An Absolutly fabulous pop-up

Photography by Alana Kakia

Photography by Alana Kakia

“In an Absolut world,” Justin Broadbent jokes, “all the vodka would be beer.”

For an artist, Broadbent can be such a dude.  He creates almost hyper-actively—photographing, graphic designing, directing music videos (hotdoggarbage.com), mashing up mediums in big-scale works—and now,  he’s been commissioned by Absolut to create a one-day-only art exhibit. But honestly? On the sunny day of our interview, he’d rather be hanging out in the park with pretty girls. And the longer we chat, the clearer I see: this guy is 40 ounces of distilled positivity and not a drop of pretense.
“The Absolut project is cool because it’s all about opportunities,” he says. “What I’m doing is kind of about being alive and connected and conscious and productive. And there’s a spiritual element.”

Right, and what does it look like?

“It’s kind of like a video, and kind of like a sculpture. Maybe a dreamscape.”

Pause.

“Does that sound like total crap?”

He laughs, apologizes.  But no need. If Broadbent’s being vague, it’s only because Absolut has shrouded his art project in KGB levels of secrecy. I’ve been getting emails about it for weeks and weeks, and keeping up with imaginative, excited hints on Broadbent’s blog (justinbroadbent.com/absolut). But not til recently was the location revealed—the Lower Bay subway station, an abandoned stop beneath the Bay & Bloor subway, and one of the coolest, creepiest places in the city. And the so-called dreamscape? Still a carefully contained mystery.

It’s working: curiosity is killing me. But I give up asking Broadbent questions he contractually can’t  answer, and ask him the money question instead.

“You know, not that I want to get into this conversation, but money and art have always gone together,” Broadbent says—to my immediate relief, because, well, duh. Corporate arts funding is the new Medici patronage. “Absolut’s a brand that’s kind of with it, and they’ve always worked with artists, like Warhol. I don’t think the commercial aspect devalues the work.”

Besides, he says: “There’s integrity involved. It’s not, like, babes dancing on tables.”

Well, actually, there might be. See, on August 13, Broadbent’s own private Absolut world will be flung open to the public, from noon to 4 p.m.—and the vodka-soaked party afterward can’t possibly be tame. Want more details on the big night? Stay tuned: twitter.com/justinbroadbent.