Impostor Cities exhibition to represent Canada at the 2020 Venice Biennale in Architecture


Published: 14Mar2019

Impostor Cities explores how Canadian cities double as other places on screen. 
The exhibition will represent Canada at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition - la Biennale di Venezia 
in 2020.

The project is led by Montreal architecture and design practice T B A and David Theodore, Canada Research Chair in Architecture, Health, and Computation, at the Peter Guo Hua Fu School of Architecture of McGill 
University, who aim to present new ways to recognize, organize, and experience the built environment. 
Impostor Cities celebrates the notion that Canada’s architecture is infamous.

Citizens of the world know 
about Canada’s architecture not only because they visit our cities and enjoy our buildings, but because 
they watch film and television. But unlike Paris, New York, London, or Rio de Janeiro, our cities are rarely 
the settings for popular shows. Instead, 
filmmakers and television producers turn Canadian locations into 
Using green-screen technology, video supercuts, and immersive sound, the exhibition raises questions about 
Canada’s architectural transformations in contemporary culture. Why are Canada’s buildings so good at 
doubling as elsewhere in 

How is Winnipeg able to stand in for Chicago (Richard Gere in Shall We 
Dance?), San Francisco (Ben Kingsley in You Kill Me), or a small slice of mythic Americana (Brad Pitt in The 
Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford)? 
The exhibition puts visitors in movie-mode, inducing new perceptions of architecture through 
film. In his book America (1988), French sociologist Jean Baudrillard describes the North American city as “a screen of signs 
and formulas.” He writes that the North American city “seems to have stepped out of the movies. To grasp 
its secrets, you should not, then, begin with the city and move towards the screen; you should begin with 
the screen and move towards the city.”

In response, Impostor Cities imagines architecture in new modes of 
consumption and appreciation. 
Even cinematic experience has to be thought anew. In an era of Netflix, YouTube, and Amazon Prime, the 
qualitative difference between 
film and television has been blurred: 16:9 format smartphone displays mean 
that “cinematic” no longer denotes a 
fixed relationship between the screen and the viewer’s body. Instead, 
digital audio-visual experience has moved out into the city beyond the multiplex and the living room. 
Impostor Cities introduces a playful yet pointed counter-proposition to the construction of national identity 
through cinematic storytelling by organs such as the National Film Board and CBC/Radio-Canada. It 
also leans on ongoing re-evaluations of cultural production.

Theorists today use the ideas of Canadian 
philosopher Marshall McLuhan and others to mix 
film with digital media studies, shifting our understanding 
of how 
fictional worlds rely on real cities. Impostor Cities expands and highlights uncanny moments of 
recognition: a new recognition of the Canada Pavilion and the shock of recognition of familiar cityscapes 
and buildings in a 
film. The impostor city is troublesome rather than specific, interesting rather than 
comfortable, diverse rather than uniform.

Canada Council of the Arts release
Impostors Cities website