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Yarn Installation Destroyed; Artists Perplexed

Left: The yarn installation was cut down on Saturday afternoon. Photo courtesy Michael Fila. Right: The artists say it took about 18 hours for them to tie the yarn. Photo courtesy Toki.

Toki’s “Synth Series 002” was meant to be a temporary installation–a stunning web of yarn that brought curious visitors to an abandoned, graffiti-emblazoned building in Northeast. The duo behind the art collective–Toluwalase Rufai and Khai Grubbs–had hoped to take the strings down themselves on August 12.

On Saturday afternoon, however, someone beat them to it. The carefully arranged threads at 809 Channing Place in Edgewood were cut down without the pair’s knowledge. The yarn was piled in neat bundles on the floor.

So who tore down the piece? The answer remains unclear. The installation’s legality wasn’t firmly established; Rufai and Grubbs admit they created it without permission from the building’s owner. The address is listed as the future location for Channing Place, a six-story residential building by Douglas Development Corporation. The real estate developer didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday afternoon.

What took Toki about 18 hours to create was destroyed in about an hour. “What’s the point of cutting it and putting it on the ground?” says Rufai, who heard the news from a commenter on Instagram. “Art is impermanent. It’s temporary. But it’s just the way [the installation] was treated that we do not like or agree with.”

Though they didn’t find what they were looking for, some weekend visitors lingered in the abandoned space. “It was cool because the art piece brought us to a part of the city that we don’t really frequent,” says Michael Fila, who visited the building with a friend on Sunday. “People seemed disappointed that it had been cut down, but it didn’t deter anyone from coming in to explore the space.”

Toki isn’t letting the snafu bring them down. Grubbs says they have plans for another installation before summer’s end: “We’re going to continue adding to the series.” As for the location, they’re not ready to reveal that just yet.