IMPOSTOR CITIES - Canada Pavilion




curated by David Theodore

Exhibitor: T B A / Thomas Balaban Architect

Commissioned by Canada Council for the Arts


Green Screen Installation Local Coordination



OTTAWA, May 17, 2021 – The Canada Council for the Arts presents Impostor Cities at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, from May 22 to November 21, 2021. 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.

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.
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.

In light of the COVID-19 global pandemic, Impostor Cities exists onsite at the Canada Pavilion in Venice and online at

The Canada Pavilion will be wrapped in green screen material, in collaboration with an interaction design team lead by Jane Kate Wong as well as new media artist Allison Moore to bring this wrapping to life. Using chroma key technology, iconic Canadian buildings will take the Pavilion’s place, re-imagining this corner of Venice as Canada. Onsite, scan the QR code with your camera lens to experience the Pavilion transform into iconic Canadian cityscapes on Instagram.
The Impostor Cities online experience will include visitor information, press materials, a boutique of merchandise created in collaboration with emerging fashion designer Spencer Badu, and tantalizing glimpses inside the pavilion. It features video streams that show the Lobby in Venice and clips from the Screening Room.
Visitors will also experience Canadian buildings and cities through filmmakers’ eyes. Designed as a four-channel video installation the Impostor Cities Screening Room will feature clips culled from over 3,000 films and television shows shot in Canada, choreographed by video editor John Gurdebeke. Film scholar and multimedia practitioner Randolph Jordan composed the soundtrack with Ambisonic surround sound recordings made on location in the buildings and
cities depicted. The installation was developed in collaboration with sound designer Florian Grond, A/V integrator Éric Fauque, and graphic designer Pawel Karwowski. Canadian interior design studio Atelier Zébulon Perron created bespoke furniture for the installation.

Exclusive video interviews with Canadian architects, film directors, set designers, and other industry insiders will frame the exhibition across social media platforms and the website. Expect fascinating and intimate anecdotes from David Cronenberg, Atom Egoyan, Sook-Yin Lee, Paul Austerberry, Tamara Deverell, Guy Maddin, Douglas Coupland, Alanna Thain, Claude Paré, and more and on how cinema reveals Canadian architecture.


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Photo Credits: M+B Studio
Installation views: Luca Delise
Details and installation: Lorenzo Truant