The State of the Arts of Living With Culture in Toronto

Was it too soon for the next volume of the hugely successful uTOpia: Towards a New Toronto? It was only last year that the impressive collection came out to critical acclaim and books sales. I was excited to read the follow up although I admit there was some hesitance; how often is the sequel better than the first? This is different of course. It isn’t a movie (although Jason Anderson comments on films in Toronto and why the city is often the background talent and not the star). uTOpia is a book. Volume 2 The State of the Arts: Living With Culture in Toronto. The same formula for the anthology applies as part one. The book is separated in sections TOuchstones, TOpography, TOil, and TOmorrow and a group of writers, activists, artists and musicians praise and write about their hang ups of the city. Essays ranging from a screenplay in the style of the Twilight Zone about dead artists that inhabit remodeled lofts, feminists called Pretty, Porky and Pissed Off, fair trade books, and unintentional art found in the streets. There were some pieces in State of the Arts that I felt I’ve read before in some form or another. For instance designer, Lydia K seems to be a name that often pops out in the Toronto fashion world. I would rather have learned about a new designer with a different vision in uTOpia. Also Ryan McLaren’s piece on Stille Post seemed to already have been documented in other mediums. There’s a lot of inspiring stuff in uTOpia too. “Project Laneway” looked toward the possibility of using laneways as public art spaces. The pictures from various photobloggers added color to the book and captured the sense of voyeuristic beauty within the city I didn’t know existed. Also there’s a hilarious letter from RM Vaughn to the people who came up with the Live with Culture campaign whose banners decorated the streets of Toronto. Included in his letter are pictures of himself superimposed onto the posters looking like a lethargic sap in four-sizes-too-small sweatpants and t-shirt. The campaign now “live without culture.” There’s a lot to read in the newest anthology that will appeal to many readers. And now a third volume of uTOpia is underway on the environment. The uTOpia franchise is very well becoming a yearly series. I just hope it doesn’t lose its charm as series often do. (Andrea Nene)

edited by Alana Wilcox, Christina Palassio, and Johnny Dovercourt, $24.95, 343 pgs, Coach House Books, 401 Huron St., bpNichol Lane, Toronto ON, M5S 2G5, chbooks.com

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