CN Tower Poster

Toronto’s CN Tower became the tallest free-standing structure on land in 1975, while still under construction. Not long afterward, these tall posters appeared on utility poles, marking off an 1800ft perimeter from the base of the tower. With their official looking graphics (complete with small print crediting the ‘Zone Definition Section of The Ministry Without Portfolio’) and bold warning – CAUTION Enter at own risk – the posters captured plenty of public attention, inspiring reassuring headlines like, “CN tower won’t tumble its designer promises us”.

For his part, artist and designer Rick/Simon, never believed that the tower would fall, only that it might be less obtrusive if it wasn’t so… vertical. The concept of a horizontal tower was his way of cutting the massive building down to size. To realize this idea, R/S created what he calls a poster/conceptual sculpture/performance, weaving together elements of printmaking, urban intervention and even public relations. But, it’s information graphics that give the work its persuasive power. Overlaying an aerial photograph, a Toronto street map and three elevation drawings of the tower, R/S created the poster’s central diagram, which matter-of-factly illustrates the reach of a fallen or otherwise horizontal tower.  Invested with the authority of a technical diagram, this improbable scenario seems entirely plausible.

Despite attempts by R/S to promote alternate interpretations of the work (he gave a different story to every media outlet), the “Fall Zone” suggested by his diagram and promoted by local radio stations, had already captured the public imagination.  As some have noted, the concept gave Torontonians a familiar scale of reference, making the tower more relatable to their personal experience of the city. And in this sense, perhaps Rick/Simon succeeded in making the tower a little less obtrusive.

Sources:
– Sandra Alston and Patricia Fleming. Toronto in Print: A Celebration of 200 tears of the Printing Press in Toronto, 1798-1998. exhibition catalogue, 3 August-2 October, 1998, Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto, ON.
– Rick/Simon. Letter to author. April, 2010.

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