Festival Archive

Martin Parr, Canada. Toronto, 2013 © Martin Parr / Magnum Photos

Field of Vision

Exploring the photographic medium as a way of seeing, this year’s Festival theme, Field of Vision, frames a series of primary exhibitions and public installations. In museums and galleries, on city streets and subway platforms, these presentations reveal a shared interest in photography as a visual paradigm, one that structures how we imagine scenes, places, and events. Working closely with our partners across Toronto, we explore the medium’s history and its current manifestations. While many projects are the result of expansive, long-term investigations, others are newly commissioned, site-specific works. CONTACT 2013 situates photography as an expansion of sight, where the camera’s field of view extends the eye’s field of vision.

Artists herald new directions, whether in the form of an exceptional idea, an impossible-seeming image, or a circumstance radically re-considered. Photographs allow us a privileged view of what we might not otherwise see, an idea conveyed through Sebastião Salgado’s landmark exhibition Genesis, which presents a sweeping examination of untouched regions. Andrew Wright’s imaginative experiments with form and photographic technologies come together to reveal an unexpected perspective on land, sea, and sky alike. Extending the focus on natural phenomena while taking us into the realm of spirits, Sara Angelucci draws on archival photographs to create evocative works echoing lost histories.

Photographic archives open a dialogue with the past. A glimpse into the Archive of Modern Conflict’s collection, arranged in evocative groupings of images that date back to the beginnings of photography, challenges us to engage with history in unfamiliar terms. Bringing the issue of the archive into the technological present, Erik Kessels’ immersive installation stages an encounter with images that confronts how their ubiquity online transforms the sense of the world we access through our computer screens. With her mural project, Ilit Azoulay adopts an archival method to turn photographs of curiosities found at a demolition site into a historically rich montage. Photographic technology often manifests social effects and has a critical past of its own; Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin’s billboards confront the racialized history of images used to calibrate skin tone.

Artists activate photography’s ability to shape how we imagine another person’s perspective on the world. Depicting the essential yet typically hidden qualities of those captured by the camera, Jason Evans presents portraits of Art Gallery of Ontario employees at play in the museum. Also highlighting the interplay between the photographer and subject, Light My Fire follows the trajectory of a collection that grew out of a focus on the genre of portraiture. The photographer’s characteristic ways of seeing are explicit in the portraits by two exceptional visionaries who passed away recently: the artist Arnaud Maggs and the experimental filmmaker Chris Marker. They leave behind bodies of work whose scope makes apparent photography’s role as a visual archive of social history, and a record of an individual’s life.

Through photography, artists envision scenes we might never encounter, sometimes because they literally do not exist. James Nizam’s Pyramid, an ethereal, site-specific image constructed through multiple exposure, suggests that a luminescent sculpture once floated in thin air. The power of the photograph to evince what we cannot see is evoked by Michael Schirner’s works, which use the stark language of the descriptive caption to picture iconic photographs in words. Michael Snow’s The Viewing of Six New Works animates the subtle movements a viewer might make when looking at images, alluding to the metaphor of photography as “writing with light.” Exploring the unseen spaces of the city’s infrastructure, Michael Cook and Andrew Emond delve into Toronto’s underground to expose its hidden passages. Arthur S. Goss’ photographs provide historical context through their bureaucratic yet idiosyncratic approach to envisioning civic life. Photography can influence the ways we observe and interact with our surroundings. Martin Parr focuses on the everyday, activating two public sites with humour and irony while exposing our cultural peculiarities through images of the foods we eat.

Engaging current discourse about the function of images in society, this year’s Festival encompasses a range of approaches to photography. Considering how the photographic frame extends sight, these exhibitions and installations trace our encounters with images, asserting that the medium is a profound means of shaping our ways of being. Demonstrating an ongoing obsession with seeing our world in images, all-the-more prevalent in the digital age, Field of Vision reflects an enduring interest in photo-based practices. Photography is fundamental to seeing and sharing knowledge of ourselves and others across contexts that extend well beyond the physical environment our eyes can perceive.

Bonnie Rubenstein
Artistic Director