A Man Tried to Climb One of Canada’s Most Famous Public Artworks and Got Trapped Inside It Until Rescuers Found Him

It took the fire department an hour and a half to free the man.

Ball-Nogues Studio, Talus Dome, in Edmonton, Alberta. Photo by Talusdome. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

A Canada man looking for an “adventure” in a public work of art got more than he bargained for.

Police have hit 26-year-old Wakeem Courtoreille with a $5,000 fine and charged him with one count of mischief after he climbed inside the most famous sculpture in Edmonton, Alberta, and got trapped inside it over the weekend. It took three teams of emergency responders—including a technical rescue team from the fire department—about an hour and a half to extricate Courtoreille from Talus Dome, which is made from 1,000 handcrafted stainless steel spheres.

“It’s definitely a first for me,” Edmonton Fire Rescue Services chief Troy Brady told CTV News Edmonton. “It’s definitely different than what we would typically use it [the jaws of life] for.”

Courtoreille appears to have climbed to the top of the silvery structure and slipped inside through a gap between the balls. He shouted for help to let people know he was trapped. A bystander called 911 around 8:30 p.m.

 

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“It was kind of like watching a mouse fall into a bucket,” Connor Schwindt, a local resident who witnessed the incident while out running, told CBC. “He was just kind of running around inside of it starting to freak out because he couldn’t get out.”

The 2011 piece is the work of Ball-Nogues Studio, a collaboration between California artists Benjamin Ball and Gaston Nogues. It was created for the city’s Percent for Art inititiative, in conjunction with the Edmonton Arts Council, and is part of the City of Edmonton’s Public Art Collection.

It cost $600,000 to build, according to Canadian newspaper the St. Catharines Standard, which in 2018 published an article about a petition to move the sculpture to avoid additional vandalism after someone splashed it with green paint.

The name Talus Dome is a reference to the talus earth formations that naturally accumulate at the base of the steep slopes of the nearby North Saskatchewan River, an important feature of Edmonton’s natural landscape. The mound of spheres, placed near the near the Quesnell Bridge, is meant to recall those rock piles on the riverbeds, as well as snow drifts and even heaps of gravel at construction sites, functioning almost as a non-organic earthwork.

“The surface of Talus Dome takes on different colors with the changing seasons and hours of the day as it literally reflects its surroundings,” the artists’ website explained, adding that it was purposely designed with a void in its center. “It also has spaces and gaps between the spheres, leaving the viewer to complete the shape with her mind’s eye while enabling her to see between the spheres and through the pile.”

Unfortunately, that view proved hard to resist for Courtoreille.

“[I] just wanted to go on an adventure and I climbed up there and ended up slipping and falling through,” he told CTV News. When he realized he was stuck, he thought to himself, “this is bad.”

Rescuers had to cut into the structure and remove one of the balls in order to free the trapped man, who was promptly arrested. Courtoreille allegedly damaged the work while scaling the sculpture.

“It all happened so fast,” Courtorilli added, speaking to Global News. “It was pretty intense. It was pretty traumatic.”


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