The Bentway, a not-for-profit organization and public space nestled beneath Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway, recently donated an art installation called the Multispecies Lounge to York University’s Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC).
The art piece, which was on display at the Bentway from May to September of this year, is currently installed near EUC’s Native Plant Garden in front of the Health, Nursing & Environmental Studies (HNES) Building on York’s Keele Campus. It will serve as a site of experiential education and research opportunities related to urban ecology, human-animal relations and public art.
“I hope that Multispecies Lounge will become a site of learning, engagement and place-making for our EUC community,” said EUC Dean Alice J. Hovorka. “It extends our Native Plant Garden ‘living lab’ through artistic expression. And it welcomes all beings in our midst – human and non-human – as we shape a more just and sustainable future.”
The installation consists of specially designed furniture composed of locally upcycled materials for birds, insects and humans alike to enjoy. Created by two artists who are also architects and educators, Joyce Hwang and Nerea Feliz, known collectively as “Double Happiness,” the Multispecies Lounge invites interspecies encounters with urban wildlife. Based out of Buffalo, N.Y. and Austin, Texas respectively, the artists’ work seeks to make visible the under-acknowledged world of the non-human as active participants of urban life, by attracting and magnifying their presence in shared urban spaces.
Through UV-painted details, the Multispecies Lounge offers glimpses of how birds and insects see beyond the human eye and provides a new lens through which to experience the urban ecosystem. Community members are invited to sit back and relax against red cedar chairs and watch swallows nest and sparrows perch above, while small terrestrial beings relax below.
“The Multispecies Lounge offers a welcome opportunity, in the midst of our many comings and goings, to sit in and amongst the home-making of birds, insects and pollinators,” said Phyllis Novak, director of the EUC’s Native Plant Garden. “Quieting our minds and bodies to listen, to tune into our more-than-human relatives, the trees and the elements, is critical to our well-being.”