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Imposter Cities – Canadian Pavilion – Venice Architecture Biennale 2021

Impostor Cities is an international exhibition that explores how Canadian cities double as others onscreen. 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. 

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. 

Canada’s architecture is “film famous.” But unlike Paris, New York City, Istanbul, or Rio de Janeiro, Canada’s cities rarely play themselves in film and television. Toronto stands in for London and Manhattan, while Montréal masquerades as Moscow and Paris. How is Vancouver able to double for North Korea (Seth Rogs’en The Interview), Toronto for Tokyo (Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim) and Winnipeg for a small slice of mythic Americana (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, starring Brad Pitt)?

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. 

I recently interviewed curator David Theodore, Thomas Balaban and Jennifer Thorogood of TBA to talk about the exhibition and how it connects to the overall theme of “How will we live together?”

Richelle Sibolboro
Richelle Sibolboro

Architecture blogger and content creator for hire with a passion for arts and culture specifically in design, architecture, and travel. She has produced content for designboom, Azure magazine, Open City Projects, Digifest, and World Design Weeks. Follow her on InstagramYouTube and LinkedIn.

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