For the 2022 Toronto Biennial, Eduardo Navarro presents a newly commissioned public sculpture titled Wind Oracle (2022), which invites audiences to interact with the wind and consider the animacy of air and deeply entangled relations between humans and the natural world. The site-specific work is installed on the lawn of Colborne Lodge, a nineteenth century house located in the centre of High Park—named so because it is the highest point in the area. The lodge was built on a hill overlooking Lake Ontario in 1836 by John Howard—an architect, engineer, and City Surveyor—and his wife, Jemima Howard, an artist and avid gardener. In 1873, the Howards conveyed their house and property of 120 acres to the city of Toronto for the free use and enjoyment of its citizens.
Although Wind Oracle appears like a large abstract human figure, Eduardo likens the design to a “breathing house,” with three distinct elements including a weather vane that rotates to create different combinations and opportunities for contemplation and open-ended play. Eduardo’s idea for the project grew out of his experience of COVID over the last two years and the increasing sensitivities and politicization of collective breathing and public space. For the artist, such interests aligned with the characterization of High Park as one of the city’s green lungs, a popular feature of industrialized cities of the nineteenth century that was believed to reduce pollution and provide cooler, cleaner air for city-dwellers. Eduardo was also intrigued by the history of the High Park Forest School, which opened nearby in 1914 and ran for the first
eighteen years completely outdoors using tents and wooden platforms as classrooms under a canopy of trees. The school had originally been designed for children with tuberculosis, cholera, or other physical ailments, for whom fresh air was believed to improve their health, if not cure
their maladies. As a viewer approaches Wind Oracle from the road, they will come upon a sign with the following prompt:
what if there were not trees for Wind to move or
sounds for Wind to carry?
what if there were no smells for Wind to transport
or birds or pollen to navigate it?
what if there were no houses for Wind to whistle
or no sand for Wind to play with?
“nothing is” what it looks like
perhaps this is why Wind
always needs to look like something?
Please use Wind Oracle as a medium
Close your eyes as long as you want in order to
reset Wind Oracle from previous questions
Take a deep breath and ASK
Slowly open your eyes
Please feel free to share back into the
World, Wind’s reply, for example, by
inventing a dance, a language, or song,
by drawing or meditating, or
simply by falling into the deepest silence.
Now, can Wind ask you something?
Poem by Eduardo Navarro
The work was activated on May 26, 2022 by the musicians Sara Constant and Naomi McCarroll-Butler:
In this site- and environmentally-responsive performance, experimental musicians Sara Constant and Naomi McCarroll-Butler greet Wind Oracle. Presented as a new work by Eduardo Navarro, Wind Oracle stands at Colborne Lodge, an entity with a commanding presence but whimsical intention: an invitation to interact with the wind and consider the animacy of air and deeply entangled relations between humans and the natural world. Engaging with instruments and materials (hand-made and otherwise) Sara and Naomi activate the site–grounding and improvising with the audience–and using the wind as a medium for questions asked and answered.
Co-commissioned and co-presented by the Toronto Biennial of Art and the City of Toronto with support from Colborne Lodge, Toronto History Museums and ArtworxTO.
Text by Tairone Bastien