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“With their belief in the capacity of art to elu­cidate the consciousness of an era, BGL are reflecting back to us the con­ditions of our time, while subtly bring­ing attention to the eco­logical issues of the site.” – No. 9 [1]

In 2008, No. 9, a non-profit curatorial agency in Toronto, commissioned the artist collective, BGL, to create a piece of public art destined for the Don River on Earth Day, April 22, 2008 that ran until June 29. BGL is a collective of three artists out of Quebec: Jasmin Bilodeau, Sébastien Giguère and Nicolas Laverdière. Their work often expresses a commitment to themes of consumerism and the environment.

The work, sponsored by Toronto Zenith Contracting Ltd. and CarbonZero as well as several charitable foundations, was created for the Don River and called “Nulle Part 2/ Nowhere 2”. The piece is comprised of a military-like cruise liner, made with a modified ice canoe, aluminium and black paint, and an oversized life preserver labelled “Don River” mounted to an unused bridge above the river. [2]

The work is meant to comment on the site, an urban no man’s land hosting an “unappreciated” river polluted by industry. The site is mostly uninhabited due to redevelopment of the eastern edge of the Corktown neighbourhood. Today, homeless individuals seek shelter under the bridge, and cyclists and joggers make use of the bike path. But while “it is now crisscrossed by highways and laced with trash, the Don River in Toronto was once a place so clean that children actually flocked to swim there in the summer.” [3]

“Art has a role to play in environmentalism. It’s not a solution, but it is a way of raising questions," says Catherine Dean, who has formed the non-profit curatorial agency No. 9 with fellow curator and artist Andrew Davies and dedicated it to commissioning art about the environment. [4] “We are hoping people will go down and see it and appreciate the piece, but also think about the river itself, what made it like that and how it may change."

The work is also meant to comment on water, waste and luxury. A series of educational events and field trips to the Lower Don River coincided with the installation, including a symposium on Art and the Environment, hosted by the University of Toronto. [5] On the university’s School of Environment website, Catherine Dean is quoted as saying, “The disproportioned giant life buoy and shrunken blackened cruise ship are emblems of luxury, idleness and materialism, representing a leisure activity gone wrong.” The field trips integrated visual art, environmental issues, science and the social history of the Lower Don, concluding with students creating their own sculptural responses to the work using clay from the banks of the river.

The symposium notably featured the doctoral thesis of Jennifer Bonnell of UoT, who gave an illustrated talk on the ecological and social history of the Don River. “By showing the progression of the Don from a wild, natural area to its polluted and industrialised current state, her talk was enlightening as well as sobering. After decades of treating the river as a dumping ground, it is only in the fairly recent past that we have begun to see the Don as a valuable asset which should be restored to its natural condition.” [5][6]


  1. “BGL: Project for the Don River.” No.9, http://www.no9.ca/exhibitions/BGL/BGL.php.
  2. “Nulle part 2 • Nowhere 2”, Bgl, http://bravobgl.ca/en/projects/nowhere-2-les-benefices-du-doute/.
  3. “BGL: We’re on a Boat to Nowhere.” Canadian Art, https://canadianart.ca/features/bgl/.
  4. Taylor, Kate. “An Art Collective’s SOS.” The Globe and Mail, 27 Apr. 2018, https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/arts/an-art-collectives-sos/article17984504/.
  5. Dean, Catherine. “Art and Ecology Symposium in Collaboration with No.9: Contemporary Art & the Environment.” School of the Environment – University of Toronto, 26 June 2008, https://www.environment.utoronto.ca/events/art-and-ecology-symposium-in-collaboration-with-no-9-contemporary-art-the-environment/.
  6. Bonnell, Jennifer L. Reclaiming the Don: An environmental history of Toronto’s Don River valley. University of Toronto Press, 2014.

Project Title: Nowhere 2 / Nulle Part 2
BGL for No. 9
Place: Don River, Toronto, ON

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