When I heard there was a Cardboard Beach coming to Toronto in June I have to admit it I couldn’t picture it at all. The beach would be in the middle of urban Toronto and would have everything you’d normally have on a beach, like loungers, deck chairs, even parasols. Except it would all be made of cardboard. Quite a novel idea and definitely something I had to see for myself.
After a bit of research I discovered that Cardboard Beach was an art installation as part of the 2014 Luminato festival that’s runs in June every year in Toronto. It’s by a Cuban art collective by the name of “Los Carpinteros” or The Carpenters and it was housed in one of the most urban concrete parts of Toronto – David Pecaut Square, steps from busy King Street West, as a nod to Summer Beach culture. The idea was to have the Cardboard Beach at the Luminato Festival Hub and:
“create the illusion of a beach in a dry urban space,with umbrellas, deck chairs and, change booths and breakwaters.”
So, curious about how a beach could be made of cardboard and what it would look and feel like, I headed off to explore it. I found it fascinating and the work quite intricate. It really did look and feel just like a beach – except it was all made of cardboard. For sand, there was grass, which made you forget it was on concrete. It did indeed feel like an oasis in the middle of a particularly unforgiving built up part of Toronto, all office buildings. What made it impressive was how people were enjoying the beach, relaxing on the loungers just as they would on a real beach. There was even a life guard post (although I didn’t see the actual life guard). The loungers were surprisingly solid and comfortable and the sun umbrellas did a good job of shading from the sun. The breakwaters were cool looking tetrapods which generated quite a bit on interest when I shared this photograph with my G+ photographer friends. I discovered that there’s a cardboard lovers community!
The structure in the background of the main photo is the Luminato main stage, so people could relax and watch the show from the comfort of their loungers. Cardboard Beach was also fully licensed which added to the draw.
I couldn’t help wondering what would happen if it were to rain (I was not alone in that thought) and it wasn’t long before I had my answer. The day after I was there taking photographs of Cardboard Beach, it rained heavily. Of course I had to go back and see if Cardboard Beach had been washed away in the torrential rain. Interestingly it held up very well. It looked a little worse for wear after the rain, with the sun umbrellas drooping a bit, but you could still sit on the loungers without them collapsing. I found out that while the cardboard wasn’t waterproof, it had been covered with a waterproof coating. While my Cardboard Beach photograph isn’t an art print in the sense that it’s not available in my art gallery, it was great to be able to experience this unusual art installation with my camera. That and the fact I was able to photograph it after it rained (and proclaim it still standing strong) underlines how photography allows me to not only experience and interact with art at the time of its creation but also to capture that experience to enjoy for weeks and months afterwards.