What it's like to be topless in Toronto


By Sinéad O'Donnell


During my time in Toronto with performance artist Paul Couillard we discussed the representation of the body in performance art and how the meaning of the body, if nude, was percieved by the general public in public space as opposed to  it’s perception in gallery-led live art practices. Paul and his partner Ed related the story of Gwen Jacob, a student who was arrested for removing her top in public on a hot summer’s day in Ontario, Canada, 1991. A judge decided that both men and women equally had the right to walk the streets topless.

Paul and I had been trying to decide on what days and times we could work in the supporting space of the ‘Toronto Free Gallery’. I suggested that a way of working would be to walk to the gallery bare-chested. We began at 5pm and arrived at 7pm. I would have never taken this walk alone; I felt empowered by Paul’s presence as we continuously talked about many subjects along the way. My heart was in my mouth.

I remembered when I was around 7 or 8 years old. My mother suddenly insisited that I wore a t-shirt whenever I was playing outside on a hot summers day. I remember feeling irritated by her new mindset and at that age didn’t know why she was restricting me - I just didn’t like it.


Title - 'Sinéad O’Donnell in conversation with Paul Couillard in conversation with Sinéad O’Donnell'

Date – 09/08/2011

Location – Toronto, Canada

Duration – 2 hours (5pm-7pm)


Toronto Free Gallery
1277 Bloor Street West
Toronto ON M4E 2J8
43° 39' 30.1104" N, 79° 26' 31.8552" W
Tue 6 Sep 2011