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You Can’t Stay Mad at the ‘Fake Lake’.

June 26, 2010

By Maria Piacente, VP Exhibitions, Lord Cultural Resources

Recently, there has been much hype around a small body of water located at the Direct Energy   Centre at Exhibition Place in Toronto as part of the Experience Canada Program. The so-called “fake lake” that we created for the G8/G20 Accredited Media Centre has become infamous across the nation and the world. It’s been interesting to read the reportage around what started out as a simple design element –  a water feature created as part of an overall series of experiences that tells a particular story of Canada that is responds to the goals of our client and the opportunity to communicate to the international media. Although the water feature is but a part of a larger “exhibit” that includes investment and technology excellence, it has truly taken on a life of its own.

“We should all be ashamed””Read how one journalist has changed his mind about the Fake Lake:http://www2.macleans.ca/2010/06/25/fake-lake-wake/

While all forms of cultural production are loaded with meaning depending on the context in which it is created and consumed (not to mention the identities of the creators and patrons), the controversy of the “fake lake” makes clear that culture is not a separate realm of its own, but sits rather at the intersection of economics and politics. What is particularly interesting in this instance is how the water feature has become the convergence point of so many interconnected discourses of governance, politics, economics and the public interest.

It is clear that the “fake lake” has galvanized diverse groups and individuals who have used it as a means to make more visible a multitude of issues which otherwise may not be within the purview of the mass media and general public. This increase of awareness of complex issues can be a great benefit to society, especially in today’s globalized world. When we create something and insert it into the public realm there is always the risk of controversy. But controversy can be positive so long as we are able to learn from it and endeavor to understand how such controversy came to be.

Like it or not, this water feature has caused quite a stir, arousing feelings of indignation, curiosity, wonder and amusement. On the Experience Canada website, one journalist wrote about how unimpressive the Lake was. The next day someone wrote “today I heard the birds chirping  as a sate in a Muskoka chair, so how can I stay mad at you fake lake?”

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Maria Piacente

About The Author

Maria Piacente is a Vice President at Lord Cultural Resources.

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3 Comments

Ozge Sade / July 5, 2010

Based on what I have read about this controversy, which I have found googling “fake lake”, the debate focuses on the cost of this exhibition. While I can understand the objections to spending so much money on this, cultural representation has historically been expensive and monumental since its emergence in Europe in the 19th century and even earlier. And these monumental 19th century museums are also contoversial. So, this is actually the basic criticism of the museum institution and modern representation. As the admin also mentions, culture cannot be conceived seperate from its political and economic context.

On the other hand, I am curious to hear more about the exhibition itself. For example, from the pictures I have seen on the web, the phrase “fake lake” might not be a good name for this installation, because this kind of expressions are used for another context; for example Las Vegas hotels. In the hotel Venetian for example, they attempt to create an accurate or let’s say literal experience of the canals of Venice, whereas, in the so called ‘fake lake’ you get an abstract representation of reality. I would call hotel Venetian “fake”, but probably not the Canadian Experience Exhibit. I would be interested to read more about the exhibition to further understand if it can be called ‘fake’. So, any suggestions appreciated.


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Robert Philip / July 14, 2010

Twenty-nine Years and Still Going Strong–Posted by Robert Philip, Retired Educator and Executive Director in the Not-for-Profit Sector:
I agree with Andrew Coyne’s article from the June 25 issue of Maclean’smagazine:”Fake lake wake”. Let’s just put the controversy behind us and move on to more important issues and challenges like creating cultural capital.
As a member of the general public, interested in art and culture, I would like to congratulate Barry Lord and Gail Dexter Lord on the publication of their new book: “Artists, Patrons, and the Public: Why Culture Changes”. As founders of Lord Cultural Resources, they have been sucessful in creating cultural capital across the globe for over 29 years. As an admirer, I recognize and appreciate their dedicaton andl contribution to cultural organizations, with envisioning, planning, and implementing strategies that exemplify innovation and excellence. I believe that they deserve to be honored by their home province with an “Order of Ontario” and by the Canadian government with an “Order of Canada”.


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Joseph Banh / July 15, 2010

@Ozge Sade: You’re quite correct that the term “fake lake” is both a misnomer and misleading. However, in the context of creating attention grabbing headlines it was a rather clever term created by the news media- as evident by the immense public interest around the project! For the exhibition team, ‘fake’ was besides the point- the water feature was meant to be evocative of the Muskoka region, not to replicate it (Muskoka is known for an abundance of lakes). The entire project was conceived of as one experience which also included a cityscape area that evoked a sense of Canada’s urban environment. In between the “lake” and the cityscape was an information bar that we called the “Bridge”. This space displayed beautiful high definition videos of Canada from coast to coast, was used for sampling Canadian food and beverage, and provided information services for attending journalists. Check out our facebook page for some more images of “Experience Canada” at: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=22306&id=123947910962771.


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The views and opinions expressed by the contributing authors are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of Lord Cultural Resources and its affiliates or subsidiary companies. Any reviews or critiques offered on products or services have not been paid for and are the opinion only of their author.