In the summer of 2004, we performed The Stump Act, traveling the entire 1896 km length of Yonge Street, from the shores of Lake Ontario to the US-Canada border at Rainy River. Along the way, we erected twenty rectangular wooden signs depicting tree stumps, dividing the street into twenty sections. The result is a two channel video installation that documents the performance, partly from the dash of our car.
Background: Yonge Street was a massive military undertaking. John Graves Simcoe, the first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada, intended the street to lead from York (now Toronto) to Lake Toronto (now Lake Simcoe). It was to be a north-south access route for military use, eventually named by Simcoe after his friend Sir George Yonge, the British Secretary at War. Simcoe did not intend to start with nothing. He scouted the Humber-Holland Trail and eventually built Yonge Street along the Don Trail, both of which were considered 'Indian Trails' by the Europeans. At first, the street was nothing but a twenty-foot-wide, “narrow, twisting trail dotted with ugly tree stumps and treacherous holes with steep hills and unabridged streams.” This prompted one York magistrate to enforce a “Stump Act” circa 1800, setting the penalty for public drunkenness to the removal of at least one tree stump from Yonge Street.