The Rise of Serpentine Mounds


In 2002, Ian Lazarus was invited by artist Noel Harding to submit creative ideas to the liveARTs Festival, which Noel was spearheading. The Festival's goal was "to broaden audience experience at the Toronto Zoo through a series of art/cultural projects." The Festival was to be located in the parking lot areas, along walkways, at entrance gates, through the Zoo site at locations where people are in transit or queuing and at the new amphitheatre.

Ian teamed up with artist Badanna Zack to propose a site-specific installation that would be composed of obsolete cars embedded in three mounds forming a serpent shape, to be located on an island in the Zoo parking lot, near the Zoo entrance. The intention was also to juxtapose the piece with Mobile Fun, a ferris wheel by Dutch artist/architect John Körmeling that circulates cars and their passengers, hoisting them 100 feet into the air.


The proposal, entitled Serpentine Mounds, was selected as "one of four central projects, to be installed and undertaken by liveARTs, in partnership with the Toronto Zoo, The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, The Museum of Contemporary Canadian At (MOCCA), The Textile Museum of Canada, The Tree Museum and the individual Artists and Curators. A consciousness of the environment and sustainability was an underlying reference to all of the projects."

In May 2003, the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund approved funding for the liveARTs Festival, to be held in 2004. In order to help secure this funding, Ian Lazarus had engaged a number of in-kind sponsors who were drawn to the project abd festival because it uniquely tied in with their own environmental mandates.

    "By juxtaposing junked cars with new vehicles in a parking lot, the work serves as a reminder that our precious possessions will some day meet the same fate as their counterparts. Serpentine Mounds prompts questions about our consumer behaviour and its effect on the environment."

    liveARTs Festival sponsor package, 2004

In the fall of 2003, the Toronto Zoo renamed the event, changed the selection of works proposed and moved to relocate Serpentine Mounds out of the parking lot. An unused space in the African area of the Zoo was selected as the new location for the project and the artists adjusted the concept for this site-specific work to suit the new space. The Zoo's CEO and General Manager Calvin White, introduced Toronto's Solid Waste Management Services to the project.  He indicated that the work should remain on site at least a year or longer, although the Toronto zooarts festival -- as the visual arts exhibition was now called -- was scheduled to run from June to September 2004.


Construction of Serpentine Mounds spanned 6 1/2 weeks starting from April 6, 2004 to
May 13, 2004:
  • Standard Auto Wreckers provided the cars that they stripped and cleaned to make them environmentally safe.
  • The City of Toronto's Solid Waste Management Services provided the equipment and crew to move the earth, install the cars and provide the topsoil, as well as cash towards communications.
  • Terrafix Geo provided the silt fence to protect the trees and wetlands within the installation space
  • Toronto Zoo adapted the construction fencing and seeded the grass once production was completed
  • Ian Lazarus and Badanna Zack coordinated production, provided the creative direction and contributed their labour for shaping the earth and cleaning the cars.
The production process went very smoothly, thanks to all those involved, and was completed in June once the grass had grown in. See weekly production process by clicking on thumbnail images on the Serpentine Mounds main page. The installation was removed October of 2004

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