Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival Announces Highlights of its 25th Edition

  • TORONTO, Canada
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  • December 03, 2020

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Esmaa Mohamoud, The Brotherhood FUBU (For Us By Us) (production detail, mural), 2020. Courtesy of Georgia Scherman Projects.

Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival Announces

Highlights of its 25th Edition  

Toronto’s preeminent month-long festival will showcase public art installations by established and emerging Canadian and international artists in May 2021

Toronto, Ontario, CanadaScotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival today announced highlights of the 25th anniversary edition of the city-wide event spanning the month of May 2021. Artists from Canada and around the world present lens-based works in exhibitions, site-specific 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.

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.

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.

Enjoying Cotton Candy, 1970. Courtesy of the Canadian National Exhibition Archives, Slide Collection.

“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 25th 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 PAMA—formerly 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

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 re-appropriate 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 two-part 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

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

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.

Preliminary List of Partners

CONTACT’s 2021 Core Program of Primary Exhibitions and Public Installations is developed through collaborations with partners across Toronto, including: A Space Gallery; Allied Properties; Art Gallery of Ontario; ArtworxTO; BAND Gallery; The Bentway Conservancy; Brookfield Place; Campbell House Museum; City of Toronto; Gallery 44; Gallery TPW; Harbourfront Centre; John B. Aird Gallery; Koffler Gallery; McMichael Canadian Art Collection; Mercer Union, a centre for contemporary art; Onsite Gallery; Pattison Outdoor Advertising; Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives; The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery; Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art; Ryerson Image Centre; Todmorden Mills Heritage Site; Trinity Square Video; Waterfront Toronto; The Westin Harbour Castle; and Yonge-Dundas Square. Additional partners will be announced in the coming months. 

CONTACT gratefully acknowledges the support of ArtworxTO: Toronto’s Year of Public Art 2021, Canada Council for the Arts, Celebrate Ontario, Cultural Services of the Embassy of France in Canada, Government of Ontario, Istituto Italiano di Cultura, La Fondation Emmanuelle Gattuso, Mondriaan Fund, Ontario Arts Council, Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund, Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, Partners in Art, R. Howard Webster Foundation, Toronto Arts Council, Tourism Toronto and all funders, donors, and program partners.

About Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival

CONTACT fosters and celebrates the art and profession of photography with its annual Festival across greater Toronto in May and year-round programming in the CONTACT Gallery. CONTACT presents lens-based works by acclaimed and emerging artists, documentary photographers, and photojournalists from Canada and around the world. The curated program of primary exhibitions (collaborations with major museums, galleries, and artist-run centers), and public installations (site-specific public art projects), are the core of the Festival. These are cultivated through partnerships, commissions, and new discoveries, framing the cultural, social, and political events of our times. The featured and open exhibitions present a range of works by local and international artists at leading galleries and alternative spaces across the city. CONTACT normally presents a wide range of programs including a book fair, lectures, talks, panels, workshops, and symposia during the Festival and hosts exhibitions and programs at its Gallery throughout the year. Given potential Covid-19 restrictions, the Festival may have to curtail some of their in-person programming in 2021.  Please check the CONTACT website for updates.

CONTACT, a not-for-profit organization founded in 1997, is generously supported by its title sponsor Scotiabank, and Scotia Wealth Management, as well as 3M Canada, Art Toronto, Beyond Digital Imaging, BIG Digital, Four By Eight Signs, Gladstone Hotel, Pattison Outdoor Advertising, Steam Whistle, Toronto Image Works, The Gilder, Transcontinental PLM, and Waddington's. Media Sponsors: Canadian Art, CBC Toronto, NOW Magazine, and The Globe and Mail.

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Libby Mark or Heather Meltzer
Bow Bridge Communications

Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival
80 Spadina Ave
Suite 205
Toronto, Canada
416 539 9595

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