Celebrating five years of FENTSTER with Evan Tapper

From November 23 to February 22, 2017, FENTSTER exhibited Grine Kuzine by Evan Tapper, an artist working in animation, video, installation and performance. The installation at FENTSTER was a recreation of his late grandmother Sylvia’s kitchen in Winnipeg. Using recycled cardboard to reflect, as Evelyn Tauben notes in her curatorial statement, “the past and present hardships of starting life anew as an immigrant.” 

To celebrate FENTSTER’S fifth anniversary, Niv spoke with Tapper to learn more about his experience with FENTSTER, working with Tauben, and why the gallery is essential to the artistic landscape and beyond.

As an artist working in performance, site-specific, and video, how did FENTSTER’S space inform Grine Kuzine? Grine Kuzine was developed specifically for the FENTSTER space. My current practice is primarily time-based (animation/video/performance). Before I was invited to develop a project for FENTSTER, I hadn’t had the opportunity to work in sculptural installation before. The 24-hour public space required me to consider an artwork that would be accessible to everyone, in terms of both form and content. In most of my work, myself or an animated character engages with the viewer directly to tell their story. For FENTSTER, I built a cardboard representation of my grandmother, sitting at her kitchen table just behind the window. My hope was that through this figure’s silent contemplation on immigration and loss, she was able to connect with anyone walking by at any time. The location of FENTSTER ,just beside Kensington Market— the center of Jewish immigration for my grandmother’s generation—was the inspiration for the project. The sculptural material I used was recycled cardboard to reference the market as well the transient experience of packing and moving.   

What was the collaboration process between Evelyn and yourself?

Working with Evelyn was wonderful. Evelyn was so thoughtful and supportive throughout the entire process. She takes the time to really listen to artists and help them to understand the unique potential that FENTSTER  presents. From the initial concept discussion to the late night final installation, working with Evelyn was truly collaborative. I could never have created this project without her..

What did you take away from your experience exhibiting at FENTSTER? What surprised you? 

I was surprised about the reach of FENTSTER. I keep hearing from people who saw the installation, even many years later. Unlike art that’s hidden behind closed doors, the FENTSTER window is part of the open cultural landscape. Seeing a stranger posed in front of my art work for his Grindr profile picture felt like a major artistic achievement. My grandmother would have been thrilled!

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?

When it first opened, FENTSTER was new and now it is a cultural gem, a gift to the community. I’m sure I’m just one of many people who make a point of stopping at FENTSTER when I walk in the neighbourhood, or make stopping at FENTSTER a reason to visit the neighbourhood. With everything closed this year because of the pandemic, FENTSTER showed us that art can still  be open and free for everyone. And we really needed that.

The five year FENTSTER anniversary celebration continues, with interviews from founder and curator Evelyn Tauben, Bernice Eisenstein, Lynne Heller, David Kaufman, and Rachel Miller

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