On the nook of Dundas and McCaul streets in downtown Toronto, the Artwork Gallery of Ontario (AGO) unveiled its first public artwork fee on Monday — a looming bronze circus elephant balancing on a tiny ball. Artist Brian Jungen constructed his 13-foot-tall “Couch Monster: Sadzěʔ yaaghęhch’ill” (2022) out of previous leather-based sofas earlier than the prototype was solid by a foundry.
Engaged on an enormous bronze sculpture was a primary for Jungen, however repurposing supplies was not. The artist turns mass-produced objects into recognizable types from each European and Indigenous artwork historical past — he’s maybe greatest recognized for stitching Air Jordans collectively into the shapes of conventional First Nations headdresses and masks, and just lately, Jungen molded the sneakers into the eerie beaked masks of Seventeenth-century European medical doctors.
For the AGO fee, nevertheless, Jungen wished to create a tribute to the plight of captive animals, in accordance to the museum. “Couch Monster: Sadzěʔ yaaghęhch’ill” pays homage to Jumbo the elephant, the world-famous circus animal whose deeply tragic story impressed Disney’s heart-wrenching 1941 film Dumbo. The titular phrases “Sadzěʔ yaaghęhch’ill” translate to “my heart is ripping” within the language of the Dane-zaa folks, from whom Jungen is descended. (A panel subsequent to “Couch Monster” might be written in each English and a special Indigenous language, Anishinaabemowin, which is spoken extra broadly than the Dane-zaa language in Canada’s Nice Lakes area.)
In an interview, Jurgen mentioned he was desirous about the story of Jumbo, who died in Ontario, and requested elders in his group whether or not they had ever seen an elephant.
“A lot of them hadn’t, but a lot of them remembered seeing an elephant at the Shrine Circus,” he mentioned. “I asked them what they thought of it, and to them, it didn’t evoke ideas of joy. They were shocked at how such a large animal had submitted to humans — had been trained. It was basically like its spirit had been broken.”
Though the sculpture arrived in Toronto solely earlier this month, “Couch Monster: Sadzěʔ yaaghęhch’ill” was a few years within the making. Jungen first had the thought to use the sofas as his medium after seeing discarded furniture on Toronto streets throughout a 2017 go to, and in March 2020, he accomplished the full-scale prototype. He then despatched it to Washington state to be solid on the Walla Walla Foundry.
The ensuing floor is remarkably sensible, conjuring the leathery texture of an elephant’s pores and skin, and Jungen hopes the statue will evolve as folks work together with it.
“Like the leather couches, the more people engage with the work, the more the bronze patina will change over time,” Jungen mentioned in an announcement. “I want people to lounge on and explore and really embrace this Couch Monster — it is yours and I am so thrilled to have it live here in the years to come.”