Neon Narcissism

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This weekend, I checked out the pop-up neon exhibition in a condo sales centre in The Junction. Entering the space, my eyes should have been drawn to a lit sign rescued from a short-lived restaurant in Chinatown. Instead, the first thing I noticed was a woman sitting on the ground in front of the “Lucky” sign, posing for a long series of pictures. She attempted to cultivate a seductive mood, perhaps hoping that whoever saw the end result would feel as lucky as the neon message behind her.

Elsewhere in the small exhibition space, it was nearly impossible to read the curatorial material. Doing so interfered with the selfie-takers snapping endless pictures of themselves striking poses with little consideration that others might want a few moments to take in the displays.

My temperature rose.

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A moment for myself and others to take a regular photo. 

All I thought of was my honeymoon in Paris two years ago. The day we visited the Louvre, the city was under tight security after a terrorist threat that morning. After a long wait to get into the museum, my irritation grew as other tourists, armed with selfie sticks, blocked exhibits.

And walkways.

And staircases.

Trying to navigate the Louvre felt like an obstacle course, with every path blocked by those more interested in themselves than any of historical or cultural contexts surrounding them. I wanted to re-enact the scene in Airplane! where Robert Stack decks anyone in his way en route to air traffic control.

I felt less danger that day from terrorists than being accidentally knocked in the head or jabbed in the side by a selfie-stick.

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Back in the present I decided to move along. It was a relief when, after leaving the exhibit, someone who appeared to be a condo centre employee directed me into a model living room to check out one more neon installation. While it didn’t convince me to invest in a unit, it placed me far away from the selfie horde, allowing my temperature to lower.

Talking to others who visited the exhibit revealed similar frustrations. The pop-up was a great idea to provide exposure for a future neon museum downtown, but it felt like too many of the people I saw there were only present for narcissistic reasons. I imagined some of them moving on to whatever is this season’s version of Sweet Jesus, buying over-the-top food for a picture then barely eating it before tossing it in the garbage bin.

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POSTSCRIPT: Speaking of garbage, the block of Old Weston Road behind Junction House was full of debris. There was a comforting seat with its own shopping cart…

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…and the answer to “Where do Readers Digest Condensed Books ultimately wind up?”.