The Unsolicited Reply

Lisa Steele + Kim Tomczak

Mixed Media Light and Sound Installation, 2013
Thorsell Spirit House, ROM Level 1

  • Installation detail from The Unsolicited Reply, an interactive light and sound installation by Lisa Steele and Kim Tomczak. Photo: Susana Reisman.

  • Installation detail from The Unsolicited Reply, an interactive light and sound installation by Lisa Steele and Kim Tomczak. Photo: Susana Reisman.

  • Installation detail from The Unsolicited Reply, an interactive light and sound installation by Lisa Steele and Kim Tomczak. Photo: Susana Reisman.

Toronto based visual artists Lisa Steele and Kim Tomczak have created an interactive light and sound installation inside the ROM’s Thorsell Spirit House.

The Unsolicited Reply takes its name from the Wordsworth poem Yes, It Was the Mountain Echo. It invokes the image of something reflected back “…like—but oh, how different”* from its source. In this work the artists point to the very human desire for light and ‘magic’ which is countered by the realization that this spectacle is consuming precious resources—in this case energy—and that there is a consequence to our actions. Visitors may choose to blaze up the lights and increase the volume, or they can stand back and allow the lights to return to a resting state and the audio to a faint hum.

* From Yes, It Was the Mountain Echo. William Wordsworth

The artists would like to thank Mark Pellegrino for Digital Animation, Gerald Grison for Electronic Design and Robin Clarke for Sculptural Fabrication.


Lisa Steele + Kim Tomczak

Steele and Tomczak have collaborated exclusively since 1983, producing videotapes, performances, and photo/text works that have been extensively exhibited nationally and internationally. They have received the Bell Canada prize for excellence in Video Art, a Toronto Arts Award, and a Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts. They are co-founders of Vtape, a Toronto media arts centre and they teach at the University of Toronto in the Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design.

Informer Text

Turning Back the Clock

Dr. Andrew Weaver, OBC, FRSC
International award winning climate scientist

We have now entered a new era—an era never before experienced by humans, or even by our distant Neanderthal and Homo erectus cousins.

It would take decades for the climate system to equilibrate to 400 ppm (parts per million) of carbon dioxide. Yet this number is still growing by about 2 ppm per year. We’ve already turned the clock back over 3 million years to a time when the world was much warmer and the sea level much higher than today. A forested Ellesmere Island hosted exotic species such as Arctic camels. Greenland was largely ice-free. And we’re on track to continue turning the clock back tens of millions of years more to a time when dinosaurs roamed the world as we continue to use our atmosphere as an unregulated dumping ground for our fossil fuel pollution. 

Yet all the solutions are before us. We have the ability to reset the clock if we want to.

Multimedia Extras

Artists Steele and Tomczak talk about their involvement with Cape Farewell, their project — The Unsolicited Reply — they created for the Carbon 14: Climate is Culture exhibition at the ROM, and about their role as artists in talking about the problem of climate change.

This video was generously made and produced by Oasis HD for Cape Farewell Foundation’s Carbon 14: Climate is Culture exhibition and festival.

Oasis HD - Media Partner

This Clement World

This Clement World is a fiercely creative and charismatic tribute to our rapidly changing environment, as seen through the prism of Cynthia Hopkins’ deeply personal lens and wild cross-disciplinary style. Performed live with a 15-piece chorus and band, This Clement World blends outlandish fiction and original avant-folk songs with Hopkins’ own documentary footage from an Arctic expedition with Cape Farewell, infusing our global climate crisis with humour, poetics and urgency.

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Day of Dialogue

Participate in an afternoon of high-level balanced presentations and discussion about the impacts of climate change on Inuit communities with leading experts and stakeholders.

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Download the Exhibition Guide

Download your copy of the Carbon 14: Climate is Culture Festival and Exhibition Guide.

Multimedia Extras

View our Multimedia Extras to learn more about the issues behind Carbon 14: Climate is Culture.