Canada Council for the Arts presents Impostor Cities at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition

The official Canadian entry to the Venice Architecture Biennale, now launched in person and online, investigates how Canadian cities double as other places onscreen.

The Canada Council for the Arts presents Impostor Cities at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, from May 22 to November 21, 2021.

The exhibition is curated by David Theodore of McGill University and realized by Montréal architecture and design practice T B A / Thomas Balaban Architect. The official Canadian participation is commissioned and generously supported by the Canada Council for the Arts.

Dundas Street Toronto, Shape of Water. Toronto’s Dundas and Ossington intersection, re-imagined as 1962 Baltimore by special effects studio MR. X for the film The Shape of Water.

Impostor Cities is an international exhibition that explores how Canadian cities double as others onscreen. The Canada Council for the Arts states that “it’s about architectural identity—and it’s about faking it.”

“From Canada’s streets to film and television screens all around the world, Impostor Cities reorients audiences’ understandings of their built environment. The exhibition has never felt more relevant, as the architecture we live in is that of the global generic city, we see onscreen together,” says the Canada Council for the Arts.

Screening Room: The exhibition puts visitors in movie-mode, engaging us to experience how architectural meaning emerges from our communal encounters with films.

Impostor Cities prospects new directions for Canadian architecture by celebrating the protean cities and buildings that pose as cinematic doubles: “It presents a playful counterproposition to the glorification of national identity through architecture and film, confronting entrenched nationalistic traditions of documentary storytelling that depict Canadian landscapes and cityscapes as unique. A playful critique of cultural self-presentation, Impostor Cities examines movies as powerful sites of architectural experience, expression and authenticity.”

The Canada Pavilion in Venice, Italy, transforming into movie mode

In light of the COVID-19 global pandemic, Impostor Cities exists onsite at the Canada Pavilion in Venice and online. The Canada Pavilion will be wrapped in green screen material, accentuating the Pavilion’s distinct form, creating a new, Impostor building visible across the Giardini, the traditional site that now hosts 29 pavilions of foreign countries. Impostor Cities collaborated with an interaction design team lead by Jane Kate Wong as well as new media artist Allison Moore to bring this wrapping to life. Using chroma key technology, notable Canadian buildings take the Pavilion’s place, re-imagining this corner of Venice as Canada. Onsite, visitors can scan the QR code with their camera lens to experience the Pavilion transform into Canadian cityscapes on Instagram.

Roy Thomson Hall, in Toronto, Ontario, often doubles as  places elsewhere in television and film.

The Impostor Cities online experience includes visitor information, press materials, a boutique of merchandise created in collaboration with emerging fashion designer Spencer Badu, and tantalizing glimpses inside the pavilion. It features video streams that show the Lobby in Venice and clips from the Screening Room. 

Visitors will also experience Canadian buildings and cities through filmmakers’ eyes. Designed as a four-channel video installation, the Impostor Cities Screening Room will feature clips culled from over 3,000 films and television shows shot in Canada, choreographed by video editor John Gurdebeke. Film scholar and multimedia practitioner Randolph Jordan composed the soundtrack with Ambisonic surround sound recordings made on location in the buildings and cities depicted. The installation was developed in collaboration with sound designer Florian Grond, A/V integrator Éric Fauque, and graphic designer Pawel Karwowski. Canadian interior design studio Atelier Zébulon Perron created bespoke furniture for the installation.