Big Question Marks

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Originally uploaded by bigquestionmarks.
We're not really sure when we first noticed the Sunday-afternoon gatherings happening outside our apartment building. But what we do know, is our door to the fire escape gives us a perfect view of the mysterious little weekly event.

At first, we thought perhaps it was a garage sale — strange though, since it only looked like paintings and chairs were for sale, with a few interested buyers milling about. Another week, we decided the garage sale — which was only oddball semi-abstract paintings, and no shoppers — must just have been an artist who was drying his freshly painted canvases. And then, another Sunday happened upon us, and we snapped this sneaky photo from our kitchen, and we figured it had to be some sort of group called Artcrime, conducting weekly meetings at the end of the driveway (hence the sign!). The only constants were the paintings, the location, and what looked like an old bleached-blond punk guy, a Billy Idol type. We were puzzled.

Adrian once went by to say hello — but didn't learn much other than our Billy Idol was pretty friendly and had some sort of European accent. In fact, it probably would have been easier to just head down the fire escape stairs and inquire what all the hubbub was about. But when it comes to apartment neighbours, it's always more fun to hypothesize about what's going on than to find out the truth.

In fact, it was total coincidence we were discussing our mysterious neighbour just this morning — and only a few hours later, Adrian was flipping through Saturday's Toronto Star Entertainment section (found on our front porch), and who's on page E14? Well, what do you know? It was our neighbour, pictured in all of his Steampunk-ish glory, in front of those very-familiar paintings and the Artcrime sign!

You'll have to read the story — tres bizarre — but in a nutshell, it turns out he's a pretty established "arts performer-provocateur" named Istvan Kantor (and many other names). He was born in Hungary and has been in Toronto for a few decades, where he has been banned from museums like the AGO (for his over-the-top, controversial, and bloody performance art) but has still managed to receive prestigious awards like the 2004 Governor General's Award in Visual and Media Arts. Our neighbourhood becomes ever more intriguing...

The Star's story:

The artist's own page:

CTV's story on Kantor winning the Governor General's award: