Bentempus Gardinus: A Long-Exposure Ecological Portrait

Geometric animal sculptures emerge from the Gardiner, representing species who’ve inhabited this place across time – from prehistoric woolly mammoths to sly modern foxes. Alex Sheriff’s speculative new work uncovers each of their stories and reconsiders our own role within natural history.

In human-built settlements, such as cities, it can become easy to place ourselves in a category separate from all other species, or even separate from nature itself. But if we consider the massive scope of life – plants, animals, and other organisms that have inhabited this land over time – against our blip of human existence, we can begin to adjust our perspectives.

In Alex Sheriff’s speculative new work, he imagines the Gardiner as a natural organism with a life of its own. This organism, known as Bentempus Gardinus, lives by processing the historical flora and fauna of the site where the Gardiner sits today across millions of years. Evidence of its presence is found in the form of vibrant sculptures emerging from the concrete columns of The Bentway Skate Trail, representing the species who’ve made their home here. True to Sheriff’s work, there is an irony present: with his creatures taking on the inorganic, geometric shapes of the Gardiner, he reminds us that we can never fully shed our humanity in our desire to understand non-humans. Through a series of accompanying texts, seemingly torn from the pages of a fantastical field guide, viewers can step into Sheriff’s “long-exposure ecological portrait” and experience the inner workings of Bentempus Gardinus. In doing so, we are invited to gain a deeper understanding of the ecology of this place and reconsider our role in the great expanse of natural history. 

What to expect:

  • Wheelchair accessible
  • All gender and accessible washrooms available during 1 – 8:30pm on weekdays, and 10am – 8:30pm on weekends. The washrooms will be closed on Mondays, with the exception of holidays.
  • Benches are nearby for those that require seating accommodations
  • Elements of the project will be accessible via QR codes and may require mobile devices and access to the internet to experience. 
  • All didactic text and QR codes will be placed near ground level for accessibility.
Flip through the field guide below!
Interview with the artist:


project team

  • Artist Assistants: Moe Pramanick & Peter Rahul
  • Fabricated and Installed by: Steel & Oak 
  • Engineering by: Blackwell 
  • Vinyl by: Beyond Digital Imaging


Commissioned by The Bentway

Special Thanks 

  • Alex Sheriff and The Bentway would like to extend a special note of thanks to Dr. Duke Redbird, Dr. Kevin Seymour, and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority for their guidance and expertise in informing the development of this project.