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CAFKA was started by people who wanted to see things happen, and Veracity was CAFKA’s moment of truth. As an artist-run organization, CAFKA is the product of the dedication and the commitment of the artists in Kitchener and its surrounding communities. Veracity’s success is due in the first place to its board of directors: Lois Andison, Blair Botsford, David Carter, Ernest Daetwyler, Marcel O’Gorman, Sarah Kernohan, Gareth Lichty, Rex Lingwood and Paul Roorda, who together committed countless hours of volunteer time and effort to making the exhibition a success. Rob Ring, CAFKA’s Artistic Director, was in charge of all aspects of the installation. Gordon Hatt arrived as Executive Director in the fall of 2008 and took over operational management and development.  

CAFKA must thank the numerous organizations, agencies and private enterprises that helped make Veracity happen. We are grateful for the generous support of Christie Digital, our lead corporate sponsor and the facilitator for all of the digital projection programming during Veracity. CAFKA would like to thank the key long-term support of the Musagetes Foundation, which has helped to support CAFKA’s operations over the last two years as well supporting the Veracity program. We are proud and thankful for the confidence in CAFKA shown by the City of Kitchener, which, through the generous provision of exhibition spaces, advice, encouragement and support, has helped us grow. CAFKA is very pleased to have the backing of the Ontario Trillium Foundation which supported CAFKA’s establishment and incorporation and which has recently committed to a three year grant supporting CAFKA’s program of lectures, special events and CAFKA TV. CAFKA would also like to thank the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund, the Kitchener-Waterloo Community Foundation, the Ontario Arts Council, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Region of Waterloo Arts Fund for the support that they have provided for the Veracity project.

CAFKA has worked closely with its partners the Impact Theatre Festival and Open Ears Festival of Music and Sound. We greatly appreciate the support and co-operation of these organizations. And finally, CAFKA would like to thanks its exhibition partners Cambridge Galleries, City of Kitchener, Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery, Critical Media Lab of the University of Waterloo, Homer Watson House and Gallery, Kitchener Waterloo Art Gallery, MacIntosh Dry Cleaners, Elements Night Club and Robert Langen Art Gallery at Wilfred Laurier University, THEMUSEUM, and the Tannery. Thanks to all of you for helping us realize the vision.


Truth or Dare

The idea of “Veracity” as the theme CAFKA’s 7th forum first came up in a conversation between CAFKA’s Artistic Director Rob Ring and Alf Bogusky, Director of the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery. The gallery, a year or two previously, had produced an online project called “Veracity” which focused exclusively on digital photography.” The slipperiness of the concept was appealing. Rob ring recalled, “Given the nature of the word, particularly when accompanied by its definition, we expected that a lot of the submitted proposals would be so-called “new media” works, and also that there would be a large number of propagandist/Orwellian themes emerging. But the theme allowed for much broader interpretation, and we wanted to ensure that artists working in more traditional materials wouldn’t feel excluded.[1]

“Veracity,” I thought. “Wow.” That’s setting the bar high. The concept of truth just seems more and more treacherous these days. It’s not that truth is no longer absolute (such that it ever was), but as a term it was beginning to seem quaint, archaic, pre-digital. The classical view of truth (in philosophy called “Correspondence Theory”) is that truth is determined by logically structured situations (1 + 1 = 2) or by indisputable facts (black is black, because everyone agrees it is). George Orwell coined the term “newspeak” in his novel 1984, to metaphorically characterize the systematic destruction of language in the service of political control.[2] In Newspeak, black is no longer black; it becomes “unwhite.” For a short period of time following the fall of the Berlin Wall, there was widespread optimism for a renaissance of free expression – meaning more people could now see black and call it that instead of having to call it something else. Subsequent political developments around the world culminating in the events of 9-11 and the military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan led to an erosion of language as a common description of facts. Black was no longer black; it became “enhanced interrogation.”  

Those who felt that the digital age heralded the possibility of new freedoms soon found out about its downside. In addition to the brave new world of instant information and communication we began to receive emails from Nigerian businessmen, digital chain letters with viral attachments, boatloads of electronic Spam and all those forwarded photos of mutant cats and pictures of people with grotesquely outsized body parts. 

Conspiracy theorists and extremists gained a whole new order of respectability in the digital age. Instead of handing out fuzzy photocopied pamphlets on the street corner, they began to write blogs or rant on cable television programs. Led by the example of a former president of the United States, extremists down play the value of “experts” and assert that knowledge of facts may be less important in establishing a truth than what one feels – something that the comedian Stephen Colbert coined as “truthiness.” In the face of ever increasing amounts of information, should we wonder at the human tendency to turn it all off and rely instead on our gut? Veracity, it seems, might just be too much work.

An organization built by can-do people, CAFKA never shied away from challenges. A less ambitious group might have found tackling the question of “truth” in an exhibition of public art a Herculean, nay Sisyphean, task. But, while the exhibition’s theme informed the selection of the artists, it also acted as a statement of curatorial consensus on the part of the members, volunteers and staff. An artwork was “true” if it exhibited the qualities of the CAFKA mission, namely, to occupy the public space. But what does it mean to occupy the public space and how do you do it?

CAFKA received 102 proposals through the open call for submissions. Of these, 15 were selected. The first round of voting on proposals was done via email, with jurors voting “yes, no, or maybe” on each project submitted. The results were then sorted based on the jurors’ overall interest in the projects and the subsequent jurying process took place over three consecutive Sundays . . . five hours per session. The jury sessions were often heated, with individual jurors passionately defending works nobody else was interested in, or criticizing works that otherwise had significant support.”[3]

At the same time, a wish list of artist names was passed around as the committee considered the invitational component. Contacts were made, proposals were considered, budgets were drawn up, and applications for funding were made. The list of artists was finalized by late spring 2009. But, having debated the merits of each work, the show itself was still a difficult animal to get a handle on. Program Committee chair and artist Gareth Lichty observed, “In your mind you see how all the different proposals work and you have sketches of some projects and paragraph email descriptions of what they are going to do, but you never really know . . . you are pulling all these things together in your head, and you’re trying to imagine it and it’s not just a space. It’s a bunch of spaces. All of the projects have to be connected.”[4]

Veracity was different from its predecessor Haptic (2007) in part because of off-site installations. Three off-site projects (David Diviney, Lodge, corner of Gaukel and Charles; Robert Hengeveld, Uprising, Victoria Park Lake; and Brandon Vickerd, Satellite, Victoria Park) shifted the emphasis of the show away from the city hall and environs to more ambitiously address CAFKA’s general mandate to exhibit art in public spaces, and a general agreement among the members of the programming committee to do it in a less predictable way. CAFKA’s interventions were beginning to pop up unexpectedly, in places and contexts where the distinction between and art and nature was becoming more indefinite, inviting people to ask, “Is it real, or is it art?”



The committee selected a number of artists because of how their work addressed the thematic issue of Veracity. Kingston artist Don Maynard’s work Maintaining Gravity in the fountain of the Kitchener City Hall was an optical illusion that challenged credulity. A translucent, gabled-architectural form (a small house or shed-like structure) hovered three feet above the Kitchener City Hall reflecting pool. A series of ropes, anchored under large boulders in the pool, seemed to keep it from floating away. Former CAFKA Board Chair Rex Lingwood recalled that, “Even with the pool empty and the substructure that stabilized the work in full view, few of those who saw the work only partially installed understood how the structure was supported. The restraining ropes seemed in some strange sense be “maintaining gravity” but the restrained form appears to be defying it.”[5] The artist put it another way, emphasizing metaphor: “Maintaining Gravity alludes to those moments in life when things are full of light and filled with possibilities, moments when gravity is an option and not necessarily a given.”[6]

At night the abstract building was lit from within, emphasizing its translucence and magnifying the sense of weightlessness – the ropes’ visual presence receding as they trailed out into the semi-darkness. The architectural structure’s muted and abstract texture, the white ropes and the varied colours of the boulders gave the installation a subtle but commanding physical presence. A complex and layered work, it was also very accessible. The action depicted was both recognizable and puzzling and so the question it provoked was not “What is this?” but “How can this be?”[7]

Lingwood noted that Maintaining Gravity “was a good example of how CAFKA works with artists to develop successful public art projects. The artist's proposal was conceptually sophisticated and engaged the Veracity theme in interesting ways, grounded as it was in the history of illusionism in art. The proposal, however, presented a number of engineering and design challenges. Extensive discussions with the artist resulted in alterations to the original proposal that added structural stability to the work while retaining the illusion.”[8]

Susy Oliveira’s Concave Head Sculpture (Have Everything and Die), exploited our eyes’ limitations at perceiving depth. Her over-scale bust of a man’s head was created using 1,000 photographic prints, which were mapped onto each facet of an under-structure. Together they combined to render a 3-D image reminiscent of the low-resolution graphics of virtual reality. The photographs were taken with a macro lens and created a high-resolution sur-reality of visible skin pores and hair follicles. The head's concave surface seemed in fact to be convex, and as one passed the sculpture it appeared to follow the observer through the space.

June Pak played with idea of the relative veracity of narrative fiction. The Fine Line (Between Reality & Fiction) was an LED board at the entrance to Kitchener City Hall displaying a typical fictional disclaimer: “The characters and incidents portrayed and the names herein are fictitious and any similarity to the name, character and history of any person, living or dead is entirely coincidental and unintentional.” The ubiquitous tag line made famous by the “Law and Order” television series, drew a direct link between real life and Hollywood’s rapacious cannibalization of life in the service of the fictional spectacle.

Satellite was a full-scale replica of a Global Positioning Satellite, by Brandon Vickerd. Crafted from steel and with attention paid to recreating the smallest detail, Satellite appeared to have fallen to earth, landing, with a considerable “debris field” skid mark, in Kitchener’s Victoria Park. Vickerd’s artist statement indicated his interest was in questioning the authority granted technology by confronting the viewer with a narrative of scientific failure. To the casual observer, however, Satellite may have had the discomfiting effect of being an alien spacecraft that, having fallen to earth, that had gone unreported. Many must have returned home to check the news for what should have otherwise been a significant media story.



One of the frustrations felt by CAFKA activists was that after all of the effort expended in putting on the show, the installations would have to be removed after only 17 days. Investigations had been made to explore the possibilities of a more permanent legacy and a possibility finally presented itself in the work of Toronto-based artist Kate Wilson, whose sinewy and surreal imagery seemed readily adaptable to an exterior wall. A smooth and clean, two-storey section of brick wall facing the Centre Block parking lot on King Street was found and, despite the initial reservations of the artist, her wonderfully enigmatic mural, Celestial Mechanics, continues to occupy that space to this day.

Gareth Lichty worked closely with Wilson to make it happen. “Working with Kate Wilson . . . just painting that 40 foot wall with a roller was kind of crazy . . .” Lichty operated the bucket truck and Wilson did the painting. “I’m just watching her painting and she is doing it naturally. There were certain areas she wanted to focus on . . . I could move a couple dials at once, swoop in, go really slow, be really elegant with it – me just fucking around learning to be really good at something.”

Another successful extension of Veracity was Obstruction Fence by Kitchener-based artists David Atkinson & James Nye. Atkinson and Nye worked with a construction hoarding on King Street, embedding within it a series of small knot-sized peepholes opening to painted, collaged and assemblaged dioramas and toy theatres, revealing various alternate realities in the otherwise presumably empty space. During and after the exhibition Atkinson and Nye continued to add to the hoarding. For another six months after Veracity had closed, Obstruction Fence provided passing pedestrians with pleasant epiphanies until it finally came down the following spring as part of the King Street renewal.


City Hall

Yet the Kitchener City Hall, the birthplace of CAFKA, still held the imagination. Many people simply enjoyed the symbolism of seeing contemporary art temporarily take over the seat of municipal government. Lichty believes that the work by Rob, Susan and Matt Gorbet entitled Power to the People, exhibited during CAFKA’s third event in 2002, set the standard: “[Power to the People is] a paradigm for me because it is a really simple idea. Light bulbs, switches – you flip a switch and a bulb lights up. DIY. Everyone knows how it works.” Power to the People, an elementary pixel board with content programmable from the street level, became a lightning rod for the social tensions that were played out on a daily basis in the Kitchener Civic Square. “It is like putting a grand piano right on the side walk,” said Lichty. Or a megaphone . . .

As far as provocations go it didn’t seem a stretch to place Max Streicher’s ten-metre long Dung Beetle (2005) in the City Hall rotunda.  Its selection was in part motivated as a tongue-in-cheek visual pun, making reference to Franz Kafka and his book Metamorphosis, where the protagonist, Gregor Samsa, awakes one morning to find that he has transformed over night into a giant insect. Streicher’s work wryly contrasts the heady and buoyant messages usually conveyed by inflatables (Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parades, car dealerships etc.) with stark existentialist references. The appearance of Dung Beetle was perhaps less a provocation than a patent absurdity – an outrageous manifestation in the heart of the city hall. As much as work by the Gorbets galvanized the street, Streicher’s enigmatic monster dung beetle occupied the massive rotunda space both physically and imaginatively.

An important part of CAFKA’s legacy was the dual video projection atop the Kitchener City Hall. A partnership with Christie Digital in 2007 initiated high-powered video projections on two sides of the enclosed mechanical room on the top of the building. The City of Kitchener enthusiastically embraced the projections and made the technology a permanent feature of the city hall. The new permanent projection facility was introduced in September 2009 and was programmed with promotional video featuring the Vancouver Winter Olympics, Architecture in the Region, video of City of Kitchener special events.

The “cube” as it is known, was clearly a space CAFKA wanted to occupy again, but it was a programming challenge. While it is a massive video screen visible from distant parts of the downtown, it doesn’t have an equal capacity to project sound. As a screen it is closer to an electronic billboard than conventional sound and image video. The medium asks us to look at video as a purely visual art without mood enhancing music or spoken narrative. Video taken directly from conventional platforms (theatre, television, computer etc.) falls flat on the cube, making it necessary to produce content specifically for this context.

Ernest Daetwyler had urged the programming committee to consider the work of Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist for the biennial and after a quick search on YouTube the soundless video Open My Glade (Flatten), (2001) was identified as a natural fit. The nine, minute-long video segments of Open My Glade were originally commissioned for the NBC video screen in Times Square in New York – a work of art in the midst of the most famous commercial advertising the real estate in the world.

As kids, when we were bored and riding in the back seat our parents’ cars, we pressed our noses and lips up against the rear passenger window and made faces at the passing traffic. In Pipilotti Rist’s video, she does essentially the same thing. In real time and in slow motion, forward and reverse, with and without make-up, she appears to press her face up against the picture screen. The result was a series of humourous and haunting and (for some, disturbing) silent facial distortions, ideally suited to the tower.[9]  The images projected equally to those viewing from distant parts of the city as well as to those viewing the images on the street in front of the city hall. The specific location of the projections on the two sides of the tower's mechanical room lent additional significance to the claustrophobic sense of enclosure and entrapment that the artist created in her theatrically vain attempts to break through the screen, perhaps commenting on our on dependence and captivity to screens of all types in our daily life. Perhaps too, in the context of the commercial glamour advertising which typically occupies large urban screens, Rist's violent smearing of her make-up and her strange facial distortions can be interpreted as a soundless scream of isolation and desperate resistance directed against our contemporary obsession with glamour and celebrity.  

The Graffiti Research Lab is an artist team made up of Evan Roth and James Powderly. They are well known for Laser Tag, a video camera, laptop and projector set-up, in which a camera tracks a green laser pointer across surface, generating graphics based on the laser's position. The graphics are then projected back onto the surface as virtual “graffiti” with a high-powered projector.  The project they were proposing was a new technology they were developing called Eye Writer.”[10] Eye Writer, the next generation of their Laser Tag system, used a sophisticated eye-tracking interface to enable the user to write or draw on a surface simply by looking and moving one's eyes. Eye Writer was first developed as a tool to allow the legendary L.A. graffiti artist Tempt, who was paralyzed by ALS, to continue tagging.

Ring describes the challenges of presenting Eye Writer, “In order for the eye tracking to work, the head unit had to be precisely calibrated with the video projector. The only person who had ever used it before was Tempt, and he was completely paralyzed. For the public to use this technology they would have to remain perfectly motionless. Even the slightest movement would throw off the calibration & the resulting images would be a mess. The challenge, at this point, was to develop an inexpensive head restraint system in less than 24 hours. The solution we came up with was to use a reclined weightlifting bench, and literally strap the user’s head to the bench using ratchet straps (the sort of belt you would use to secure cargo on a flatbed truck). I was the guinea pig for this system.”[12]

Takahiro Fujiwara’s Trance Veil became the centre-piece of the city hall installations, installed as it was immediately inside the front entrance doors. I became aware of Tokyo-based sculptor Fujiwara Takahiro through the exhibition Big In Japan at Cambridge Galleries in 2001. Over the years we stayed in touch and were able to again work together to produce an installation in Toronto’s Eaton Centre for Nuit Blanche 2008. Programming committee member Rex Lingwood had seen Fujiwara’s Into the Blue during Nuit Blanche and suggested that we invited him to submit a proposal to CAFKA. Inspired by the image of falling water, Fujiwara proposed a simple mechanical substitute. Clear, thin polypropylene bands were studded with subtly coloured foam cleats at regular intervals. The bands were looped and turned by wooden spindles of different sizes, causing the belts to move at variable rates of speed. A number of sites were considered before the front entrance to the City Hall was selected. The work was measured and designed to fit the space precisely and from Tokyo, Fujiwara emailed specifications for the necessary materials and parts. On site, the assembly was carried out by Fujiwara and his wife Yuko and with the help of City of Kitchener facilities management staff. The many moving parts of Trance Veil made a gentle mechanical clatter, the colours flickered and blended into an impressionistic haze resembling a waterfall and the moving polypropylene bands bounced dappled reflections of sunlight onto the floor. The overall effect was indeed both trance inducing and utterly charming as an unabashedly primitive, low–tech optical illusion.


The Tannery

Two of the artists invited by CAFKA for Veracity, Mariele Neudecker and David Hoffos, required for their projects specific conditions that the City Hall could not provide. Both projects required an enclosed space providing total light control. Moreover, Mariele Neudecker’s Heaven the Sky came with its own set of high-intensity discharge metal halide lamps, directly mounted over the work and requiring a minimum four-metre ceiling. After much searching, CAFKA was given access to a space in the Lang Tannery Building. The space was gutted and cleaned by Gareth Lichty, John Heckbert, Rob Ring and Rex Lingwood and sectioned into separate spaces for each artist. 

Mariele Neudecker is internationally recognized for her atmospheric reproductions of landscapes within glass vitrines. The work exhibited for Veracity, Heaven the Sky, consisted of two large aquariums housing miniaturized mountain ranges. Chemicals added to the water created the appearance of a low-lying fog developing around the base of the mountains over the course of the exhibition. The piece had been commissioned by Fumio Nanjo for the 2008 Singapore Biennial and was featured at David Cunningham Projects in San Francisco before coming to Kitchener. 

David Hoffos’s piece, Japanese Garden, developed for Veracity, was a three-channel video projection that recalled the character and quality of a large scale Viewmaster Stereoscope. Hoffos had suffered a calamity during the previous spring when a fire broke out in the studio building containing his work. An artist who often reused aspects of his previous work in new installations, Hoffos was in the position of having to make a new work for Veracity. Working closely with the artist was Josh Cleminson, a recent graduate of the University Guelph’s Master of Fine Art program, the two worked a week of long hours to build the piece from scratch.  

Hoffos brought three static video shots of the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden in the artist’s hometown of Lethbridge, Alberta. His plan was to project the three videos onto surfaces that were shaped and detailed to echo the content of the video images. The surfaces were positioned at an oblique angle in relation to the projectors and each surface had detail areas that were cut and popped out in relief, similar to a pop-up greeting card. The effect was to lend an uncanny three-dimensional quality and “sur-reality” to the images. The video shots were static except for the occasional movement of water and tree leaves in the wind. A duck landing in the water provides a momentary revelation of the landscape as a habitat for life.


Art in Pubic Spaces

A central definition of CAFKA is its exhibition of art works in public spaces. David Diviney’s Lodge was a stylized representation of a beaver lodge in the fountain at the Grand River Transit bus station. PVC pipes, covered in brown and beige caulking, gave the uncanny appearance of real logs held in place on a supporting armature of Styrofoam coolers. The PVC piping, the acrylic caulking and the Styrofoam armature not only contrasted materially with the archetypal symbols of the Canadian wilderness (e.g. real wood and real beavers), but situated as it was beside the bus station at a busy intersection in the city, it also underscored the distance between contemporary Canada and its foundational symbols.  

Luke Hart’s Walking With Synthetic Being Seven (Peg Leg), was a public performance involving a synthetic organism that the artist walked around downtown Kitchener over the course of a week. His “prosthesis” and its attaching harness were built during a moment of play in the studio. It is based on the idea of the peg leg as a cultural object, mythologized by images of pirates, and Captain Ahab type characters from fiction and history. Hart’s performance practice consisted of a daily laboured pacing of the length of King Street between the city hall and Queen Street during CAFKA’s first week, stopping occasionally to sit and to talk with curious by standers about his art. 

Toronto-based Robert Hengeveld’s Uprising pushed the envelope of public comprehension of art in the public space. Uprising consisted of a shopping cart apparently discarded in the centre of Victoria Park Lake in downtown Kitchener. In reality, the shopping cart was a convincing simulation, constructed using rigid LDPE plastic tubing, which caused the cart to float in the lake. The artist was making a satirical comment on the residue we leave in the environments we inhabit. It was a potent symbol. While some puzzled at the sheer manic ambition of tossing a shopping cart in to the middle of a lake, CAFKA received a respectful call from the mayor’s office. The assistant to the mayor acknowledged that while they recognized that the shopping cart in the lake was in fact not an act of vandalism, but a work of art, it was pointed out that not everyone in the community recognized it as such. They asked that we install a more visible sign identifying the work as part of the Veracity program.

Shopping carts tend to turn up in the landscape as acts of vandalism and petty theft. When we come across a rusting and damaged cart in a ravine, flood-way or back alley, we feel it acutely as an expression of anti-social behaviour and disaffection, perpetrated most probably by an adolescent boy. Incongruously floating in the middle of a lake in a romantic park setting, Robert Hengeveld's replica shopping cart interrupted an otherwise idyllic scene of perfected nature, and created the sinking feeling that trouble exists, even in paradise.

Over the years, many artists who have come to Kitchener and have been enchanted by the story of the mysterious disappearance of the bust Kaiser Wilhelm I.[13] During the First World War, when anti-German sentiment was strong, the city changed its name from Berlin to Kitchener, to identify itself patriotically with the British war hero, the Earl of Kitchener. Andrew Hunter decided to take on the myth with his narrative project The Remains of the Kaiser. As an artist, Andrew Hunter creates projects that that are usually fictitious but which appear to have a certain degree of authenticity and contribute to a more complex understanding of a place and its history. The Remains of the Kaiser was a narrative suggesting a fictional society relating to the events of the fate of the bust of Kaiser Wilhelm I that stood upon a pedestal in Kitchener’s Victoria Park until 1916. The artist issued a proclamation by the fictional Kaiser Wilhelm Society or KWS (a pun on the often used acronym for the twin cities of Kitchener-Waterloo) proposing a new monument for Victoria Park, where the original bronze bust of Kaiser Wilhelm had been removed and tossed into the pond in the summer of 1914 in a demonstration of anti-German sentiment.

The project proposed that the letters KW in all official names in the region cease to reference Kitchener Waterloo and instead stand for KAISER WILHELM including the Kaiser Wilhelm Art Gallery, Kaiser Wilhelm Symphony (not to be confused with the Kaiser Wilhelm Society) Kaiser Wilhelm International Airport, Kaiser Wilhelm Chamber of Commerce etc.  The symbol of the KWS was a caricature handlebar moustache, which the artist fashion to be mounted on the bare plinth. The moustache was ambiguous enough in its design that either Kaiser Wilhelm I or General Kitchener could have worn it.

CAFKA worked with the Homer Watson House and Gallery to present Victoria-based D. Bradley Muir’s Faith, Ignorance and Delight In the Grand Valley with Homer, on the grounds at the Homer Watson House. The work was an installation which referenced the romantic and idealized landscape paintings of “Canada’s first painter” Homer Watson, within a contemporary context. Muir’s work utilizes theatrical sets to spotlight the intersection between tableau and documentary photography, making references to the romantic and idealized landscape paintings of “Canada’s first painter” Homer Watson.

Isabella Stefanescu, Carlito Ghioni & Klaus Engel installed their rear projection video installation, American Shot, in the window of the former PUC building at the corner of King and Gaukel Streets to engage passers-by in the downtown. American Shot was an interactive projection installation using one-way mirrors, sensors and face recognition software to create video narratives that include the viewer as an actor in the action. Passers-by were be captured by the software and recognized as people in close-up, half-length and full body shots (the “American” shot). This information in turn initiated video narratives employing those framing shots.

Stefan Rose’s photographs, Vernacular Veracity: An Investigation of Dry Cleaner Architecture in South Western Ontario, in addition to being installed in the city hall rotunda, were also installed in part in the vestibule of the MacIntosh Dry Cleaners on Victoria Street in Kitchener, a classic art deco building of the genre. The exhibition of eighteen 8 x 20 inch black and white photographs of dry cleaner buildings from Waterloo Region and other communities in South-Western Ontario were made using a Korona “banquet” or “view” camera.[14] The artist’s collection of photographs formed a typological index of purpose built architectural forms.

Jihee Min’s I is for Confidence, was intended to address the artist’s issues with her own shyness with a very public performance. Her performance of I is for Confidence took place on King Street in downtown Kitchener and around the city hall. I is for Confidence consisted of a “confidence helmet,” attached to which were ten large alphabet pillows that combined together to spell the word “confidence.” The artist mingled during the exhibition wearing her “confidence helmet” and invited the members of the pubic to have their own moment of confidence by trying it on. She installed a photo booth at Kitchener City Hall where visitors were able to model the “confidence helmet.”

I is for Confidence recalled the importance and yet utterly intangible nature of confidence and self-esteem: Where does it come from, and where does it go? Why do some people have it and not others? Jihee Min's action points out that it is confidence's absence which may be weighing us down, and which we drag around with us wherever we go in life.


Exhibition Partners

CAFKA’s exhibition partners produced installations and exhibitions addressing the themes of public intervention and veracity. Edna’s Archive: Learning to Perform Memory/Learning to Perform Forgetting, produced by Andrew Houston & Lisa O’Connell for CAFKA’s festival partner IMPACT (International Multicultural Platform for Alternative Contemporary Theatre) was a performance/installation about memory. It began with a banker’s box abandoned by the dumpster of a high-rise apartment. Inside jam-packed and meticulously arranged, were more than 1700 artifacts of a life lived in Kitchener. The installation of the 1700 artifacts and the performance in the old Kitchener PUC building invited a consideration of how life is given value, how it is marked and unmarked through various rituals of the archive, where the traces of what remains offer contemplation of what was and what might still be.

Cambridge Galleries featured Circular Logic by Toronto-based artist Roula Partheniou in the circulation area of the adjacent public library. Circular Logic was an installation of a new work from the artist's Handmade Readymade project, an ongoing series of trompe l’oeil paintings of books that function as text works, found poetry and discrete art objects. Hand-painted in acrylic, each canvas reproduces a single period book cover from the 1950s, 60s or 70s. The artist’s selection of mostly non-fiction titles represents a personal inventory of literature, philosophy, poetry, cosmology and art. Each canvas is constructed to match the dimensions of the book reproduced, and since 2005, the artist has reproduced close to one hundred titles.

The Canadian Clay and Glass gallery presented Gilbert Poissant’s Variations on Discs, Spirals, & Xuanjis. This exhibition presented Poissant’s study of different interpretations of the circle, ranging from small objects and vessels to large-scale installations and architectural work, infused with an original and metaphoric context. A ceramist by training, Gilbert Poissant has spent his professional life exploring all aspects of the discipline, placing it in the universe of contemporary art.

The Kitchener Waterloo Art Gallery featured prints by UK-based artist Janice Kerbel. Kerbel’s Remarkable series of five silk-screen prints on campaign poster paper were reminiscent of fairground posters that announce the spectacular feats of improbable beings. Accompanying these works was a series entitled Underwood, a series of four love letters rendered in a typeface designed to mimic a faulty typewriter. Using text and the subtleties of reproduction, Kerbel leaves the viewer to imagine a visual equivalent of hyperbole and promise.

The Robert Langen Art Gallery at Wilfred Laurier University in conjunction with CAFKA featured Playing Piano by Marla Hlady. Playing Piano is a sound art sculpture employing a prepared, 1928 Ampico reproducing player piano. Among her numerous preparations, the artist removed the keyboard and extruded the bellows compressor to reach across the gallery space. Hlady also exhibited a selection of her Sound Drawings at the THEMUSEUM in downtown Kitchener. Hlady’s Sound Drawings, like her sculpture, are an attempt by the artist to visually imagine sound. Not musical scores but rather, free interpretations of sound as a physical phenomenon, she images sound ciphers that churn like schools of micro-organisms in whirlpools of aural turbulence.


Public Art on the Edge

A work that many people may have missed during Veracity was Monotone, an intervention by Iga Janik, which pushed at the edges of the public authority’s tolerance. Monotone was a sound installation that was comprised a series of individual FM radio transmitters, each equipped with its own microphone, broadcasting live sound of the surrounding environment. The piece was intended as a sonic interpretation of the landscape of Kitchener City Hall with the use of extremely low range transmitters installed throughout the building, drawing attention to the auditory spaces of the location without being specific to the actual sounds or their sources.

Unfortunately, there were concerns at city hall that the microphones would pick up and broadcast private conversations, and city staff removed as many of the transmitters as they could find and the work functioned in a very limited way. Reflecting on the work, Rex Lingwood underscored how much a work of art is affected by its physical and social context. “It was in fact the misperception of the work that drove the response,” suggested Lingwood. “Initially there were concerns at city hall that the microphones would pick up and broadcast private conversations. While this is an understandable concern, in this instance not a real one, as the artist's intention was to broadcast ambient sound. So, unless someone actually picked up the microphone and spoke into it, the conversation would not be comprehensible. Anyone wishing to have a private conversation would be most unlikely to speak into a microphone in much the same way they would be unlikely to either raise their voice or turn and speak directly to a stranger . . . The response to the piece raised issues concerning the right of privacy in public spaces. Why is it an unacceptable invasion of privacy to record conversations in public space (inaudible in this work) when we are in this very same space under video surveillance?”

Reflecting on the problems CAFKA encountered with Monotone, Lingwood points out that the removal of the piece, “ . . . highlighted contemporary fears associated with public spaces. The public officials responsible for the spaces, by removing the work on the basis of a misplaced perception of the some part of the public, further reinforced those misplaced fears rather than addressing them.” The case of Monotone is an example of CAFKA’s larger challenge of bringing contemporary art to the public space. As Lingwood noted, “(Monotone) . . . told us a great deal about the contradictions inherent in our perceptions of privacy in the public space, as well as our reactions to finding unusual or unexpected objects in such spaces. Our first reaction is fear and that makes rational examination of what is in front of us often difficult or impossible.”[15]

Art in the pubic space reflects back to us our sense of place in the world, our sense of rightness and wrongness, of delight and dismay, of fear and security. And that’s the truth.

Gordon Hatt, 2010

[1] According to Rob Ring, the discussion took place in in January 2008:

“The term immediately captured my imagination and it was apparent that it could be applied to far more than just digital photography. In January 2008 the Programming Committee (those present?) held an informal, beer-fueled, meeting at the Rum Runner, a local pub. The idea behind this meeting was that we would enjoy a social evening together, talking about art & artists that inspires us, lubricating our inhibitions, and we would see what ideas floated to the surface. From these ideas we hoped a theme would emerge.”

“In fact, deciding on Veracity as a theme turned out to be relatively easy. What proved to be a greater challenge was developing the explanatory text around it.”

“We didn’t want to spoon-feed artists possible interpretations of the theme, and attempted to address the theme adequately without explicitly referencing anything in particular. Given the nature of the word, particularly when accompanied by its definition, we expected that a lot of the submitted proposals would be so-called “new media” works, and also that there would be a large number of propagandist/Orwellian themes emerging. But the theme allowed for much broader interpretation, and we wanted to ensure that artists working in more traditional materials wouldn’t feel excluded from the Call.”

“Gareth and I spent several late nights together working on revisions to the original notes developed by the Committee, until we felt we had something we could move forward with. We saw this text not only as a place to explicitly explore some of the ideas behind the theme, but also as an opportunity to actively play with the concept. In our introductory text about the Region, normally intended to help provide context to artists not familiar with KW, we not only discussed the Region’s legitimate hallmarks (i.e. “most intelligent city,” birthplace of the Blackberry, blue box recycling program, etc., but also inserted blatant lies, presented as fact (i.e. birthplace of the shampoo bottle & the ice cream cone).”

“Our initial version was deemed “wacky” by the committee.”

Rob Ring, email correspondence, July, 6, 2010.

[3] Rob Ring, ibid.

[4] Gareth Licthy, recorded interview, July, 2010.

[5] Rex Lingwood, email correspondence, December 3, 2009.

[6] Don Maynard Artist Statement, May 2008.

[7] Rex Lingwood, ibid.

[8] Rex Lingwood, ibid.

[9] Silvia di Donato, Manager of Business Development for the City of Kitchener and the person responsible for the programming of the cube projections called me in a panic in the day before the opening saying that she couldn’t put up Rist’s video because “it’s going to scare the kids.” I assured her that not only was there as nothing illegal going on in the video, there weren’t even any marginally contestable body parts visible. After some high level debate at the city hall in which CAFKA Board Chair Rex Lingwood was consulted, it was decided projections on the city hall cube could in fact take place without the city’s endorsement.

Other reactions from the community to the piece ranged from bemused puzzlement to outright hostility. Rob Ring reported overhearing one young woman on King Street say in reference to the work, “That’s why I hate modern art.”

[10] Email from Rob Ring, July 9, 2010.

[11] Idem.

[12] Idem.

[13] Installed in 1897 as a “peace” memorial marking Germany’s 1871 victory in the Franco-Prussian War, the granite monument was topped with a bust of the deceased German emperor Wilhelm I. On the sides were medallions depicting Wilhelm's foreign minister Otto Von Bismarck and his army chief of staff, Helmuth von Moltke. . . Prized by the German community, the bust was dumped in the lake by several young men in August 1914, just weeks into the First World War. England and Germany had become enemies that month, with Germany led by Wilhelm II, grandson of both Wilhelm I and the late Queen Victoria of England. Pulled from the water, the bust was taken for safekeeping to the upstairs rooms of the Concordia Club, then at 107 King St. W., between today's Queen and Ontario streets. But in 1916, during the city's heated name-change debate, it was stolen when a pro-British mob laid waste to the club. Soldiers in the mob took it to the Queen Street South barracks of the Canadian military's 118th Battalion – and then it disappeared. Soon after, the rest of the monument was dismantled. By then it had been defaced with graffiti and the side medallions had been removed by members of the 118th. Jon Fear, “Bust of Kaiser stood in Kitchener's Victoria Park,” The Record, Description: mail the authorEmail the author

May 09, 2009.

[14] 1927 vintage, the lens is from the 1980s.

[15] Rex Lingwood, email communication, December 9, 2009.


Other works in CAFKA.09