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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.


A Q&A WITH INCOMING EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, KAREN TISCH

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.

Nevet Yitzhak: WarCraft

April 4 – May 26, 2019
Koffler Gallery
Artscape Youngplace, 180 Shaw Street
Guest Curator: Liora Belford

Spring Opening Reception: Thursday, April 4, 2019 | 7–9 PM | FREE
Artist and Curator Talk: Sunday, April 7, 2 PM | FREE

A Primary Exhibition of the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival

Shaista Latif: learning the language of my enemies is presented in conjunction with Nevet Yitzhak: WarCraft

Informed by extended research and scholarship, the video and sound installations of Nevet Yitzhak combine archival, photographic and found materials transformed through digital animation, editing and sound treatment. With a critical examination of complex geo-political concerns and the fraught relationships between global powers and the Middle East, her practice raises questions about cultural heritage, suppressed histories, collective forgetfulness, and identity. Living in Israel as a Jewish artist of Kurdish, Syrian and Yemenite heritage, Yitzhak creates work that responds to her context, expressing her minoritized position within Israeli society and her dissent from its current politics.

In her three-channel video installation, WarCraft (2014), Yitzhak makes a poignant statement against war and aggression. The artist looks to the Afghan war rug, a unique product of the region’s traumatic history of conflict and foreign military presence, as a departure point in exploring the significance and potential of this unconventional medium to protest violence and occupation.

The circumstances that determined the emergence of the Afghan war rug remain uncertain. Its origins can be traced back to the 1979 Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, when weavers began to infuse traditional patterns with imagery of war. At first, the new designs were mostly hidden within a stylized iconography, communicating a subtle act of resistance to the invasion and documenting the weavers’ experiences and interpretations of regional politics. With the rug’s increasing popularity, this instrument of defiance was commercialized. The imagery of war became more conspicuous and detailed, often including English phrases. The term “war rug” was coined by dealers, collectors, and critics, who drove the formation of a prominent souvenir industry.

Breaking with tradition to become a testimony of regional conflict, this artefact came to represent a modern fissure within the cultural continuum. Subsequent wars and invasions all permeated the Afghan rugs, introducing contemporary narratives. Articulating a new formal and symbolic language and discarding age-old conventions, Afghan war rugs epitomize the counterpoint of craftsmanship and modernity. They express the fracture of the traditional object.

Yitzhak’s WarCraft extends this fracture and repositions the artefact within a broader geo-political framework. Born in Israel yet unable to rely on points of reference within a society whose mainstream, Eurocentric discourse marginalizes her culture, the artist looks to the Arab world of her provenance for kindred forms of expression. The current reality of armed and territorial conflict informs her experience and work, which attempts to generate a new kind of document that emulates the codified messages embedded in the original war rugs to communicate across borders about shared concerns.

The installation comprises three large-scale projections of digitally constructed rugs. Reimagining their iconography to reference contemporary war zones, Yitzhak introduces 3D models of weaponry deployed by existing armies and battlegrounds. Her laboriously detailed, flying helicopters and rolling tanks invade from one rug into the others, surrounding the viewer. Translated into a new medium, these digital designs pay tribute to the traditional war rug’s intent while moving from cultural specificity to address other conflicts and articulate a bold indictment of aggression. Through visual effects, war machinery animation, and orchestrated gunfire sounds, Yitzhak’s digital patterns expose a vastly destructive potential. Integrating gaming audio and visual aesthetics, her installation links the battlefield to virtual space, reminding us of the ubiquity of war imagery and of our numbness to its violence.

 

 

 

Co-presented with Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, in partnership with Images Festival.


Nevet Yitzhak (b. 1975, Israel; lives and works in Tel Aviv) is a graduate of the Naggar School of Photography, Media and New Music (2003); and the Bezalel Program for Advanced Studies in Art (2007). Her multi-disciplinary work has been shown at the 6th Asian Biennial, Taiwan; Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland; Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Virginia Beach; Tel Aviv Museum of Art; Martin Gropius Bau, Berlin; SMBA, Amsterdam; Kuandu Museum, Taipei; the Museum for Islamic Art, Jerusalem; Herzlyia Museum of Contemporary Art; Petach Tikva Museum of Art; Koffler Gallery, Toronto; Circle 1, Berlin; 68 Square Meters, Copenhagen; Jeanine Hofland Gallery, Amsterdam; Edel Assanti Gallery, London; TSR, Miami; the 5th Mediations Biennale, Poznan; Nimac Art Center, Nicosia; SIP Institute for Photography, Tel Aviv; Mana Contemporary, Jersey City; Huashan Culture Park, Taipei and CCA, Tel- Aviv. Yitzhak has won numerous awards and her work is in the collections of the Israel Museum, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, the Museum for Islamic Art in Jerusalem, the Petach Tikva Museum of Art, the Shpilman Institute for Photography, and several others. She is represented by Yossi Milo Gallery, NYC.

Liora Belford is an Israeli-Canadian sound artist, curator and scholar. She is currently a PhD ABD candidate at the department of Art History, University of Toronto, where her research focuses on the curation of sound within the context of modern and contemporary art. She is the recipient of the Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship (CGS) Doctoral Award (2016-2019); the Scace fellowship (2013-2018); the Faculty of Arts and Science Top (FAST) Doctoral Fellowship (2015-2018); and DIALOG – Scholarship In Honour of Michael Evamy (2014). She is half of the artistic duo Duprass (together with Ido Govrin) and co-owner of the experimental record label Interval Recordings. Her recent curated exhibitions include Image Coming Soon#1 (2015) at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery (for which she received an Honorary Mention from the OAAG), Pardes (2015) at Koffler Gallery, and A Piece for Two Floors and a Corridor (2015) at the Israeli Center for Digital Art. She is currently preparing Listening to Snow for the Art Museum (Toronto), a major exhibition on the sound works of artist Michael Snow.

Image: Nevet Yitzhak, WarCraft, 2014, Installation view at Yossi Milo gallery, New York, 2015 (Image courtesy of Yossi Milo Gallery, Image Credit: Thomas Seely).

Fran Lebowitz: In Conversation

The Koffler Centre of the Arts is thrilled to present the Dorothy Shoichet Lecture Series, featuring author, raconteur, cultural satirist and American cultural icon Fran Lebowitz, for two shows on April 21 & 22, 2018 at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema.

Learn More

Fran Lebowitz: In Conversation

The Koffler Centre of the Arts is thrilled to present the Dorothy Shoichet Lecture Series, featuring author, raconteur, cultural satirist and American cultural icon Fran Lebowitz, for two shows on April 21 & 22, 2018 at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema.

Learn More

Koffler Gallery Spring 2018 Opening Reception

Join us for the Koffler Gallery’s Spring 2018 Opening Reception: Esther Shalev-Gerz.

Based in Paris for the past three decades, Esther Shalev-Gerz is internationally recognized for her significant contributions to the field of public art and her consistent investigation into the construction of memory, history, nature, democracy and cultural identities. For her first exhibition in Toronto, the Koffler Gallery presents four recent video and photography installations that explore memory and migration.

Esther Shalev-Gerz is a Primary Exhibition, Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival.

Learn More

Koffler Gallery Spring 2018 Opening Reception

Thursday, April 5, 2018 | 6–9 PM | FREE

Koffler Gallery

Artscape Youngplace, 180 Shaw Street


Join us for the Koffler Gallery’s Spring 2018 Opening Reception: Esther Shalev-Gerz.

Based in Paris for the past three decades, Esther Shalev-Gerz is internationally recognized for her significant contributions to the field of public art and her consistent investigation into the construction of memory, history, nature, democracy and cultural identities. For her first exhibition in Toronto, the Koffler Gallery presents four recent video and photography installations that explore memory and migration.

Esther Shalev-Gerz is a Primary Exhibition, Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival.

Learn More

Koffler Gallery Winter Opening Reception

Thursday, January 18, 2018 | 6 – 9 PM | FREE
Koffler Gallery
Artscape Youngplace, 180 Shaw Street

Join us for the Koffler Gallery’s Winter 2018 opening reception:
Nicole Collins: Furthest Boundless

In a major, new mixed media installation developed for the Koffler Gallery, Toronto artist Nicole Collins delves into the emotional territory of loss as she explores the human struggle between grief and acceptance, gravity and grace. Through painting, video and sound, Collins creates an immersive environment that articulates a personal response to a universal experience, reflecting a collective search for meaning in loss.

Learn More

Fran Lebowitz: In Conversation

TWO SHOWS:
Saturday, April 21, 2018 | 6 PM (doors at 5 PM) SOLD OUT
Sunday, April 22, 2018 | 4 PM (doors at 3 PM) SOLD OUT

Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema | 506 Bloor St W, Toronto
Tickets: $50 General Admission | $40 Student/Senior (w/valid ID)

TICKETS: SATURDAY APRIL 21 

TICKETS: SUNDAY APRIL 22

VIP Tickets: $250
A very limited number of VIP tickets are still available for Sunday’s show, and include reserved premium seating and a copy of Fran Lebowitz’ collected essays, The Fran Lebowitz Reader. A tax receipt will be issued for the maximum allowable amount.
To purchase VIP tickets: 647.925.0643 x226 | lauren.ak@kofflerarts.org


“Success didn’t spoil me, I’ve always been insufferable.” – Fran Lebowitz

The Koffler Centre of the Arts is thrilled to present the Dorothy Shoichet Lecture Series, featuring author, raconteur, cultural satirist and American cultural icon, Fran Lebowitz.

*** Due to popular demand, there are now two shows: Saturday, April 21 at 6 PM & Sunday, April 22 at 4 PM ***

In a cultural landscape filled with endless pundits and talking heads, Fran Lebowitz stands out as one of America’s most insightful social commentators. Offering her acerbic views on current events and the media, her writing — pointed, taut and economical — is equally forthright, irascible, and unapologetically opinionated. Lebowitz is widely sought out for her razor-sharp commentary on everything from cigarettes to the Trump presidency.

Purveyor of urban cool, Lebowitz has been called “the heir to Dorothy Parker,” and was once named one of the year’s most stylish women by Vanity Fair. At age 67, she remains a style icon.

For her first Toronto appearance in five years, Lebowitz will hold court on stage – in conversation with Johanna Schneller (Globe and Mail columnist and host of CBC’s The Filmmakers) on Saturday, April 21 and Anna Maria Tremonti (host of CBC Radio’s The Current) on Sunday, April 22 – followed by an audience Q & A. Copies of her collected essays, The Fran Lebowitz Reader, will be available for purchase at the event through Ben McNally Books.

Fran Lebowitz: In Conversation is presented as part of the Dorothy Shoichet Lecture Series and supported by Media Partner, the Toronto Star.

 

 

Flowers generously donated by Bloomex.


About Fran Lebowitz
Lebowitz worked odd jobs, such as taxi driving, belt peddling, and apartment cleaning before being hired by Andy Warhol as a columnist for Interview. Her first book, a collection of essays titled Metropolitan Life, was an international bestseller, as was a second collection, Social Studies. Lebowitz has also worked in television (Law & Order), film (The Wolf of Wall Street), and has long been a regular on various talk shows including those hosted by Jimmy Fallon, Conan O’Brien, and Bill Maher. She appears in various documentary films including the American Experience series on New York City, as well as Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures (2016), Regarding Susan Sontag (2014), and Superstar: The Life and Times of Andy Warhol (1990). Public Speaking, a documentary about Lebowitz directed by Martin Scorsese, premiered on HBO in November 2010.

Lebowitz lives in New York City, as she does not believe that she would be allowed to live anywhere else.

Abut Johanna Schneller
Johanna Schneller is one of North America’s leading freelance journalists specializing in entertainment features. She has profiled the most prominent actors of our time – among them, Julia Roberts, Johnny Depp, Diane Keaton, Brad Pitt, Julianne Moore, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jeff Bridges, Liam Neeson, Robert Downey, Jr. and Nicole Kidman. Her cover stories have appeared in major magazines, including Vanity Fair, In Style, Premiere, More and Ladies Home Journal. She was a senior writer in the Los Angeles bureau of GQ magazine from 1990 to 1994. Her weekly Fame Game column in The Globe and Mail has been nominated for four National Newspaper Awards. As the host of CBC’s new series, The Filmmakers, Schneller interviews directors and film experts about classic Canadian films. She also hosted TVO’s renowned film series Saturday Night at the Movies. Schneller regularly conducts on-stage interviews for the Toronto International Film Festival and the Toronto Library. She co-wrote the best-selling book Uncontrollable, about Toronto’s notorious mayor, Rob Ford.

About Anna Maria Tremonti
Anna Maria Tremonti has won two Gemini awards, and a life Achievement Award from Women in Film and Television Toronto. During her time at The Current, she and the program have won numerous awards at the New York Festivals, including: Gold for Best News Documentary of Special (2013), Gold for Best Talk Special: Interview (2009), Silver for Best Newsmagazine (2013), Bronze for Best Talk Show Host (2008, 2014 and 2015), Bronze for Best Coverage, Breaking News (2015), and Bronze for Best News Documentary or Special (2014). Her work at The Current also has been recognized with an Amnesty International Canada Media Award (2012), three Gracie Awards (2011, 2014 and 2015), and several Gabriel Awards and RTDNA Awards, including the Adrienne Clarkson Diversity Award (2013), the Peter Gzowski Information Program Award (2009, 2011 & 2014) and the Gord Sinclair Live Special Events Award (2014).

With Tremonti at the helm, The Current in 2012 also won the Canadian Journalism Foundation’s Excellence in Journalism Award (Large Media Category), and was a finalist for that top honour in 2013.


Fran Lebowitz photo credit: © Brigitte Lacombe.

Staring Back at the Sun: Curator Talk

Avi Feldman in conversation with Alma Mikulinsky
Sunday, November 5, 2017 | 2 PM
Koffler Gallery

Artscape Youngplace, 180 Shaw Street


Co-curator of State of Amnesia: 2005-2012 (part four of the exhibition Staring Back at the Sun, alongside artist Yael Bartana), Avi Feldman is an independent curator and writer based in Tel Aviv, Berlin and Dresden. In a conversation with Israeli-Canadian curator and art historian Alma Mikulinsky, Feldman will discuss the context and vision that articulated the survey exhibition of video art from Israel currently presented at the Koffler Gallery.

Presented in association with Staring Back at the Sun: Video Art from Israel, 1970-2012.


Image: Roee Rosen, Confessions Coming Soon (Koffler Gallery installation detail), 2007. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Nicole Collins: Furthest Boundless

January 18 – March 18, 2018
Koffler Gallery
Artscape Youngplace, 180 Shaw Street

Curator: Mona Filip

WINTER OPENING RECEPTION:
Thursday, January 18, 2018 | 6–9 PM | FREE

Read the digital gallery publication with an essay by David Dorenbaum:

Digital Publication

In a major, new mixed media installation complemented by a series of recent paintings, Toronto artist Nicole Collins delves into the emotional territory of loss as she explores the human struggle between grief and acceptance, gravity and grace.

Developed for the Koffler Gallery, Furthest Boundless is inspired by two concepts of Ancient Greek philosophy: Aphelion – the point on the orbit of a celestial body that is furthest from the sun – and Apeiron – the boundless, the origin for all that is. At the centre of the installation, a monumental deconstructed painting built out of woven and knotted nets of materials, pigments and wax faces a delicate video that responds with ephemeral movement to its static presence. The immersive environment is completed by an atmospheric sound piece based on traditional shape-note singing.

Driven by an impulse to repair, Collins’ visceral paintings attempt to suture, layer and preserve the damaged. This new work further strives to dismantle and reconfigure the painted surface, pushing against the physical limits of materials lifted from stretchers and sculpturally re-envisioned. Engaging the potent vocabulary of the colour black, Collins evokes the accumulation of all colours, the darkest shadows, the burnt remains, the fertile soil, creating poignant works that consider both frailty and resilience. Holes, rips and indentations in the fabrics create permeable layers that disperse yet hold together the whole, materializing absences.

Through painting, video and sound, Furthest Boundless articulates a personal response to a universal experience, reflecting a collective search for meaning in loss.

Artwork courtesy of the artist and General Hardware Contemporary.


PUBLIC PROGRAMS:

BOUNDLESS QUESTIONS | Sunday, February 11, 2018 | 2 PM | FREE
Through their distinctive vision and creative processes, artists can carve out a space to ask the most difficult questions and explore our deepest fears. The anxiety of facing death and the unknown are at the core of human experience, leaving profound marks on the ways in which we construct our reality and shape society, politics and culture. In a conversation moderated by psychoanalyst Dr. David Dorenbaum, visual artists Nicole Collins, Erika DeFreitas and Tim Whiten discuss the role art plays as they grapple with these questions and their psychological weight.

Listen to the conversation on SoundCloud here:

THE SACRED HARP | Sunday, February 25, 2018 | 2 PM | FREE
Join Nicole Collins and the Toronto Shape-Note Singers for an introduction to shape-note singing from The Sacred Harp tradition that inspired the sound element in Furthest Boundless. The “sacred harp” is the human voice, which combines in this practice into a four-part acapella harmony of hymns and anthems, in an inclusive, non-denominational musical event.

CONTEMPORARY ART BUS TOUR | Sunday, March 4, 2018 | 12 – 5 PM | FREE
Tour starts at the Koffler Gallery (at Artscape Youngplace, 180 Shaw Street) and then departs for Art Gallery of Mississauga, AGYU, and Doris McCarthy Gallery, returning to Shaw Street at 5 PM. Seating is limited. RSVP required.

RSVP


Nicole Collins has exhibited extensively since 1994, including solo exhibitions at The University of Waterloo Art Gallery (2013), The Art Gallery of Ontario (2013) and The Embassy of Canada in Tokyo (2001) and group exhibitions in Toronto, Hamilton, St. Johns, New York, Miami, London and Zurich. Her work has been featured online and in magazines, newspapers and books including the major survey Abstract Painting in Canada (Roald Nasgaard), the 3rd edition of A Concise History of Canadian Painting (Dennis Reid), Carte Blanche, Volume 2: Painting, and The Donovan Collection Catalogue. Collins is an Assistant Professor in the Drawing & Painting program at the Ontario College of Art & Design University (OCADU) and she lives in Toronto with her husband artist Michael Davidson and their daughter. Collins’ work is represented by General Hardware Contemporary in Toronto.