Susan Dobson exhibits Back/Fill installation at University of Toronto

In an exhibition co-presented by the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design and Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival, Guelph-based artist Susan Dobson’s site-specific project Back/Fill explores the detritus of Toronto through images of construction debris dumped at the Leslie Street Spit.

Photo Courtesy: Susan Dobson

Featuring a massive mural adhered to the north elevation of the new Daniels Building and large-scale photographs mounted within, the project raises questions about the cyclical nature of the built environment’s material character, with its phases of demolition, construction, preservation, and renovation.

Commonly known as Tommy Thompson Park, the Leslie Street Spit is a manufactured peninsula and wilderness reserve built entirely from Toronto’s construction waste.

Much of the rubble depicted in Dobson’s photographs can be traced to buildings demolished in the downtown core around 1980, a period when houses and significant 19th-century brick buildings were torn down to make room for steel-and-glass business towers.

Debris from the recent renovation and addition to the Daniels Building was also dumped at the spit.

Dobson’s panoramic mural on the building’s glass façade stretches between two sloped earth walls. Her image reveals layers of rubble, creating the illusion of backfilling with material culled from the Daniels Building’s construction.

To create the mural, Dobson digitally stitched together multiple photographs captured at the spit.

Inside the Daniels Faculty, Dobson’s photographs of construction remnants retrieved from the spit—such as wire, brick, and piping—are positioned in its main public space.

Affixed to custom-built support structures, the works activate dialogues with the surrounding architecture and creative community.

The exhibition is on display until July 12, 2019.