From July to October 24, 2019, FENTSTER exhibited Gardens of Memory by architectural photographer and film/television producer, writer, and director, David Kaufman. The photograph displayed on the front window is of a 200-year old Jewish cemetery in Krakow.
Gardens of Memory reveals, as Evelyn Tauben writes in her curatorial statement, “the serenity and splendour of these places, that reflect the spectrum of Jewish life that existed before, during, and after the Holocaust as well as the tension between man-mad ritual and the persistence of nature.”
To celebrate FENTSTER’S fifth anniversary, Niv spoke with Kaufman to learn more about his experience with FENTSTER, working with Tauben, and why the gallery is essential to the artistic landscape and beyond.
Gardens of Memory at FENTSTER. Photos by David Kaufman.
As a photographer, working primarily in two dimensions, how did FENTSTER’S space inform Gardens of Memory?
FENTSTER as a window gallery space of approximately 8 feet wide and 5 feet deep, works very well as a three-dimensional display area, so I wasn’t sure what Evelyn had in mind when she first suggested we do something together for the space. What she had in mind was using the front window as a display space for a photograph. It took us a while to find a company that could do the work to our satisfaction. We also used the gallery side window to show other related photos from my work in Poland and display textual material to help the viewer place the work in context. A nice surprise was that the printing material was semi-translucent, so that when the gallery lights were on at night, the back-lit image looked spectacular, even better than during daylight, and was, of course, highly visible from a distance.
What was the collaboration process between Evelyn and yourself?
Evelyn and I have worked together for more than fifteen years. We probably first met at KlezKanada, the annual music festival near Montreal, and I had also collaborated with her mother, Sara Tauben, contributing photographs for a highly successful book Sara wrote on the history of Montreal’s early synagogues. Through various exhibitions which she has curated, Evelyn has been instrumental in making my work more widely known, for which I am grateful, and I have also contributed to several of Evelyn’s projects. We enjoy working together and have developed a lot of mutual trust, so working on the FENTSTER exhibition was a pleasure. The form of the exhibition was entirely Evelyn’s idea but I did most of the design work and handled production issues with the printer.
What did you take away from your experience exhibiting at FENTSTER? What surprised you?
Behind the FENTSTER window gallery, is the space occupied by Makom, the downtown Jewish centre led by Rabbi Aaron Levy. I have had an exhibition of large scale photographs depicting the Spadina/Kensington area hanging at Makom for almost three years now, but I received more feedback about the FENTSTER exhibition in the four or five months it was on display. I also sold a very large print of one of the images that was depicted in the side window at FENTSTER to a Toronto collector who happened to pass by one evening and was intrigued by the display. So the 24 hour visibility of the exhibition and its presence on a busy pedestrian thoroughfare is valuable exposure for an artist.
It’s been five years since FENTSTER opened, how has/does FENTSTER change how we, as an artist and/or spectator, can interact with art?
FENTSTER is a democratic, retail space that places Jewish art out on the street for everyone to see.Through her experience as a curator and in her other cultural activities, Evelyn has managed to situate Jewish art and artists within the multicultural fabric of Toronto and demonstrate how Jewish artists have been shaped by the city and have in turn influenced the cultural environment. FENTSTER breaks down barriers and creates new avenues of dialogue and exploration for Jewish artists at a time when being visible as Jews and interacting with other groups in the city is more important than ever. Equally important, it helps mitigate against the view held by some that Jews as a group were always privileged and underlines the history of the struggle in Toronto for acceptance of the community as a whole over many decades.
Header photographs by David Kaufman.