Toronto's preeminent month-long festival will showcase public art installations by established and emerging Canadian and international artists in May 2021
Artists from Canada and around the world present lens-based works in exhibitions, sitespecific installations and commissioned projects at museums, galleries, and public spaces across Toronto. The preliminary list of artists includes Sara Angelucci, Dana Claxton, Susan Dobson, nichola feldman-kiss, Sasha Huber, Onyeka Igwe, Erik Kessels & Thomas Mailaender, Emmanuelle Léonard, Sebastein Miller, Esmaa Mohamoud, Isabel Okoro and Timothy Yanick Hunter, Frida Orupabo, Jon Sasaki, and Rehana Zaman. Artist and educator Logan MacDonald will curate a multi-artist public project, and Toronto Photo Laureate and artist Michèle Pearson Clarke is curating a group exhibition featuring works by Nicholas Aiden, Lacie Burning, Seamus Gallagher, Tom Hsu, Christopher Lacroix, Wynne Neilly & Kyle Lasky, Isabel Okoro, Michelle Panting, and Brianna Roye. Projects rescheduled from 2020 include artists Laia Abril, Persijn Broersen & Margit Lukács, Wendy Coburn, Alberto Giuliani, Kim Hoeckele, Vid Ingelevics & Ryan Walker, Taiyo Onorato & Nico Krebs, Thirza Schaap, Greg Staats, Malgorzata Stankiewicz, and Tereza Zelenkova.
CONTACT celebrates this milestone anniversary during Toronto's Year of Public Art in 2021. Inaugurated in 2003, the Festival's public installations program cohesively engages site, image, and viewer, and expands its activation of spaces throughout greater Toronto next year to provide high-profile platforms for artists to explore critical and timely concerns. Themes addressed in 2021 reflect the intense upheaval, ongoing conflict and global unrest of the present day. Subjects include the perception of Black bodies in contemporary and colonial paradigms; Indigenous perspectives on land, culture, sovereignty, and the effects of colonization; the intersectional experiences of artists from queer and disabilty communities; representations of women's bodies as sites of power challenging history; the state of the environment and the impact of humanity and geopolitics on climate change; and isolation, existence and survival during times of pandemic.
"Public installations have long been a vital aspect of our core program and are now highly anticipated by the international photography community,Toronto residents, and visitors. Many artists are showing in Canada for the first time and a number of participants are commissioned to create site-responsive works for public spaces. The 2021 Festival focuses on the environment and centers BIPOC voices through projects that confront local and global realities to expand knowledge and stimulate conversation. By fostering creative engagements in the public sphere, we aim to provide opportunities for meaningful dialogue," said Artistic Director Bonnie Rubenstein.
"The CONTACT team is thrilled to be able to mount these engaging and thought-provoking projects during ArtworxTO: Toronto's Year of Public Art 2021. As we present our 25 th season with an outstanding roster of lens-based artists, we are pleased to welcome back many of our long-standing partners and sponsors who continue to support our activites as one of the world's top photography festivals. We very much look forward to greeting the public in May, both in-person and online," said CONTACT Executive Director Darcy Killeen.
Highlights of CONTACT 2021 Public Installations
Sara Angelucci: Nocturnal Botanical Ontario
Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives (PAMA)
For several years, Toronto artist Sara Angelucci has undertaken a close study of nature in rural Ontario, work accelerated by the lockdown beginning in spring 2020. Cloaked by the darkness of night, she used a scanner outdoors to capture detailed ecologies of verdant plants and insects. Angelucci's luminous compositions reveal native plants entwined with cultivated and invasive species, speaking to the colonial interests embedded in Ontario's Crown Land. Presented as murals on the exterior of PAMAformerly the Peel County Land Registry Office, Courthouse and Jail—Nocturnal Botanical Ontario invites consideration of the complicated and layered histories inscribed in this evolving landscape.
Group Exhibition: Force Field
Fort York National Historic Site
© Sara Angelucci, July 24 (Wild grape, Queen Anne’s Lace, Daisy Fleabane) (detail), from the series Nocturnal Botanical Ontario, 2020. Courtesy of the artist, Stephen Bulger Gallery, and Patrick Mikhail Gallery.
Force Field is a series of site-specific installations on the grounds of Fort York, curated by Indigenous-settler artist and educator Logan MacDonald. This commissioned project provides artistic platforms for diverse perspectives within a public civic arena outside of a traditional exhibition context. The project engages intersectional artists from Indigenous, queer, and disability communities, and positions their work together to establish dialogues that confront how civic spaces in Canada—particularly parks and historic sites—tend to be colonial and exclusionary, especially in relation to diverse histories, ways of living, and communities.
Alberto Guiliani: Surviving Humanity
Brookfield Place, Allan Lambert Galleria
Surviving Humanity (2018–20) by Italian photographer and journalist Alberto Giuliani focuses on the numerous scientific attempts around the world to safeguard ecological and societal longevity. Underscoring the urgency of environmental action, this selection of images and their accompanying texts resonate with the surrounding architecture of the Allen Lambert Galleria's glass atrium. In the heart of Canada's financial district, Guiliani opens a dialogue about the future of the planet, confronting the question asked by his children which motivated these extensive explorations: "How will the world be when we grow up?" Unexpectedly, Guiliani's recent images captured during the pandemic evoke a disconcerting answer.
Kim Hoeckele: epoch, stage, shell
Billboards in Toronto
In epoch, stage, shell, New York-based artist Kim Hoeckele is both author and subject as she performs sculptural poses for the camera in her studio. Her figure occupies the majority of each frame, confronting viewers with her nude body as it echoes distinct art historical moments that have shaped the Western art historical canon and notions of Western beauty.
Here, she proposes a messier standard of beauty: one that is mixed, eroded, and patched together. Positioned in Toronto on billboards, epoch, stage, shell co-opts display mechanisms most commonly used for advertising. In this way, Hoeckele's visual assemblages can be seen in the locations where they are needed most, challenging viewers to consider the psychological violence caused by the idealization of women's bodies both past and present.
Vid Ingelevics & Ryan Walker
Villiers Street Median, Port Lands
In this second series of photographs installed on the construction-grade wooden structures built for CONTACT 2020, Toronto-based artists Vid Ingelevics and Ryan Walker chart the progression of the Port Lands Flood Protection Project, one of the most ambitious civil works projects in North America. The visual pathway they create between two industrial sites—the silos of the defunct ESSROC cement plant on Cherry Street, and the former location of a metal recycling facility at 130 Commissioners Street—reflects an ongoing engagement with the five-year transformation of industrial brownfield into parkland and urban infrastructure while highlighting themes and critical issues that have arisen during the process. Curated by Chloe Catan.
Erik Kessels & Thomas Mailaender
Play Public - The Bentway
French multimedia artist Thomas Mailaender and Dutch artist and designer Erik Kessels are known independently for their experimental practices. Both reappropriate and re-contextualize photographs and bring them into unexpected new frameworks. In this work co-commissioned with The Bentway, Mailaender and Kessels subvert notions of socio-cultural propriety in the public realm through the concept of play. Employing the archives of the Canadian National Exhibition, the artists apply images onto custom-built abstract play-structures, arranged like an interactive parkour course. Set within a densely populated hub of the city, the installation challenges the role of public art and the ways in which it can and should be navigated and enjoyed.
Esmaa Mohamoud: The Brotherhood FUBU (For Us, By Us)
Westin Harbour Castle Conference Centre (west façade); Harbour Square Park
Toronto-based artist Esmaa Mohamoud's The Brotherhood FUBU (For Us, By Us) is a twopart project presented in partnership with ArtworxTO: Toronto's Year of Public Art 2021 that confronts gender dynamics and the ways in which racialized people navigate public space. A powerful dialogue is generated between the massive photographic mural at 11 Bay Street and the life-sized sculpture positioned alongside the nearby waterfront at Harbour Square Park. Foregrounding the relationship between Black male bodies using the symbol of the du-rag, both works challenge ideas of intimacy and vulnerability to focus on the closeness and fragility of Black men and simultaneously confront the issues of systemic racism while signaling positive change.
Taiyo Onorato & Nico Krebs
Future Perfect - Metro Hall
© Esmaa Mohamoud, The Brotherhood FUBU (For Us By Us) (production detail, mural), 2020. Courtesy of Georgia Scherman Projects.
In Swiss duo Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs' first presentation in Canada, their critical and timely suite of images capture the idyllic beauty of the landscape and simultaneously point to its systemic collapse. Humanity's destructive impact on the environment is referenced not only through the images' content, but also by the artists' manual interventions that disrupt the traditional reading of such images of nature. Positioning their works alongside Metro Hall in Toronto's entertainment district—a site where civic culpability and the allure of fantasy coalesce, Onorato and Krebs rupture the signifiers of exotic travel and shatter the illusions of picture postcards.
Frida Orupabo: Woman with a book
460 King Street West (North façade)
Exploring questions of race, culture, class, and their complex intersections, Frida Orupabo brings together archival materials to both fuse and question colonial and modern representations of Black womanhood, care, and labour. Referencing personal and political narratives, the Norwegian-Nigerian artist's collages disrupt common conceptions of whose bodies belong where and why. Woman with a book (2020) asserts the notion of Black women's bodies as sites of knowledge and empowerment, while subverting the suppression of such power and the use of knowledge as a tool of control within colonial paradigms. This work, to be launched in January 2021 in conjunction with ArtworxTO, is the first in a two-part project by Orupabo, with the second work launched for the Festival in May.
Thirza Schapp: Plastic Ocean
Dupont Subway Station
© Frida Orupabo, Woman with a book, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg.
Cape Town-based Dutch artist Thirza Schaap's photographic series Plastic Ocean touches on pressing contemporary concerns that are front of mind globally. Disarmingly beautiful and delicate upon first glance, a closer inspection of her staged tableaus offers hints to their source material—consumer products that have endured a full commercial lifecycle. The abstracted compositions are carefully constructed from bits of scavenged plastic Schaap has found along the seashore, "disposable" packaging worn and weathered from exposure to the elements. Positioned along the subway platform, this project will impact thousands of daily commuters, in a space where they are accustomed to being targeted with commercial advertisements for new products.
Greg Staats: for at least one day, you should continue to breathe clearly
Todmorden Mills Heritage Site, The Papermill
Six Nations Hodinohso:ni, Toronto-based artist Greg Staats was commissioned to create a site-specific public installation at Todmorden Mills. With for at least one day, you should continue to breathe clearly, Staats conceives of the historical paper mill as a palimpsest in order to restore a supplanted Indigenous presence to the site. He will transform the building's exterior with photographic imagery and pictographic representations to create a dialogue between Todmorden Mills and the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, as well as to convey a photographic narrative of renewal derived from the Mohawk condolence ceremony.
Curated by Philip Monk.
Małgorzata Stankiewicz: Lassen (This is an Emergency)
Billboards in Toronto and nine cities across Canada
Polish artist Małgorzata Stankiewicz's Lassen (This is an Emergency) (2019) is a topographic and polychromatic exploration of natural landscapes, which it celebrates while simultaneously revealing the artist's uneasiness and anxiety about the current state of the environment. Further, it is an experimental investigation of the chromogenic process, the artist having spent countless hours in the darkroom compressing numerous layers of physical and chemical manipulations into one final image. For CONTACT's iteration of Lassen, presented large-scale on billboards across the country, Stankiewicz changed the titles of her images and overlaid text on a selection of them, drawing from current news stories in Canada that reflect our environmental and climate change challenges.