Contact Photography Festival

5 underrated shows to see at Contact 2014

Of Toronto's many arts festivals, Contact is one of the biggest, occupying major institutional venues and offering up big names in photography and photo-inspired work. But where does one turn when looking for exhibitions that are non-traditional, down-home, or up-and-coming? Maybe, like, not at the AGO? Here's a roundup of the shows that you won't find on Contact's "feature" page, so you can have a more, ahem, authentic festival experience this May.

Sheree Hovespian, Soft Landing
American artist Sheree Hovespian has a specific interest in gestural objecthood, here displaying a number of "haptic wonders," or hand-made objects that rely on photographs and touch. Rather than using the camera as her tool, Hovespian has created abstract photograms--photos made my placing objects on photo paper. She also shows a number of bronze/wood sculptures and multi-media pieces included in the show, which further explore the idea of physicality in art-making. Gallery 44, 401 Richmond St #120, May 2-June 7.

Adrian Fish, Aquaphilia Part III

In the third iteration of his aquarium project (that if you ask me, seems like apt subject matter considering his name), Fish photographs the pumping systems and extensive lighting that constitute the back-end of Atlanta's Georgia Aquarium, the world's second largest. Here, he turns the idea of nature simulation on its head, showcasing the intricate and strangely sterile world lived by captive sea creatures and their captors. Loop Gallery, 1273 Dundas St W, May 24-June 15. Opening: May 24 @ 1pm.

Nadia Bellerique, Have You Seen This Man?
Eminent Toronto up-and-comer Nadia Bellerique continues on her spree of psychologically motivated work with a solo show that looks at illusion and the performativity of objects. The show's photographs are a result of Bellerique's experiments with a digital scanner, where she placed objects--tape, metal, cut-out images--casually onto the scanning surface. In fact, finger-smudged evidence of the artist's process brilliantly remain on the prints. Daniel Faria Gallery, 188 St Helens Ave, May 1-June 7.

Curated by the International Arts Collaborations (INTAC), a parternship between OCAD, Tampere University (Finland), Chung-Ang University (South Korea), and the BTK (Germany), Pseudo is a showcase of a classic conundrum in photographic theory: the imitation. With an international scope and a youthful glow, the exhibition wonders about what's real and fake in our limited, but expanding knowledge of global cultures. Great Hall, OCAD, 100 McCaul St, May 8-18.

Jeff Bierk, The Back 40
Looking for a documentary show that's poignant but real? Bierk's photo work offers up sincere systemic criticism by revealing the storied lives of the forgotten people--addicts, misdemeanor criminals, shelter frequenters. In The Back 40, we see images instigated by the intimacy of close friends; Jimmy, Bluenose, Ramzez, Carl, Jeff himself, et. al, spent a year collaborating on the resulting (beautiful!) photos, which are set, for the most part, in the alley below the photographer's apartment. 87 Wade Ave #B5, May 22-25. Opening: May 22 @ 7pm.

Writing by Jess Carroll.

Lead photo by Adrian Fish

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