Shaista Latif: learning the language of my enemies

April 4 – May 26, 2019
Koffler Gallery
Artscape Youngplace, 180 Shaw Street

This two-channel video and sound installation by Afghan-Canadian artist Shaista Latif is an intervention and an attempt at empathetic critique. Commissioned by the Koffler Gallery to create a response to what resists explication, Latif confronts notions of appropriation and challenges the essentialization of Afghan culture by questioning the art world’s relationship to individual authorship and orientalism. In conversation with members of the Afghan community, learning the language of my enemies is a process-based work that will continue to evolve throughout the course of the exhibition. The artist will act as a conduit for investigating the languages of protest and invitation.

Presented in conjunction with Nevet Yitzhak: WarCraft.

Image above: Shaista Latif, learning the language of my enemy (video still), 2019.

Artist and Curator Talk: Nevet Yitzhak in conversation with Liora Belford

Sunday, April 7, 2019  | 2 PM | FREE
Koffler Gallery
Artscape Youngplace, 180 Shaw Street

In conversation with curator Liora Belford, artist Nevet Yitzhak will share the conceptual development and technical process of creating her compelling three-channel video installation WarCraft (2014), presented at the Koffler Gallery. Providing insight into her broader artistic practice, Yitzhak will discuss the ways in which she approaches cultural research and digital technologies to engage notions of heritage, suppressed histories, collective forgetfulness and identity from her perspective as an Arab Jew, marginalized within the Eurocentric discourse of mainstream Israeli society. The artist and curator will also address questions of power relations and cultural appropriation, inviting community dialogue on these critical themes.

Presented together with Nevet Yitzhak: WarCraft, at the Koffler Gallery from April 4 – May 26, 2019. A Primary Exhibition of the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, presented in partnership with Images Festival.


September 19 – November 17, 2019
Koffler Gallery
Artscape Youngplace, 180 Shaw Street

Artists: Mary Anne Barkhouse, Gwenaël Bélanger, Sandra Brewster, Hannah Claus, Erika DeFreitas, Julie Favreau, Nicolas Fleming, Iris Häussler, Lucy Howe, Gunilla Josephson, Lewis Kaye, Valerie Kolakis, Heather Nicol, Dainesha Nugent-Palache, Birthe Piontek, Yannick Pouliot, Karen Tam, Kevin Yates, Shellie Zhang

Curator: Mona Filip
Art Director/Co-Curator: Nicolas Fleming

Fall Opening Reception: Thursday, September 14, 2019 | 7–9 PM | FREE

Guided by survival instinct, the human impulse to domesticate the environment has transformed landscapes and ecosystems in search of shelter, security and nourishment. With both positive and negative impact, these transformations seek to eradicate or control “the wild” in pursuit of economic as well as psychological benefits. These attitudes toward nature are paralleled in the home environment where domesticating tendencies can fully manifest in a persistent pursuit for comfort and ease.

This exhibition brings together a range of works by Canadian artists who subvert domestic objects and the settings of dwelling spaces, revealing the flawed human attempts at achieving a sense of belonging. Detouring notions of home and domesticity, this project addresses an underlying impossibility to adapt to and conversely tame our environments in order to construct places where our bodies and psyches can fit in.

Engaging with different aspects of the domestic realm and its inherent politics, the artists in the exhibition approach a range of themes and voice diverse critical perspectives. Working in a wide range of media, they transform the everyday to reveal its hidden, unyielding strangeness. Ubiquitous furniture, tools and materials are stripped of their familiarity to access deeper states of engagement.

The exhibition will be extending from the Koffler Gallery into the public spaces of the Artscape Youngplace building, taking over its corridors and stairwells. The presentation and service function of these spaces will be disrupted, in conceptual alignment with the project’s premise. Toronto artist Nicolas Fleming will take on a multifaceted role of co-curator, exhibition designer and art director to disturb and reframe the spatial context of the exhibition, staging the other artists’ works.

Fleming’s artistic practice relies on construction materials and techniques developed in daily work. By diverting the primary functions of commercial building supplies, especially drywall and plaster, he blurs the status of these materials and techniques, whether through sculpture, painting or large-scale installation. The architectural structures he meticulously builds undermine the neutrality of the white cube. At times, construction materials are employed for their functional attributes while in other circumstances, their aesthetic is what motivates their use. As the initial functions of domestic objects are thwarted, the tension between their practical and artistic status generates uncertainty in the viewers, leading them to hesitate and ponder which behavior to adopt towards the environments encountered.

Through intimate investigations of the domestic realm, Undomesticated considers the psychological, political and emotional layers that shape our notions of home and belonging.

Lead Exhibition Sponsor:







Image at top: Nicolas Fleming, Une causeuse, une distributrice d’eau, un vase. Exhibition view, Centre CLARK, Montreal (QC), 2018. Photo credit: Paul Litherland.

Playing Field: A Conversation

Sunday, March 10, 2019 | 2 PM | FREE 
Koffler Gallery
Artscape Youngplace, 180 Shaw Street

Through game and playground metaphors, Ghazaleh Avarzamani’s current exhibition at the Koffler Gallery examines the role of empirical experience, memory, psychology and socio-political influences in building both personal and collective knowledge. Considering a range of spaces, structures and devices for interactivity, self-development and play, Never Never Land questions the rules and methodologies that shape an individual’s outlook.

In conversation with Ghazaleh Avarzamani, visual artist Golboo Amani, psychotherapist Agnieszka Gozlan and playground designer Tatiana Zakharova will expand the discussion of educational methodologies, social aspirations and the function of playing in human development.

Presented in association with Ghazaleh Avarzamani: Never Never Land, until March 17 at the Koffler Gallery.

Image: Ghazaleh Avarzamani, Regarding Playground (detail), 2018. 18 framed drawings, 11” x 14.3” each. Ink on dot gridded paper. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

The Hidden Curve

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 The Hidden Curve, 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.



Exhibition is generously supported by Institut français and The Cultural & Science Services of the Embassy of France in Canada.

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

Preferred Access Tickets: $250*

The Koffler Centre of the Arts is thrilled to present American journalist, film critic and podcast host Wesley Morris, in conversation with Canadian broadcaster and writer Amanda Parris.

Wesley Morris is 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.

Amanda Parris writes a weekly column for CBC Arts, hosts three CBC television series (Exhibitionists, The Filmmakers and From the Vaults), and is the radio host of Marvin’s Room on CBC Music. She also writes stories for the stage and screen. Parris is the co-founder of the award-winning alternative education organization Lost Lyrics, and worked with The Remix Project and the Manifesto Festival.

2019 Books & Ideas Series is presented in partnership with Ben McNally Books.

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

For more information:
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: Pay What you Can Afford $10 | $15 | $20

Preferred Access Tickets (reception with author, signed book): $250*

The Koffler Centre of the Arts’ 2019 Books & Ideas Series continues with award-winning author and journalist Amitava Kumar, in conversation with award-winning novelist and visual artist, Shani Mootoo.

Award-winning writer and journalist Amitava Kumar is the author of several books of non-fiction, poetry, and his most recent novel, Immigrant, Montana — one of President Obama’s favourite books of 2018. Immigrant, Montana was also selected by the New York Times and the New Yorker as one of the top titles of the past year.  Born in Ara, India, Kumar grew up in the nearby town of Patna, famous for its corruption, crushing poverty, and delicious mangoes. 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.

Read Amitava Kumar’s “Being Indian in Trump’s America” in The New Yorker.

Shani Mootoo was born in Ireland, grew up in Trinidad and has lived in Canada most of her life. She writes fiction and poetry, and is a visual artist whose paintings and short videos have been exhibited locally and internationally. Mootoo’s critically acclaimed novels include Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab, Valmiki’s Daughter, He Drown She in the Sea, and Cereus Blooms at Night. She is a recipient of the K.M. Hunter Arts Award, a Chalmers Fellowship Award, and most recently the James Duggins Outstanding Midcareer Novelist Award. She lives in Southern Ontario.

2019 Books & Ideas Series is presented in partnership with Ben McNally Books.

* 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.

Preferred Access Tickets can also be purchased by contacting:
Lauren Abecassis-Kandravy, Director of Development
647-925-0643 ext. 226

Flowers at the event generously provided by




Photo: Michael Lionstar.

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.