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Impostor Cities, installation view at MOCA Toronto, 2023. Photo by Laura Findlay.

Impostor Cities

June 2, 2023
— July 23, 2023

The world we live in is the global generic city we experience together onscreen. Impostor Cities is about architectural identity and faking it, exploring the ways Canada’s buildings and cities double as other places in film and television. Through clips, video interviews and green-screen opportunities, this multimedia project is a playful critique of cultural self-presentation, examining movies as powerful sites of architectural experience, expression and authenticity.

Conceptualized and curated by Thomas Balaban, David Theodore and Jennifer Thorogood, Impostor Cities was initially commissioned by the Canada Council for the Arts for the 2020 Canadian Pavilion at the International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia. The exhibition is now being fully realized for the first time in a site-specific composition for MOCA Toronto.

At the heart of the exhibition, a screening room comprises clips from over 3,000 films and television shows shot in Canada — from the backdrop for action heroes in X-Men and Pacific Rim, to the dramatic settings of Brokeback Mountain and The Handmaid’s Tale, as well as the cosmic topography of Battlestar Galactica. This supercut highlights national icons such as Vancouver’s Simon Fraser University, alongside beloved neighbourhood locales including The Lakeview Restaurant in Toronto.

Also on exhibit is a green-screen and chroma-key installation that projects visitors into movie-mode, as well as a collection of video interviews with Canadian architects, film directors, set designers and other industry insiders, including David Cronenberg, Atom Egoyan, Sook-Yin Lee, Guy Maddin and Sarah Polley. Each of these filmmakers exposes the existence of a cinematic world with a distinct reality, implying a belief in a fictional place beyond the historical facts that characterize the city. 

Exploring new directions for architecture, Impostor Cities brings us together in a shared cityscape — a place that most have not physically visited, but which exists in the minds of moviegoers around the world, constructed through patchwork impressions of Canada’s architecture and landscapes. 

Alongside the exhibition at MOCA, the project continues to have an outlet online at https://impostorcities.com/.

About Impostor Cities

Impostor Cities is curated by Thomas Balaban, David Theodore and Jennifer Thorogood.

Impostor Cities Team:
Nick Cabelli, Cameron Cummings, Mikaèle Fol, Joel Friesen, Pawel Karwowski, Hervé Laurendeau, Sarah Mackenzie, François-Matthieu Mariaud de Serre

Éric Fauque, Florian Grond, John Gurdebeke, Randolph Jordan, Allison Moore, Wipawe Sirikolkarn

Installation Views

Spotlights: Impostor Cities

Curator's Circle

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