Focusing on our relationship to the environment, CONTACT 2011: Figure & Ground looks at how photographic images alter perception, inform knowledge, and uncover meaning. From classical portraits of the figure in the landscape to critical views of a ground transformed by human intervention, the works in this year’s festival explore…

Focusing on our relationship to the environment, CONTACT 2011: Figure & Ground looks at how photographic images alter perception, inform knowledge, and uncover meaning. From classical portraits of the figure in the landscape to critical views of a ground transformed by human intervention, the works in this year’s festival explore the shifting tensions between humanity and nature.

The concept of figure and ground was first articulated in Gestalt psychology, which investigated perception and visual organization. This school of thought— centred on how our senses apprehend form as a whole—has an ongoing relevance to present-day discourse and art practice. While visual experience is shaped by a confluence of psychological and physical forces, we aspire to view the world as a totality, to establish order from chaos.

Marshall McLuhan, the renowned Canadian media theorist, developed his concept of figure/ground, borrowed from the Gestalt approach, to examine the influences that permeate and change social structures. He looked beyond what we immediately perceive—the figure—towards what typically goes unnoticed—the ground. McLuhan used the analogy of the car as the figure, and described the ground as the environment incidental to its existence, such as roads, highways, and the auto and oil industries.

Positioning the photographic image as a construction of figure and ground, this framework provided a starting point for the festival theme, which is further examined throughout the primary and featured exhibitions, public installations as well as a number of open exhibitions. One of the highlights is Edward Burtynsky: Oil, an exhibition with particular relevance to McLuhan’s analogy. Whereas Burtynsky’s photographs expose a landscape altered by humanity, Suzy Lake’s exhibition Political Poetics is a nuanced investigation of embodiment. These two Canadian artists were central to the development of the theme, from very different perspectives; both of them challenge the conventions of beauty. Other primary exhibitions, which total six this year, include highly evocative visual narratives by artists from around the globe. Their focus on the figure is revealed through representations of a constantly changing environment and the visual traces of humankind.

Our public installation program expands again this year, positioning photography within the city and—for the first time—across the country. Site-specific projects, produced by CONTACT in partnership with major cultural, commercial, and government organizations are presented at 14 selected venues. Showcasing artists from Canada and abroad, the interplay between the image and its surrounding environment draws attention to how photography effects changes in perception.

Reflecting a wide range of approaches—documentary to abstraction—the 37 featured exhibitions at diverse venues throughout Toronto evolved through a public call for proposals and by means of collaboration within the community. Artists from around the world expand the concept of the theme as a metaphor, allegory, theoretical platform, and compositional device.

The breadth of exhibitions in CONTACT this year reinforce the importance of art and significance of artists as communicators within society. In its simplest form, the theme Figure and Ground asks: What is our relationship to the environment? Looking at the photographs presented throughout the festival, we find many complex answers.

Bonnie Rubenstein
Artistic Director

2011 Primary Exhibition
Guy Tillim, Maputo, Mozambique, 2007 Courtesy of Kuckei + Kuckei, Berlin and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg
April 20–June 14,  2011

Guy Tillim
Avenue Patrice Lumumba

2011 Public Installation
Alain Paiement, Arrangement According to Nature (Madame) (detail of triptych), 2010 Courtesy of Leo Kamen Gallery, Toronto
April 29–June 2,  2011

Alain Paiement
over here over there

2011 Public Installation
Robert Longo, Untitled (06), 2005 Courtesy of the artist and Adamson Gallery, Washington, DC
May 1–31,  2011

Robert Longo
Men in the Cities

2011 Public Installation
Kevin Schmidt, A Sign in the Northwest Passage, 2010 Courtesy the artist and Catriona Jeffries Gallery, Vancouver
May 1–August 21,  2011

Kevin Schmidt
A Sign in the Northwest Passage

2011 Juried Call
Geoffrey Pugen, Blue Room, 2011
May 5–June 11,  2011

Geoffrey Pugen
Long Divisions

2011 Juried Call
Alex Kisilevich, Untitled, from the series, Kallima, 2011
May 5–June 11,  2011

Alex Kisilevich
Kallima

2011 Juried Call
Abel Boulineau, Aix-les-Bains: the Hautecombe boat, Grand Port, around 1910 Anonymous gift, 2005 © 2011 Art Gallery of Ontario
AGO
March 5–August 21,  2011

Abel Boulineau
"Where I was born" : A Photograph, a Clue, and the Discovery of Abel Boulineau

2011 Juried Call
Aaron Vincent Elkaim, Train, 2011
April 30–May 13,  2011

Group Exhibition
Boreal Collective

2011 Juried Call
Lee Goreas, The Happy Hooker, 2010 Images courtesy of Birch Libralato
April 30–June 4,  2011

Lee Goreas
New Works 2011

2011 Juried Call
James Nizam, Stabile of Drawers, 2010 Images courtesy of Birch Libralato
April 30–June 4,  2011

James Nizam
Memorandoms

2011 Juried Call
Glen Baxter, Sandy Lake, 2011
May 1–31,  2011

Glen Baxter
Right To Play – Sandy Lake, Ontario 2010 – 2011

2011 Juried Call
Lucas Blalock, Portrait Study (Nina), 2009
May 1–31,  2011

Lucas Blalock, Jessica Eaton
The Whole is Greater than the Sum of the Parts

2011 Juried Call
Surendra Lawoti, Shelter 18 from the series Don River, 2009
April 30–June 4,  2011

Surendra Lawoti
Don River

2011 Juried Call
Chris Boyne, Stillwater, 2009
April 30–June 4,  2011

Chris Boyne
Stillwater

2011 Juried Call
Susan Kordalewski, Space vs. Place #9, 2009
April 30–June 4,  2011

Susan Kordalewski
Space vs. Place

2011 Juried Call
Eric Gottesman, Tenanesh, eyes closed. Me thinking about Tenanesh., 2004/2011
May 12–June 11,  2011

Eric Gottesman
Paths That Cross Cross Again

2011 Juried Call
Lee Henderson, Still Life with Thanatotic Moose I, 2008
May 1–31,  2011

Lee Henderson
Still Life With Thanatotic Animals

2011 Juried Call
Martie Giefert, Hall#2, from Re-construction (Gladstone), 2011
May 1–31,  2011

Martie Giefert
Re-construction (Gladstone)

2011 Juried Call
Serena McCarroll, Susanna Bauer, 2010
May 11–28,  2011

Serena McCarroll
Three Women

2011 Juried Call
Shai Kremer, Turkish Railroad Station, 2009
May 5–June 12,  2011

Shai Kremer
Fallen Empires

2011 Juried Call
Roberto Pellegrinuzzi, Constellations (vaisseau), 2010
April 30–May 28,  2011

Roberto Pellegrinuzzi
Constellations

2011 Juried Call
Andrew Wright, Corona #5 (detail), 2011 Courtesy of Peak Gallery
April 28–May 28,  2011

Andrew Wright
CORONAE

2011 Juried Call
Carlos Cazalis, Akira Iwamoto, 73 from Osaka on welfare. Immediate family dead, 2009
May 1–31,  2011

Carlos Cazalis
Urban Shadows

2011 Juried Call
Shadi Ghadirian, West by East Series 1, 2004
April 30–May 31,  2011

Shadi Ghadirian
West by East

2011 Juried Call
Ali Kamran, In the Realm of Decay, 2011
April 30–May 31,  2011

Ali Kamran, Gohar Dashti, Aydin Matlabi
Landscape, Revolution, People

2011 Juried Call
,
May 7–29,  2011

Group Exhibition
Becoming What We Behold: A CFC Media Lab Project

2011 Juried Call
Chris Curreri, Model in the Sculptor’s Studio (triptych), 2010 Courtesy of the artist
April 30–May 31,  2011

Chris Curreri
Something Something

2011 Open Call
Sabrina Zomparelli, Ignis Fatuus - "To have one concept corrupt and confuse the other.", 2010
May 1–31,  2011

Seneca College Photography Students
256 Shades of Gray

2011 Open Call
Steve Sherman, ,
May 5–15,  2011

Steve Sherman
 

2011 Open Call
Jalani Morgan (photographer) & Shingo Shimizu (illustrator), Attack!, 2010
May 5–22,  2011

Group Exhibition
Hermann & Audrey

2011 Open Call
James Tse, Untitled, 2009
May 13–22,  2011

Group Exhibition
Chile

2011 Open Call
Victoria Piersig, Badlands, 2010
May 6–31,  2011

Group Exhibition
The Embodied Landscape

2011 Open Call
Kevin Ballantine, Untiltled 1, 2010
April 28–May 29,  2011

Kevin Ballantine
Jacqueline’s Portrait

2011 Open Call
,
May 5–28,  2011

Group Exhibition
Iranian Bodies & The Such

2011 Open Call
,
April 29–May 15,  2011

Group Exhibition
Land Escapes

2011 Open Call
Ozant Kamaci, ,
May 18–31,  2011

Group Exhibition
The Idea of Nature

2011 Open Call
Lauren Van Klaveren, Texture, 2010
May 2–31,  2011

Marshall McLuhan Catholic Secondary School Student
The Image is the Message

2011 Open Call
Brandon, member of Rexdale ProTech Media Centre, Untitled,
March 28–June 17,  2011

Rexdale ProTech Youth
Concealed Beauty

2011 Open Call
Hanna Haska, Rubble, 2010
May 3–15,  2011

Group Exhibition
Photographic Imprints

2011 Open Call
Darren Rigo, Cedar Rail Redistribution, 2010
April 21–June 21,  2011

Darren Rigo
Domestic Wilderness

2011 Open Call
Peter Riedel, ,
May 2–31,  2011

Peter Riedel
Rock Balancing-Meditative Sculpture

2011 Open Call
Beverly Owens, Shimmer,
April 30–May 31,  2011

Beverly Owens
Location.Location.Location.

2011 Open Call
Mathew Merrett, Red Forest, 2010
April 21–May 31,  2011

Olena Sullivan, Mathew Merrett
Volatile Particles: 25 Years After Chernobyl

2011 Open Call
John Alexander, Metro Bike, New York City, 2009
April 27–May 29,  2011

John Alexander
Free Wheelin’

2011 Open Call
Ian Brewster, West Burton, England, 2005
May 1–31,  2011

Ian Brewster
Cover of Night

2011 Open Call
Ulysses Castellanos, Disconfirmed Expectancy,
May 1–7,  2011

Group Exhibition
Greek Foto Week Toronto

2011 Open Call
Luis Mora, Untitled, 2010
May 19–20,  2011

Sheridan College Applied Photography Students
Exposed

2011 Open Call
Roger Cullman, Fork in the Road, 2004
May 1–31,  2011

Roger Cullman
Found Object

2011 Open Call
Louis Helbig, Downtown Aultsville, N44.57.15 W75.01.42, Aultsville, ON, Canada, 2009
April 29–May 29,  2011

Louis Helbig
Sunken Villages

2011 Open Call
Mark Fawcett, , 2005
May 14–June 19,  2011

Mark Fawcett
All of This & None of This

2011 Open Call
Felicity Somerset, Codependencies #3, 2010
May 1–31,  2011

Felicity Somerset
Codependencies

2011 Open Call
Mée Rose, Motel 1, 2008
May 1–31,  2011

Mée Rose
Sloppy Seconds

2011 Open Call
André Kertész, Untitled, Toronto,(Vanessa Harwood, principle NBC), 1981
April 28–June 10,  2011

André Kertész
André Kertész in Toronto 1979 – 1982

2011 Open Call
Bryan Helm, ,
May 19–29,  2011

Bryan Helm
Motorcycle Culture, and its Celebrity Builders

2011 Open Call
Jenna Paige , Untitled, 2010
May 12,  2011–28,  2010

OCADU Photo Thesis Students
Cynosure

2011 Open Call
Dan Abramovici, Cactus Party, 2010
May 1–31,  2011

Dan Abramovici
 

2011 Open Call
Tom Freda, A woman climbs the stairs of the Wall St. Subway Station exit, New York City, 1983
May 2–31,  2011

Tom Freda
Kodachrome Revisited

2011 Open Call
Dr. Roberta Bondar, Buffalo Dots, 1999
April 4–May 20,  2011

Dr. Roberta Bondar
Within the Landscape – Art Respecting Life

2011 Open Call
Anonymous, Untitled, 2011
May 14–28,  2011

Havergal College Students
Figure Ground

2011 Open Call
Rachel Waugh, Sam (Polaroid), 2010
May 4–31,  2011

Deanna Pizzitelli, Rachel Waugh
Youth, Sometimes

2011 Open Call
Laura Horne, ,
May 11–22,  2011

Group Exhibition
Raw Memory

2011 Open Call
Ayokah, Torn, 2010
April 30–June 11,  2011

Ayokah
A Vulnerable Existence … What Goes and What Remains

2011 Open Call
Cory Blundon, Jessica #1, from The Ambrotype Failures Project, 2009
April 28–May 1,  2011

Maximum Exposure

2011 Open Call
Laurent Lévesque, Fertilizer, 2010
May 5–22,  2011

Group Exhibition
Exposed 2011: Figure and Ground

2011 Open Call
Emily Boros-Rausch, Eye Spy, 2010
May 1–29,  2011

Rosedale Heights School of the Arts Students
Face Value

2011 Open Call
Dieter Hessel, Food, 2010
May 1–31,  2011

Dieter Hessel
Structure and Symmetry

2011 Open Call
Sai Kit Ng, ,
April 27–June 5,  2011

Sai Kit Ng
Found Landscape

2011 Open Call
,
May 1–21,  2011

Group Exhibition
Out side In Side

2011 Open Call
Leanne Eisen, And Then, 2009
April 27,  2011–May 21,  2010

Group Exhibition
McLuhan’s Shadow

2011 Open Call
Mikos Legrady, Hanging out, cottage weekend, north of Montreal, 1970 (negative exposed)
April 13–May 7,  2011

With Us at Every Age: Animal Photographs from the Mira Godard Research Centre, Ryerson University

2011 Open Call
,
May 1,  2011–31,  2010

Paul Campbell, Dana Francis
Forms of Fashion

2011 Open Call
David Frankovich, Plus De Deux, 2010
May 5–28,  2011

David Frankovich, Caitlin Cronenberg
RED / Plus De Deux

2011 Open Call
Daniel James Atkinson, Toronto, 2009, 2009
May 1–31,  2011

Daniel James Atkinson
Crystal Visions

2011 Open Call
Mark Binks, ,
May 1–31,  2011

Mark Binks
Pigeons and Powerlines

2011 Open Call
Scott Ramsay, Tools, 2010
April 27–May 22,  2011

Scott Ramsay
Carril Bici

2011 Open Call
Sandy King, Hand Of Buddah, 2009
May 5–June 5,  2011

Group Exhibition
Process Masters

2011 Open Call
Kirsten White, ,
May 1–31,  2011

Kirsten White
I Will Follow

2011 Open Call
Bradley Lipton, Permanent Scar # 3, 2010
May 1–31,  2011

Bradley Lipton
Permanent Scar – New Work

2011 Open Call
Ariel Estulin, Female Porters, 2010
April 29–May 29,  2011

Ariel Estulin
The Human Landscape

2011 Open Call
Milton H. Greene, Marilyn Monroe, New York City, “Ballerina Sitting”, 1954 © Joshua Greene www.legendslicensing.com
February 19–May 15,  2011

Group Exhibition
Life as a Legend: Marilyn Monroe & Marilyn in Canada

2011 Open Call
Molly Crealock, Mark, 2010
May 2–31,  2011

Molly Crealock
Camphill Grangemockler: Portrait of a Farm

2011 Open Call
Jill Le Clair , View of Trafalgar Square, 2006
May 1–31,  2011

Jill Le Clair
Frida and Me Series II

2011 Open Call
Elinor Whidden, , 2010
May 1–June 30,  2011

Elinor Whidden
Nightwalk

2011 Open Call
,
May 2–30,  2011

Tim Johnston, Leni Johnston
Smoke and Fluids

2011 Open Call
Beth Grace, Morning Star, 2009
May 1–31,  2011

Beth Grace
What Has Love Got to do With it?

2011 Open Call
Nicolette Potter, ,
May 1–31,  2011

Nicolette Potter
States of Undress: The Big Easy

2011 Open Call
,

Parkdale Collegiate Institute Students
All Pretty Pictures – Culture: A Student Exposé on the Parkdale Community

2011 Open Call
,
May 1–31,  2011

Parkdale Collegiate Institute Students
All Pretty Pictures – Crime: A Student Exposé on the Parkdale Community

2011 Open Call
,

Parkdale Collegiate Institute Students
All Pretty Pictures – Safety : A Student Expose on the Parkdale Community

2011 Open Call
Janusz Wrobel, Deep, 2010
May 2–June 6,  2011

Janusz Wrobel
Records of Primal Encounters

2011 Open Call
photo by Paul A. Teolis, tibetan prayer bell, 2009
May 1–July 2,  2011

Paul Teolis
Bhutan Land of the Thunder Dragon

2011 Open Call
Mandy Keeping, Living Room, 2010
May 1–30,  2011

Emma McIntyre, Jade Lee Portelli, Mandy Keeping
Interior

2011 Open Call
Adisa S. Oji, Mother and Child, 2001
May 14–14,  2011

Adisa S. Oji
African Image Revolution

2011 Open Call
Zach Slootsky, Lake, 2010
May 1–31,  2011

Zach Slootsky
Every Mile is Two

2011 Open Call
Tom Zsolt, Chief's Motel, 2000
May 1–31,  2011

Tom Zsolt
Beauty in Form

2011 Open Call
Kaid Ashton, Batter UP, 2008
May 1–31,  2011

Kaid Ashton
Urban Exploration

2011 Open Call
Natalie Castellino, Window, 2011
May 1–29,  2011

Group Exhibition
Middle Ground

2011 Open Call
Barry Hodgert, ,
May 1–31,  2011

Barry Hodgert
Artistic Canada

2011 Open Call
Brian St. Denis, ,
May 1–31,  2011

Brian St. Denis
Iceland on the Ring Road

2011 Open Call
Michel jacques, Silhouette, 2005
April 30–May 31,  2011

michel Jacques
Colors of the World – Photo Album

2011 Open Call
Tori Foster, The Impossibility of Understanding in the Path of a Torontonian, 2009
May 7–June 4,  2011

Tori Foster
Concentrated Geographies

2011 Open Call
Chris Harris, ,
April 25–May 28,  2011

Chris Harris
Motherstone Exhibition

2011 contact-gallery
Kate Armstrong, Medium, 2011
November 5–December 3,  2011

Group Exhibition
Medium_Massage 2.0 :: an infinite inventory

2011 lecture
Evan Sung Photography, ,
AGO
May 18–18,  2011

Luc Sante on Robert Frank: Both Sides Now

2011 lecture
Robyn Cumming, Untitled, 2008
May 5–5,  2011

Group Exhibition
I’m Not Here

2011 lecture
Kristian Bogner , ,
May 18–18,  2011

Nikon Series – Kristian Bogner

2011 Artist Talk
Surendra Lawoti, Shelter 3 (Spring) from the series Don River, 2009
May 14–14,  2011

Surendra Lawoti

2011 Artist Talk
Eric Gottesman, Tenanesh, eyes closed. Me thinking about Tenanesh, 2004/2011
May 14–14,  2011

Eric Gottesman

2011 lecture
Jonathan Taggart, Raymur Avenue #1, 2011
May 6–6,  2011

Curators Talk: Robyn McCallum and Danielle Forest

2011 Artist Talk
Donald Weber, Vova Zek, 2008
May 3–3,  2011

Donald Weber

2011 Artist Talk
Carlos Cazalis, A boy cycles on the rooftop of a prominent neighborhood of Dhaka., 2009
May 5–5,  2011

Carlos Cazalis

2011 Launch
Tony Fouhse, Crystal, from the series USER, 2010
May 14–14,  2011

Ciel Variable

2011 Launch
Marie-Jeanne Musiol, from the series Black Holes (installation), 2010
May 5–5,  2011

Prefix Photo 23: Shadow Plays

2011 screening
Mike Disfarmer, Elderly Couple with Granddaughter,
May 18–18,  2011

Disfarmer: A Portrait of America

2011 screening
,
May 25–25,  2011

Sharon Lockhart
TIFF – Double Tide

2011 Workshop
Laura Barrón, ,
May 1–1,  2011

G44 – Eco Darkroom

2011 Workshop
,
May 8–8,  2011

G44 – Pinhole

2011 Workshop
Sally Ayre, ,
May 15–15,  2011

G44 – Cyanotype

2011 Workshop
Sara Angelucci, Regular 8 (Niagara Falls), 2009
May 17–17,  2011

G44 – How To: Grant Writing

2011 Workshop
Amanda Rataj, Untitled (Literature Room), 2008
May 22–22,  2011

G44 – Albumen

2011 Workshop
,
May 25–25,  2011

G44 – How To: Artist Statement

2011 Workshop
Toni Hafkenscheid, Comprimo,
May 28–28,  2011

G44 – Studio Lighting

2011 Workshop
Rob Norton, ,
May 29–29,  2011

G44 – Ambrotype

2011 Workshop
Sally Ayre, Shadow Gardens (detail), 2001
June 5–5,  2011

G44 – Van Dyke

2011 Workshop
,
June 7–7,  2011

G44 – Self Promotion for Artists & Curators

2011 Workshop
,
April 26–26,  2011

G44 – How To: Portfolio Review

2011 Workshop
Donald Weber, Orthodox Church, Mass, Vorkuta, Komi Republic,
May 28–29,  2011

Pikto – Photography: Bringing Together a Body of Work

2011 Workshop
Naomi Harris, Diego Alione, From the series "California Dreaming", 2010 Naomi Harris
May 7–7,  2011

Pikto – Portrait on the Go with Naomi Harris

2011 Workshop
Carlos Cazalis, Akira Iwamoto, 73 from Osaka lives in this 2x3 room in Kamagasaki since 1973 on welfare., 2009
May 14–15,  2011

Pikto – The Force to Deconstruct

2011 Workshop
Donald Weber, Oktyabir Settlement, Vorkuta, Komi Republic,
May 21–21,  2011

Pikto – Grant Writing

2011 Workshop
David Hemmings, , 2006
April 30–30,  2011

Vistek – Bird Photography 101

2011 Workshop
David Hemmings, , 2006
May 1–1,  2011

Vistek – Raptor Flight Action

2011 Workshop
Gary Goldberg, ,
May 28–28,  2011

Vistek – Outdoor Portrait Lighting

2011 Workshop
John Beebe, ,
May 7–7,  2011

Vistek – Street Photography

2011 Workshop
,
May 14–14,  2011

Vistek – Video with your DSLR

2011 Workshop
,
May 14–14,  2011

Vistek – Photography, Business & You

2011 Workshop
Tim McGhie, ,
May 28–28,  2011

Vistek – Beverage Photography 101

2011 Event
Sam Wang, Palm at Bayon, 2010
May 9–9,  2011

Alternative Process Photography Symposium (A.P.P.S.)

2011 Event
Chien-Chi Chang, USA. New York City, 1998 Chien-Chi Chang/Magnum Photos
May 14–14,  2011

Magnum Photos Workshop Screening

2011 Event
Michael Galinsky, Malls Across America, 1989
May 3–3,  2011

Michael Galinsky: Malls Across America 1989

2011 Event
,
May 24–24,  2011

CAPIC Speaker Series: HMAb Live! Party 2011

2011 Event
Viviane Sassen, Ayuel, 2010 Courtesy of Motive Gallery, Amsterdam.
May 31–31,  2011

Festival Wrap Party & BMW Exhibition Prize Announcement

2011
Film still from Close Up: Portraits, ,
May 5–5,  2011

Close Up: Portraits

2011
John Gollings, ,
May 7–7,  2011

John Gollings: Eye for Architecture

2011
David Bailey, Mick Jagger "Fur Hood", 1964
May 12–12,  2011

David Bailey: Four Beats to the Bar and No Cheating

2011
Film still from Close-up Photographers at Work, ,
May 19–19,  2011

Close-up: Photographers at Work

2011
Mike Disfarmer, ,
May 25–25,  2011

Disfarmer: A Portrait of America

2011
Yousuf Karsh, ,
May 26–26,  2011

Karsh is History