January 22 to March 29, 2009
Koffler Gallery Off-Site
Honest Ed’s, 581 Bloor Street West
Curator: Mona Filip

In a crossover between art, literature, and theatre, acclaimed Toronto artist Iris Häussler creates immersive environments that explore personal histories, either real or fictional. Both imitating and challenging museum practices, Häussler integrates found and fabricated archives and artifacts in her installations, raising questions about the demarcation between art and everyday life. With this new project, Häussler engages the GTA public in sharing real life stories.

Set up as a small clothing collection inside Toronto’s famous landmark, the Honest Ed’s store, Honest Threads displays garments and the memories they carry.  Lent by ordinary Torontonians as well as local celebrities, each item holds a personal story revealing a glimpse of the many threads that weave our identity over time. Visitors are able to borrow the garments for a few days and wear them, experiencing both literally and psychologically what it is like to “walk in someone else’s shoes.” At the same time, they add new layers to the clothes’ history. Trading experiences on both tactile and narrative levels will enrich our collective perception of the place we call home. As pieces of a vast puzzle, these individual stories render a fragmentary portrait of the city, attesting to its complex history.

With its overload of celebrity photographs and eccentric sales items, Honest Ed’s is no ordinary store but a museum in itself. It blurs the lines between commercial, public and exhibition spaces. The place equally attests to the inspiring story of its founder, Ed Mirvish. The son of Jewish immigrants from Russia and Austria, Mirvish had an invaluable impact on Toronto’s cultural scene and on the community through philanthropic gestures. Spotlighting Honest Ed’s significance as a haven for newcomers to Canada, Honest Threads positions the store as the meeting point of individual Toronto stories of immigration, survival and childhood dreams, entwined with the city’s cultural history.

Iris Häussler was born in Friedrichshafen, Germany and immigrated to Canada in 2001. She studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich and has exhibited widely throughout Europe. She is best known for her off-site installations in which she constructs fictitious personae through the material environment they live in. Locations have included rented apartments (Ou topos, 1989; Ou topos, 1990; Mneme, 1996; Monopati, 2000), hotel rooms (Propolis, 1993) and most recently an entire residential house in downtown Toronto for The Legacy of Joseph Wagenbach (2006), an installation curated by Rhonda Corvese. Häussler’s interest lies in the range of reactions of her protagonists to their life circumstances; Mark Kingwell has coined the term “haptic conceptual” for these narrative encounters. A complementary part of Häussler’s work focuses on the visitor, with interactive installations that explore human existence and biography, including collections of human milk (Paidi, 1994) or institutional laundry (On Loan, 1995), interventions into hotel rooms (Piggyback, 1995), redefining the gallery as an overnight sleeping space (Xenotope, 1994, 1997, 1998, 2000) or exchanging clothing (Transition coat, 1999). Häussler currently lives in Toronto.