Canada’s contribution to the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale explores Canadian cities’ established “career” in cinema as stand-ins for the world’s metropoles, raising questions of authenticity, architectural identity and the collective understanding of the built environment. Curated by David Theodore of McGill University and realized by Montréal architecture and design practice T B A / Thomas Balaban Architect, the exhibition Impostor Cities highlights the diversity and versatility of Canada’s cityscapes as portrayed on film.
Impostor Cities showcases how Canadian architecture and urban spaces are stand-ins for various cities: Toronto stands in for London, Manhattan and even Tokyo, Montréal can play Moscow and Paris, while Vancouver can pass as North Korea. The exhibition celebrates the “film famous” Canadian cities, which often play the roles of other cityscapes in movies known worldwide. The project is a playful critique of cultural self-representation and the narrative of uniqueness, revealing a new perspective on the idea of national identity.
Impostor Cities presents a playful counter-proposition to the belief that architecture is founded in geography, climate, and history, asking: What does it mean that a Vancouver street can stand in for Prague in the morning and New Delhi in the afternoon, or that Toronto’s Art Deco R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant inevitably plays a sinister hospital or a prison? Impostor Cities explores how Canadian architecture has so artfully doubled as other places, challenging visitors to think about authenticity and identity at a moment when the blurring of fact and fiction onscreen takes on an important significance. – Thomas Balaban, Jennifer Thorogood, Designers, Impostor Cities
The Pavilion will be wrapped in green screen material, and iconic Canadian buildings will take the pavilion's place using chroma key technology. The exhibition thus transforms the Pavilion in Giardini into a piece of Canada. In addition, the Impostor Cities Screening Room within the Pavilion will feature clips from over 3000 films and television shows shot in Canada, accompanied by a soundtrack featuring recordings made on location in the different buildings and urban spaces.
The exhibition is designed to put visitors in ‘movie mode.’ That’s when you start thinking about architecture through screens and movies, rather than through photographs or drawings or through visiting the buildings. We’re designing for visitors who have never been to Canada. They might say, ‘Hey, I’ve seen that film, but I didn’t know it was downtown Vancouver.’ – David Theodore, Curator, Impostor Cities
The exhibition is accompanied by a series of video interviews with Canadian architects, film directors, set designers, and other industry insiders. In light of the pandemic, The project will also be made available online on the Pavilion’s website.
- Commissioner: Canada Council for the Arts.
- Exhibition Team: David Theodore (Curator) + T B A (Presenter), Allison Moore (Interactive Video Content), Cameron Cummings (Research and Design), Christeen Francis (Screen Printing), Ella Den Elzen (Research), Éric Fauque (Audiovisual Integration), Eva Peng (Interactive Design), Florian Grond (Surround Concept and Mixing), François-Matthieu Mariaud de Serre (Research and Design), Hervé Laurendeau, (Research and Design), Jane Kate Wong (Interactive Design), Jennifer Thorogood (Project Designer), Joel Friesen: (Research and Design), John Gurdebeke (Film Editing), Mikaèle Fol: (Research and Design), Nick Cabelli: (Research and Design), Pawel Karwowski (Graphic Design), Randolph Jordan (Sound Curation), Remy Fortin (Model Fabrication), Rosayln Dunkley (Model Fabrication), Sarah Mackenzie (Communications), Sergey Zakharov (Web Development), Thomas Balaban (Project Manager), Tim Sidock (Fundraising), Wipawe Sirikolkarn (Interactive Design)