Aesthetic Transformation

“Ugly! Eyesore! How could people think it was a good idea?” A giant slab of concrete in the middle of the outer edge of the park. For shame, city! This was no sculpture, I thought.

Monument between Parc La Fontaine and Sherbrooke
Monument between Parc La Fontaine and Sherbrooke

Why preserve and move the edge of a utilitarian-designed building to the park? If the rest of the building had been demolished, why save this? What a hoax this artist made.

Every day I passed the thing, monument of ugliness. Every day, for months, I felt the same about it.

The other evening though, I had an aesthetic transformation. Over the course of approaching it, passing it from the sidewalk, and reflecting on it, I suddenly loved the thing.

Between the park and the rest of the city–this monument. The side facing the city is straight, segmented like an uninspired, generic modern building. A corner of its simple, mundane concrete at a right angle.

The side facing the park is jagged and uneven. It looks like it was torn from a larger structure. Or intentionally left unfinished. It has a slice of blue paint running through it as well.

Could the straight, uniform side represent the city it faces, while the jagged side represents the “nature” it faces? The monument appears as though it’s part of a larger wall, surrounding the park and framing the divide between human-made structures, and those of the non-human, chaotic natural world. But let’s not forget that a park, no matter how much vegetation it has, is planned by humans and can hardly be raw nature. Of course, even the jagged part of the monument is human-produced so this fits the metaphor of the site. That’s how I decided I’d fallen in love with this piece of art.

In fact for several days, I admired the thing whenever I passed it. Finally, I noticed a plaque nearby. Why hadn’t I ever noticed it before? It explained the monument, a gift and commemoration, and nothing to do with my new aesthetic reading.

Was I impressed that this monument could eke its way inside me and strike that shift in my perception? Was it a function of time and familiarity? I puzzle with this. Or have I projected the aesthetic transformation on to it? Can I love it in spite of the plaque or does the plaque require me to go back to the beginning?

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