Installed in 1977, The flock is frozen in mid-flight. The title “flight stop” is a pun on the nature of still photography. Most of us who live in Toronto don’t remember when this wasn’t a part of the Eaton Centre skyline.
It’s a sculpture with layers, both in technique and story. Photographers like myself can appreciate (more than some) the nod to the f-stop, the unique process and the challenge that events around this sculpture posed to our copyright law in Canada.
Each individual goose is made of styrofoam, layered with fibreglass and then covered in a sheath made from photographs taken of a single goose who recently passed. (one of two, culled from a flock living on Toronto Island).
- Photographing the dead bird, Snow adjusted “the neck, wing, and tail positions for each frame of film. The cylindrical parts of the body inspired three different body sizes that were then carved in Styrofoam.
- Using pattern-making techniques, two-dimensional photographic goose costumes were printed and assembled.
- The Styrofoam bodies were cast in fibreglass, covered in the photographic sheathes, and varnished in a tinted brown that has yellowed somewhat over time.
The Legal Battle
During the Christmas season of 1981 the Eaton Centre placed red ribbons around the necks of the geese. Snow brought an action against the Centre to get an injunction to have the ribbons removed. He had argued that the ribbons were a “distortion and mutilation” of his work, and that it “ultimately affected his artistic reputation”.
In 1982, Snow sued the corporate owner of the Toronto Eaton Centre for violating his moral rights by altering Flight Stop. In the landmark case Snow v Eaton Centre Ltd, the Ontario High Court of Justice affirmed the artist’s right to the integrity of their work. The operator of the Toronto Eaton Centre was found liable for violating Snow’s moral rights.
The judgement in Snow’s favour held that the sculpture’s integrity was “distorted, mutilated or otherwise modified” which was “to the prejudice of the honour or reputation of the author” contrary to section 28.2 of the Copyright Act. The opinion was based both on the opinion of Snow as well as the testimony of experts in the art community.
About the Artist
Michael Snow was born on December 10, 1928. As a visual artist Snow was associated with the increasingly lively Toronto art scene through the Isaacs Gallery, and recognized worldwide through major exhibitions.
In 1967 Snow said (and has frequently been quoted as saying),
My paintings are done by a filmmaker, sculpture by a musician, films by a painter, music by a filmmaker, paintings by a sculptor, sculpture by a filmmaker, films by a musician, music by a sculptor … sometimes they all work together. Also, many of my paintings have been done by a painter, sculpture by a sculptor, films by a filmmaker, music by a musician. There is a tendency towards purity in all of these media as separate endeavours.