Christian Hidaka & Raphaël Zarka

June 20 – August 18, 2019
Koffler Gallery
Artscape Youngplace, 180 Shaw Street
Curator: Mona Filip

Summer Opening Reception: Thursday, June 20, 2019 | 7–9 PM

Bringing the work of artists Raphaël Zarka and Christian Hidaka to Toronto for the first time, this major exhibition extends their decade-long, mutually inspiring dialogue around shared interests and themes. The project will showcase a site-specific mural painting and sculpture installation that continues their collaborative pictorial and sculptural investigations of space, producing significant new works.

Versatile in his approach, Paris-based Raphaël Zarka works with existing cultural forms as material for creative and intellectual exploration. The point of departure for his artistic production is fundamentally sculptural, within the expanded field of a practice encompassing photography, video and the written essay. Referencing science, industry, philosophy and the perpetual human search for new paths of discovery, his work relies on the collection and re-contextualization of iconic forms that range from the minimal to complex geometries. For many years a skateboarder and the author of several books on its history, Zarka’s idea of skateboarding as a re-writing of spaces destined for a particular use parallels his approach to his artistic process. The repurposing of existent structures built for past moments of aspiration and endeavour as well as the recurrence of forms put to new use inspire Zarka’s reflections on skateboarding and by extension art making, as an ecology of critical and contemporary relevance. Working within a vocabulary of spaces and volumes, for him reality is not a question of absolutes but rather a shifting position between what is, has been or might be, depending on your point of view.

Born in Japan, Christian Hidaka lives and works in London, UK. His paintings create imaginary worlds in which both nature and architecture are depicted as unfolding limitlessly, leaving the viewer to wander and explore possibility. Drawn from distinct sets of representational languages, Hidaka’s works mediate references that greatly inform the depiction of the pictorial plane: that of the 1480s, of Piero della Francesca and the influence of Euclidean geometry, with composition dependent on the parameters of the frame; and a second group which infers a boundless unfolding of space that either takes the form of ancient Chinese calligraphic landscape or of the endless digital space that originated in 1980’s computer games. Derived from different sources – Japanese landscapes, science fiction, psychedelia, surrealism and Renaissance painting – Hidaka’s works go beyond their apparent antagonisms to construct a representation of the world that holds a promise of reconciliation. The ambiguity of his compositions suggests that landscapes are just as much projections of inner subjectivity as they are places of confrontation, territories overrun by violence and appropriation, ground on which to leave an imprint. Whether we roam nature, walk through shopping centres, or wander around virtual worlds produced by the digital industry, we are given an incalculable number of interweaved cultural forms, codes and stories to glimpse.

For this exhibition, Hidaka and Zarka consider the gallery as a site of intellectual reflection where ideas and thoughts are distilled. Inspired by the original architecture of the Koffler Gallery space – the repurposed library of a former elementary school – the artists’ vision for the project derives from their awareness of a concealed archway and proscenium now hidden by the renovations. These buried vestiges of previous use, as well as a sustained interest in the visual and symbolic significance of curvatures, arches and arcades, drives the development of a site specific installation that positions the gallery as a space for observation and reflection. Hidaka’s mural paintings will surround the viewer creating the illusion of endless space beyond the physical limits of the gallery, while Zarka’s sculptures will offer grounding objects of contemplation.

Image at top: Christian Hidaka & Raphaël Zarka, Exhibition view of La Famille Schoenflies at Les Instants Chavirés, Montreuil (FR), 2016. Courtesy the artists and Michel Rein, Paris/Brussels. Photo: Aurélien Mole.

Wesley Morris in Conversation

Tuesday, May 28, 2019 | 7 PM (doors 6 PM)
Isabel Bader Theatre, 93 Charles St West
Tickets: $30 General Admission | $25 Student/Senior (w/valid ID)
Preferred Access Tickets: $250*
Tickets on sale soon

Wesley Morris is a critic-at-large at the The New York Times and a staff writer at the New York Times Magazine, where he writes about popular culture and hosts the podcast Still Processing with Jenna Wortham. For three years, he was a staff writer at Grantland, where he wrote about movies, television, and the role of style in professional sports, and co-hosted the podcast Do You Like Prince Movies with Alex Pappademas. Before that, he spent 11 years as a film critic at the Boston Globe, where he won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for criticism. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

* Preferred Access Ticket includes reserved/best in-house seating, a pre-event reception in Isabel Bader Theatre, and a tax receipt for the maximum allowable amount.

To purchase:
Lauren Abecassis-Kandravy, Director of Development
647-925-0643 ext. 226

Amitava Kumar in Conversation

Wednesday, April 3, 2019 | 7 PM (doors 6 PM)
The Great Hall, 1087 Queen St West
Tickets: $20 General Admission | $15 Student/Senior (w/valid ID)
Preferred Access Tickets: $250*
Tickets on sale soon

Writer and journalist Amitava Kumar was born in Ara, India and grew up in the nearby town of Patna, famous for its corruption, crushing poverty, and delicious mangoes. Kumar is the author of several books of nonfiction, poetry and his most recent novel, Immigrant, Montana (2018). He lives in Poughkeepsie, in upstate New York, where he is Helen D. Lockwood Professor of English at Vassar College. In 2016, Amitava Kumar was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, as well as a Ford Fellowship in Literature from United States Artists.

* Preferred Access Ticket includes reserved/best in-house seating, a signed copy of Immigrant, Montana, a pre-event reception in the Conversation Hall, and a tax receipt for the maximum allowable amount.

To purchase:
Lauren Abecassis-Kandravy, Director of Development
647-925-0643 ext. 226

A Q&A with incoming Executive Director, Karen Tisch

The Koffler Centre of the Arts is delighted to announce the appointment of Karen Tisch to the position of Executive Director. She succeeds Cathy Jonasson, who is stepping down after an exceptional six-year tenure at the Koffler.

Ms. Tisch is a veteran arts manager, programmer, and consultant with more than 25 years of experience in the Canadian arts sector, including executive positions at the Ashkenaz Foundation, Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, Images Festival, and Toronto Arts Council. Ms. Tisch begins her new role at the Koffler on March 4, 2019.

Read the Press Release announcing the appointment of Karen Tisch, incoming Executive Director of the Koffler Centre of the Arts.


How did the arts first enter your life?
The arts have always been an integral part of my life. My father is an architect and exposed me to visual arts from a very young age. My mother was a folk dancer in her youth and my grandmother an accomplished pianist, and both passed on their love of performing arts. I also cannot remember a day in my chil­­dhood when my head was not buried in a book. By 10, I was training full-time to be a dancer.

You’re an alumna of the National Ballet School and OCAD. Can you briefly describe the path that led you to arts management and programming?
After an injury curtailed my dance ambitions, my path was a winding one but ultimately I realized I was less of an artist and more of an arts advocate and facilitator. While still a student at OCAD, I became actively involved in the local independent film and video and artist-run centre movement and ultimately became the Programming Director of the Images Festival and the Board President of A Space Gallery. That was my first immersion into the world of arts programming and management – and I was hooked!

What is it about the Koffler’s mandate that excites you?
Everything! The focus on highlighting diverse voices and cultural expressions through a social justice lens; the concept of engaging audiences of all ages and backgrounds in a vibrant dialogue about the most vital issues of our times; the multi-disciplinary and community-centred approach; and the idea of positioning Jewish identity in conversation with other cultural perspectives, is all of great interest to me. As a cultural platform, the Koffler integrates many of my chief interests and passions.

You are a passionate bibliophile. Tell us about the last great book you read.
It is impossible to choose one! Two recent favourites, both recommended to me by my filmmaker friend Mike Hoolboom, are Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot and America is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo. Mailhot is a Nlaka’pamux author from the Seabird Island First Nation in British Columbia. Her book is a raw, hypnotic and heartrending memoir that explores issues of mental health, abuse and survival. I think it is a must-read for anyone trying to better understand the effects of intergenerational trauma. It is also a haunting and poetic account of an Indigenous woman’s struggle to reclaim her space. Castillo’s novel is a sprawling saga set in a diasporic Filipino-American community in the San Francisco Bay area. The story is a complex narrative on race, sexuality, migration, family and the intersection of the personal and the political. I loved its lush beauty, scope and ambition. 

Where do you turn for inspiration?
I turn to books, visual art, film and theatre – it is the voices and expressions of artists and writers that stoke my imagination, help me navigate the complexities of our modern world and generally energize and inspire me. I also turn to my 16-year-old daughter and her friends, especially when I am feeling gloomy about current events, because I am very hopeful that the next generation will create a more just, equitable and sustainable planet.

You have done important work with issues of diversity and accessibility in the arts. Do you see progress in how arts organizations are addressing inclusion and equity issues?
I do see progress. In the 1990s, when I first began working in the professional arts scene, issues of equity, access and Indigenous rights were only just entering the common discourse in the mainstream Canadian arts world, despite the successes of various women’s, anti-racism, Indigenous and activist movements in other public spheres. At the time, I was inspired by the work and advocacy of Canadian artists and writers like Richard Fung, Lillian Allen, Dionne Brand, Alanis Obomsawin, b.h. Yael, Jamelie Hassan, Midi Onodera, Jorge Lozano, Robert Houle, Ali Kazimi, Paul Wong and Roy Miki, among others. I became an active player in the movement to create more equitable and accessible arts institutions, funding agencies, festivals and artist-run spaces. There were many explosive battles in those days, with some initial resistance to change. In recent years, I have seen a much wider embrace of concepts of pluralism, as well as significant momentum in the struggle for disability and Indigenous rights. However, I think there is still work to be done. Celebrating diversity has become the norm in the Canadian arts sector but truly sharing power is still a “work-in-progress.”

Name three well-known Torontonians, dead or alive, who you would invite to your ideal dinner party.
I think I it would be fun to go back in time, so I would share a meal with a triumvirate of women activists from Toronto’s past: urban activist Jane Jacobs, anti-slavery advocate Mary Ann Shadd, and prison reform activist Agnes Macphail. (Drake would be welcome to drop by for dessert.)

Who has been your most important mentor?
I have been fortunate to have many mentors in my life. Documentary filmmaker Ali Kazimi, equity in the arts leader Sharon Fernandez, and video artist Richard Fung have probably most influenced my professional interests and work. Personally, I would have to say my parents, the quintessential hard-working immigrant couple who forged a path for me and my brother in Canada.

What do you imagine the next five years might hold for the Koffler?
I predict a very bright future for the Koffler, which is poised to further assert itself as a leading centre for intercultural dialogue through art. I look at the current programming – the first solo show of Toronto-based Persian artist Ghazaleh Avarzamani, and upcoming literary events featuring Indigenous writers Joshua Whitehead and Arielle Twist, and US-based Indian writer Amitava Kumar – and I am filled with excitement. With its growing network of artistic and community collaborators and dynamic, multi-disciplinary programming, my hope is that the Koffler will increasingly be recognized as a key artistic and community hub, an incubator for innovative ideas, and a vibrant platform for cross-cultural dialogue. I am excited to collaborate with the Koffler team to more fully weave the organization into the cultural and social fabric of the City and to expand its reputation as a welcoming space for people of all backgrounds to discover great art.

Our Stories: A Living Library Project

In the spring of 2017, the Koffler partnered with Toronto’s Hearts & Minds Living Library Collective to create it’s third collaborative educational program, Our Stories: A Living Library Project. Grade 5 and 6 students from Paul Penna Downtown Jewish Day School and Rose Avenue Public School engaged with themes of diversity and cultural identity, as human ‘books’ and ‘readers’ of one another’s stories.

More on Koffler.Digital

Lazaro’s Dream: An Audio Walk

Walk begins: Northeast corner of the Bloor Street Viaduct
Download the audio:

Taking its inspiration from Michael Ondaatje’s In The Skin Of a Lion, Lazaro’s Dream is an audio walk like no other. History and fiction are artfully assembled into a surreal dreamscape that carries the listener along from the east side of the Bloor Street Viaduct through part of the Danforth neighbourhood and down to Riverdale Park. The piece unfolds slowly like a wandering hallucination. Memories of Toronto are fused together with original fiction and archival reimaginings, leaving the listener casually drifting through a hundred years of regional history. Scattered throughout the walk fragments of Ondaaje’s iconic text seem to float up to the surface of perception guiding the listener along through the murky world of Lazaro’s Dream.

Lazaro’s Dream was launched with a public walk in October of 2016. These photos were taken at the walk, and feature the surprise poster art of archival photos that the artists distributed throughout the route.

Passing Through: An Audio Walk

Walk begins: Union Station (Grand Hall, VIA Arrival/Departure board)
Walk ends: St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood
Download the audio: Koffler.Digital/PassingThrough

Toronto’s streets are a living thing. They change and evolve over time, and each one tells a story of where we’ve been, and where we are going. Passing Through is an audio walk that takes you on a journey of Toronto’s streets, discovering the legacy of their history and innovations for their future. You will walk from Union Station to St. Lawrence Market, gently guided by an artful, imaginative narration that is both beautiful and exciting.

Passing Through is presented in partnership by The City of Toronto’s stART Program, and the Koffler Centre of the Arts. It is produced by Accounts and Records.

Image designed by Braden Labonte.

Self-Loving Jew by Jonathan Rotsztain

Self-Loving Jew by Jonathan Rotsztain – exclusively on Koffler.Digital – is a series of autobiographical comics claiming a secular, cultural Jewish identity. Guilt-free, Self-Loving Jew addresses the shift away from established Jewish institutions amongst younger Jewish people. The work is an attempt to articulate some of the ambivalence Jewish millennials may feel about religious Judaism, identity and assimilation. It embraces forging personal beliefs and practices that honour the Jewish legacy, adapting them alongside other value considerations.

Click here for Self-Loving Jew on Koffler.Digital