Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival

Announcing Highlights of our 25th Edition

Esmaa Mohamoud, The Brotherhood FUBU (For Us By Us) (production detail, mural), 2020. Courtesy of Georgia Scherman Projects.

The month-long, city-wide Festival will foreground public art in May 2021

Celebrating CONTACT’s 25th anniversary, the 2021 Festival will expand our activation of public spaces throughout the city. Inaugurated in 2003, CONTACT’s Public Installation program provides a high-profile platform for emerging and established Canadian and international artists to explore critical and timely concerns.

Cohesively engaging site, image, and viewer, public projects planned for 2021 reflect the intense upheaval, ongoing conflict, and global unrest of the present day. Subjects include the perception of Black bodies in contemporary and colonial paradigms; Indigenous perspectives on land, culture, sovereignty, and the effects of colonization; the intersectional experiences of artists from queer and disability communities; representations of women’s bodies as sites of power challenging history; the state of the environment and the impact of humanity and geopolitics on climate change; and isolation, existence and survival during times of pandemic.

The preliminary list of artists presenting Public Installations in the 2021 Festival’s Core Program includes: Sara Angelucci, Alberto Giuliani, Kim Hoeckele, Vid Ingelevics & Ryan Walker, Erik Kessels & Thomas Mailaender, Esmaa Mohamoud, Taiyo Onorato & Nico Krebs, Frida Orupabo, Thirza Schaap, Greg Staats, and Małgorzata Stankiewicz, and artist and educator Logan MacDonald is curating a multi-artist public project including Dayna Danger, Peter Morin, and Fallon Simard.

CONTACT’s Core Program also encompasses our Primary Exhibitions, presented at museums and galleries across Toronto. Artists from around the world that are participants in 2021 include: Laia Abril, Persijn Broersen & Margit Lukács, Dana Claxton, Wendy Coburn, Susan Dobson, nichola feldman-kiss, Sasha Huber, Onyeka Igwe, Emmanuelle Léonard, Sebastein Miller, Isabel Okoro and Timothy Yanick Hunter, Jon Sasaki, Rehana Zaman, and Tereza Zelenkova, and Toronto Photo Laureate and artist Michèle Pearson Clarke is curating a group exhibition featuring works by Nicholas Aiden, Lacie Burning, Seamus Gallagher, Tom Hsu, Christopher Lacroix, Wynne Neilly & Kyle Lasky, Isabel Okoro, Michelle Panting, and Brianna Roye. Details to be announced.


Sara Angelucci, July 24 (Wild grape, Queen Anne’s Lace, Daisy Fleabane) (detail), from the series Nocturnal Botanical Ontario, 2020. Courtesy of the artist, Stephen Bulger Gallery, and Patrick Mikhail Gallery.

Preliminary List of CONTACT 2021 Public Installations

Sara Angelucci | Nocturnal Botanical Ontario | Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives (PAMA) 

For several years, Toronto artist Sara Angelucci has undertaken a close study of nature in rural Ontario, work accelerated by the lockdown beginning in spring 2020. Cloaked by the darkness of night, she used a scanner outdoors to capture detailed ecologies of verdant plants and insects. Angelucci’s luminous compositions reveal native plants entwined with cultivated and invasive species, speaking to the colonial interests embedded in Ontario’s Crown Land. Presented as murals on the exterior of PAMAformerly the Peel County Land Registry Office, Courthouse and Jail—Nocturnal Botanical Ontario invites consideration of the complicated and layered histories inscribed in this evolving landscape. 

Group Exhibition | Force Field  | Fort York National Historic Site

Force Field is a series of site-specific installations on the grounds of Fort York, curated by Indigenous-settler artist and educator Logan MacDonald. This commissioned project provides artistic platforms for diverse perspectives within a public civic arena outside of a traditional exhibition context. The project engages intersectional artists from Indigenous, queer, and disability communities, including Dayna Danger, Peter Morin, and Fallon Simard. Positioned together, their works establish dialogues that confront how civic spaces in Canada—particularly parks and historic sites—tend to be colonial and exclusionary, especially in relation to diverse histories, ways of living, and communities. 

Alberto Giuliani, Kodomoroid, a humanoid robot created by Hiroshi Ishiguro, Miraikan Museum, Tokyo, Japan, 2017. Courtesy of the artist.

Alberto Guiliani | Surviving Humanity | Brookfield Place, Allan Lambert Galleria

Surviving Humanity (2018–20) by Italian photographer and journalist Alberto Giuliani focuses on the numerous scientific attempts around the world to safeguard ecological and societal longevity. Underscoring the urgency of environmental action, this selection of images and their accompanying texts resonate with the surrounding architecture of the Allen Lambert Galleria’s glass atrium. In the heart of Canada’s financial district, Guiliani opens a dialogue about the future of the planet, confronting the question asked by his children which motivated these extensive explorations: “How will the world be when we grow up?” Unexpectedly, Guiliani’s recent images captured during the pandemic evoke a disconcerting answer.

Vid Ingelevics & Ryan Walker | Villiers Street Median, Port Lands

In this second series of photographs installed on the construction-grade wooden structures built for CONTACT 2020, Toronto-based artists Vid Ingelevics and Ryan Walker chart the progression of the Port Lands Flood Protection Project, one of the most ambitious civil works projects in North America. The visual pathway they create between two industrial sites—the silos of the defunct ESSROC cement plant on Cherry Street, and the former location of a metal recycling facility at 130 Commissioners Street—reflects an ongoing engagement with the five-year transformation of industrial brownfield into parkland and urban infrastructure while highlighting themes and critical issues that have arisen during the process. Curated by Chloe Catan.


Rotating Away!, 1955. Courtesy of the Canadian National Exhibition Archives, Gilbert A. Milne Studio fonds, MG6-F107-I4.

Erik Kessels & Thomas Mailaender | Play Public | The Bentway 

French multimedia artist Thomas Mailaender and Dutch artist and designer Erik Kessels are known independently for their experimental practices. Both re-appropriate and re-contextualize photographs and bring them into unexpected new frameworks. In this work co-commissioned with The Bentway Conservancy, Mailaender and Kessels subvert notions of socio-cultural propriety in the public realm through the concept of play. Employing the archives of the Canadian National Exhibition, the artists apply images onto custom-built abstract play-structures, arranged like an interactive parkour course. Set within a densely populated hub of the city, the installation challenges the role of public art and the ways in which it can and should be navigated and enjoyed. 

Esmaa Mohamoud | The Brotherhood FUBU (For Us, By Us) | Westin Harbour Castle Conference Centre (west façade); Harbour Square Park

Toronto-based artist Esmaa Mohamoud’s The Brotherhood FUBU (For Us, By Us) is a two-part commissioned project that confronts gender dynamics and the ways in which racialized people navigate public space. Foregrounding the relationship between Black male bodies using the symbol of the du-rag, both works challenge ideas of intimacy and vulnerability to focus on the closeness and fragility of Black men, and simultaneously confront the issues of systemic racism while signalling positive change. The massive photographic mural will be on view at 11 Bay Street as of May 1, and the life-sized sculpture will be positioned alongside the nearby waterfront at Harbour Square Park and launch in conjunction with ArtworxTO: Toronto’s Year of Public Art.

Frida Orupabo, Woman with a book, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Frida Orupabo | Woman with a book | 460 King Street West (North façade)

Exploring questions of race, culture, class, and their complex intersections, Frida Orupabo brings together archival materials to both fuse and question colonial and modern representations of Black womanhood, care, and labour. Referencing personal and political narratives, the Norwegian-Nigerian artist’s collages disrupt common conceptions of whose bodies belong where and why. Woman with a book (2020) asserts the notion of Black women’s bodies as sites of knowledge and empowerment, while subverting the suppression of such power and the use of knowledge as a tool of control within colonial paradigms. This work is the first in a two-part project by Orupabo.

2021 Public Installations Rescheduled from 2020

Taiyo Onorato & Nico Krebs | Future Perfect | Metro Hall

Kim Hoeckele | epoch, stage, shell | Billboards in Toronto

Thirza Schaap | Plastic Ocean | Dupont Station

Greg Staats | for at least one day, you should continue to breathe clearly | Todmorden Mills Heritage Site, The Papermill


Małgorzata Stankiewicz | Lassen (This is an Emergency) | Billboards in Toronto and nine cities across Canada

Greg Staats, dark string (two of eight images), 2020. Courtesy of the artist.

Preliminary List of Partners

CONTACT’s 2021 Core Program of Primary Exhibitions and Public Installations is developed through collaborations with partners across Toronto, including: A Space Gallery; Allied Properties; Art Gallery of Ontario; ArtworxTO; BAND Gallery; The Bentway Conservancy; Brookfield Place; Campbell House Museum; City of Toronto; Gallery 44; Gallery TPW; Harbourfront Centre; John B. Aird Gallery; Koffler Gallery; McMichael Canadian Art Collection; Mercer Union, a centre for contemporary art; Onsite Gallery; Pattison Outdoor Advertising; Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives; The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery; Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art; Ryerson Image Centre; Todmorden Mills Heritage Site; Trinity Square Video; Waterfront Toronto; The Westin Harbour Castle; and Yonge-Dundas Square. Additional partners will be announced in the coming months. 

CONTACT gratefully acknowledges the support of ArtworxTO: Toronto’s Year of Public Art 2021, Canada Council for the Arts, Celebrate Ontario, City of Toronto, Cultural Services of the Embassy of France in Canada, Government of Ontario, Istituto Italiano di Cultura, La Fondation Emmanuelle Gattuso, Mondriaan Fund, Ontario Arts Council, Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund, Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, Partners in Art, R. Howard Webster Foundation, Toronto Arts Council, Tourism Toronto and all funders, donors, and program partners.