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Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival opens 25th anniversary edition
Esmaa Mohamoud, The Brotherhood FUBU (For Us, By Us), (detail, mural), 2020–21. Courtesy of the artist and Georgia Scherman Projects.

TORONTO.- Today, the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival announced the full program for its 25th edition of the city-wide event. Every year, CONTACT enlivens greater Toronto with photo-based exhibitions and outdoor installations by Canadian and international artists. CONTACT is presenting a diverse slate of powerful projects and virtual features that dynamically engage viewers during these challenging times. This year’s Festival extends beyond its customary month-long event in May to roll out programming throughout the year, as it responds to fluctuating public health guidelines. Full details are now available on CONTACT’s redesigned website, including insightful photo essays for each of the 41 projects in its Core Program.

All indoor exhibitions planned for May will open later in the year, as government guidelines related to the COVID-19 pandemic permit. Artists featured in Core Program exhibitions at artist-run-centres, galleries, and museums include: Laia Abril, Dawoud Bey, Persijn Broersen & Margit Lukács, Fatma Bucak, Dana Claxton, Nicole Coon, Jenni Crain, Susan Dobson, John Edmonds, nichola feldman-kiss, Kelly Fyffe-Marshall, Timothy Yanick Hunter, Onyeka Igwe, Emmanuelle Léonard, Christina Leslie, Wardell Milan, Sebastein Miller, Chris Myhr, Bidemi Oloyede, Jon Sasaki, Krista Belle Stewart, Miao Ying, Rehana Zaman, and Tereza Zelenkova. Toronto Photo Laureate and artist Michèle Pearson Clarke is curating a group exhibition featuring works by Nicholas Aiden, Lacie Burning, Séamus Gallagher, Tom Hsu, Christopher Lacroix, Wynne Neilly & Kyle Lasky, Isabel Okoro, Michelle Panting, and Brianna Roye.

A selection of Core Program outdoor projects will be on view as of May 1 in spaces across the city adhering to public health guidelines with other installations’ dates to be confirmed, pending government lockdown guidelines. Artists presenting Core Program outdoor projects include: Sara Angelucci, Jeff Bierk & Jimmy James Evans, Dayna Danger, Gohar Dashti, Max Dean, Kim Hoeckele, Sasha Huber, Lili Huston-Herterich, Vid Ingelevics & Ryan Walker, Leyla Jeyte, Aaron Jones, Erik Kessels & Thomas Mailaender, Luther Konadu, Esmond Lee, Ange Loft, Peter Morin, Esmaa Mohamoud, Ebti Nabag, Taiyo Onorato & Nico Krebs, Frida Orupabo, Andrew Savery-Whiteway, Thirza Schaap, Fallon Simard, Skawennati, Greg Staats, Malgorzata Stankiewicz, and McAlister Zeller-Newman.

Winners of the 2020 and 2021 New Generation Photography Award, recognizing outstanding photographic imagery by emerging Canadian lens-based artists age 35 and under, are Dustin Brons, Chris Donovan, Noah Friebel, Dainesha Nugent-Palache, Curtiss Randolph, and Katherine Takpannie, whose works will be featured in an outdoor installation at Ryerson University. Click here for further information.

“Collaborating with artists and cultural partners across greater Toronto, CONTACT affirms artists’ roles in building awareness and stimulating meaningful dialogue about important issues, whether individual, collective, or global. Many 2021 projects envision more inclusive realities and honour diverse voices—visually transporting viewers to places of understanding, empathy, and resilience,” said CONTACT Executive Director Darcy Killeen.

In addition to CONTACT’s Core Program, Juried Call Exhibitions are planned at established galleries, and Open Call Exhibitions present work by emerging artists at galleries and alternative locations across the city. Several of these exhibitions can be seen outdoors, in storefront windows, or virtually, while other venues plan to safely welcome visitors by appointment as government guidelines permit. Visit CONTACT’s website for regular updates, and check venues’ websites or call ahead for the most accurate information on public hours or closures.

While CONTACT is not currently planning any onsite events or gatherings this year, it is offering new ways to engage with the Festival on its redesigned website, with virtual exhibitions, conversations, workshops, and more, throughout the month of May and beyond. For the first time, the website will feature brief audio talks about selected outdoor installations, providing unique insights into the projects as described by the artist(s) and/or curators. QR codes posted at selected sites will connect visitors directly to these audio tracks, making them accessible both on location and from home.

Highlights of the Core Program outdoor projects opening May 1 include:

Jeff Bierk & Jimmy James Evans, For Jimmy
Billboards at Dupont St/Emerson Ave & Dupont St/Perth Ave, May 1 – 30

With a practice grounded in respect and consent, Toronto artist Jeff Bierk creates images evolving from an ongoing collaboration with his close friends who live on the city’s streets, highlighting the strength and resilience of this community. Bierk presents billboard-sized portraits honouring his friend Jimmy James Evans, one of his earliest and closest collaborators.

Kim Hoeckele, epoch, stage, shell
Billboards at Dupont St/Dovercourt Rd & College St/Dovercourt Rd, May 1 – 30

New York-based artist Kim Hoeckele confronts viewers with her nude body which echoes moments shaping the Western art-historical canon and notions of beauty. She proposes a messier standard: one mixed, eroded, and patched together. Hoeckele’s billboard photomontages challenge viewers to consider the psychological violence caused by the idealization of women’s bodies.

Lili Huston-Herterich, A Room with Four People
Billboards at Runnymead Rd/Ryding Ave, May 1 – 30

Rotterdam-based artist Lili Huston-Heterich presents a series of photographs drawing on methods of character and narrative development through the arrangement of found clothing as bodily forms. Each image represents one character, with their name and characteristics presented as overlaid text, with typefaces mimicking the signs of local businesses. Presented in conjunction with the exhibition In an Archipelago, at nearby Pumice Raft.

Thirza Schaap, Plastic Ocean
Davisville Subway Station, May 1 – 30

Dutch artist Thirza Schaap addresses the global plight of plastic waste in the world’s oceans. Positioned along the Davisville subway platform, her images of carefully composed sculptures appear beautiful and delicate but on closer inspection reveal they are constructed from bits of scavenged plastic the artist has found along the seashore.

Check the CONTACT website for updates on when additional outdoor projects will be on view in the coming the months. Highlights include:

Esmaa Mohamoud, The Brotherhood FUBU (For Us, By Us)
Westin Harbour Castle Conference Center, on display through 2023

Focusing on the physical connection between Black male bodies by amplifying the symbol of the durag, Esmaa Mohamoud confronts the dynamics of gender and race. Her massive photographic mural, the first phase of a two-part commissioned project, asserts a commanding occupation of public space. Foregrounding two men within an expansive scene, the Toronto- and Markham-based artist opens a powerful dialogue about systemic inequity while signaling positive change.

Group Exhibition, Force Field
Fort York National Historic Site, Garrison Common

Force Field is an Indigiqueer, immersive intervention within the Fort York National Historic site in Tkaron:to, featuring images by Dayna Danger (Métis/Saulteaux/Polish), Ange Loft (Kahnawake Mohawk), Peter Morin (Talhtan Nation), and Fallon Simard (Anishinaabe-Metis). Through a series of curved panoramic billboards arranged in a circular formation, the installation draws inspiration from a medicine wheel, as each artist responds to one of the four directions and their associated natural elements.

Frida Orupabo, Woman with book / Woman with snake
460 King Street West North façade

Exploring questions of race, gender, culture, class, and their complex intersections, Frida Orupabo fuses varied archival materials to question colonial and modern representations of Black womanhood. Positioned on the façade of a Victorian-era building, monumental images by the Oslo-based, Nigerian-Norwegian artist portray Black women’s bodies as sites of knowledge and empowerment.

Skawennati, Calico & Camouflage: Assemble!
Yonge-Dundas Square

Working within the 3D virtual realm, Tiohtia:ke/Montreal-based Mohawk artist Skawennati creates projects that posit Indigenous futures. In Calico & Camouflage: Assemble!, a new site-responsive installation, cyberpunk activist avatars reinforce the fusion of personal fashion and protest. Occupying digital screens and concrete columns at Yonge-Dundas Square, they powerfully uphold Indigenous presence in Tkaron:to/Toronto.

Max Dean, McAlister Zeller-Newman, Andrew Savery-Whiteway and Chris Hampton, Still—Your Bubble
With a trailer transformed into a mobile photo studio, this new public art project by Toronto artists Max Dean, McAlister Zeller-Newman, Andrew Savery-Whiteway, and writer Chris Hampton is inspired by the itinerant photographers of the 19th century. The studio will travel across the city, inviting the public into the trailer to have their picture taken and processed, with the photographs serving as mementos. To ensure social distancing, the role of photographer has been taken over by animatronic figures known as ‘Andy and the lads.’ Visit the CONTACT website for details about where and when to see the mobile trailer.

CONTACT will offer a variety of virtual programs beginning in May and continuing throughout 2021. Virtual Exhibitions showcase over 20 juried and open-call solo and group exhibitions on view May 1, including:

Laura Kay Keeling, The Advantages of Tender Loving Care
Examining aspects of reciprocal care, Keeling seeks to understand how people form connections with each other and with nature, and how they capture and cherish memories and moments in time. This exhibition features the first in Keeling’s new series of moving images and collages that merge sourced imagery with scanned floral elements.

Maximum Exposure 2021
Maximum Exposure the annual capstone exhibition for Ryerson University’s School of Image Arts, features innovative work by 200+ emerging artists working in photography, video, and digital media. This year’s Max Ex also includes its first ever public art installation, an image wrap installed on the IMA building, at the centre of the university’s campus at Gould and Bond streets in Toronto.

2021 Sheridan Honours Bachelor of Photography Graduating Class, GRADWORK
GRADWORK highlights diverse perceptions of the conceptual, technical, and aesthetic possibilities of photography as a professional medium. In addition to the virtual exhibition, work of the 2021 graduates will also be displayed outdoors in Toronto’s downtown west end. Click here for information about locations.

Senior citizens collaborate with photographic artist Davis to create their “dream scene” using the magic of green-screen photography. In doing so, they fulfill long-held fantasies, virtually. Engage with these feisty seniors as they meet royalty, go on safari, walk a tightrope, hobnob with celebs, ride a bucking bronco, “diss” politicians, and much more. 92 is the new 29!

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May 1, 2021

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