop Up”, Justin Broadbent’s instillation at the Lower Bay TTC station was a world unto itself.
As you exit the train at Bay Station, one feels deceived at the notion that there is an actual art instillation happening within the TTC system. But it isn’t until you walk further towards the end of the platform (towards the Cumberland exit) that you notice velvet ropes, a red carpet, security guards, and what once were typical metal doors, are now the first visual piece for this exhibit. As you enter through the doors and descend the stairs, you suddenly feel as though you are entering a secretive society (as this part of Bay Station is rarely seen by the public). The message, “Open Your Eyes” (plastered on the wall above the stairs) reminds you to expect the unexpected.
Halfway down the stairwell, you are immediately hit with the ensuing visual ahead of you. The entire platform and trains are used for this art exhibit. The lighting is set up in a way that you feel you were in the twilight zone; hues of blue, white, red, green illuminates the station. On both tracks, the two TTC trains house Justin Broadbent’s interpretations. One was a TTC forest, filled with greenery, and in the adjoining car was its garden cousin, lilies and colourful flowers growing among the metal poles. At the end of this particular car was a vending machine that offered sealed letters. As it dispensed out these letters, and after you pry through the envelop, therein lies a hand-written note with messages such as: “I know, I know, love you neighbour; try it” and the most poignant one: “I am so proud of you…” This was his opportunity to spread love and encouragement to the world. The train opposite, housed the most visually stimulating interpretation. Engulfed in red lighting, beads and chandeliers were hung on the train’s ceiling…almost cryptic like. And to the untrained eye, one cannot be blamed for missing the most hidden piece. Towards the end of the car, into the next one (that was hidden from outside) housed a simple yet powerful white screen. It was a complete contrast to the intense bloodshot environment. And even on the platform, it was as though you were in a lounge, outfitted with plush leather couches, sleek tables and actual bars. The whole time, you could hear music in the distant, and while you are in awe of the entire instillation, Justin Broadbent stood among us…bashfully observing his audience’s reaction.
It was the most unique work that is in tune with exhibits that are held at Nuit Blanche. It was both mysterious and peculiar. Yet, as you exit this subterranean world and return back to reality, Justin Broadbent’s interpretations leave you with a forever changed perspective of the TTC…and of life itself.