Vera Frenkel

Rooted in an interrogation of the abuses of power and their consequences, projects by multidisciplinary artist Vera Frenkel have been seen at documenta IX, Kassel; the Offenes Kulturhaus, Linz; the Setagaya Museum, Tokyo; the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Biennale di Venezia (Club Media, 1997; Head Start, 2001) among other important venues.

Frenkel’s videotapes, drawings, audio works, installations, photographs, writings and new media projects explore the forces at work in human migration, experiences of displacement and deracination, the learning and unlearning of cultural memory that results, and the increasing bureaucratization of everyday life.

One of the most influential and respected artists in the country, Frenkel is recipient of some of Canada’s major prizes awarded to a living artist. These include the Canada Council Molson Prize, 1989; the Toronto Arts Foundation Visual Arts Award, 1994; the Gershon Iskowitz Prize, 1995; and the Bell Canada Award for Video Art, 2001. She holds honorary doctorates from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (1996) and the Emily Carr Institute (2004), and is a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. The CCCA (Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art) ‘Untitled’ Art Award for ‘Best Exhibition or Project in Virtual Space’ was presented to Frenkel at a gala ceremony in Toronto in March, 2005, and the artist has just been nominated for the prestigious 2006 Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts.

Solo exhibitions at the Goethe-Institute, Toronto, 2000; the Canadian Cultural Centre, Paris, 2001; the Georg Kargl Gallery, Vienna, 2002, and the Freud Museum, London, 2003 among others, were followed by the touring exhibition during 2004-5 of The Institute™: Or What We Do for Love, Frenkel’s current project on the inner life of a dysfunctional cultural institution.

While maintaining the continuing on-line presence of The Institute™ web site ( for which a German version is now in production, the artist is preparing a new travelling version of the project for the next phase of its tour. A Senior Canada Council Media Arts Award in 2002 made possible the programming for and multi-museum installation of this prizewinning work.

Solo exhibitions also include major installations at Video Art Plastique, Centre d'Art Contemporain Basse-Normandie, 1998; the Riksutställningar tour of the artist’s work through Scandinavia and Poland, 1997-98; the National Gallery of Canada, 1996; and, in the same year, exhibitions and international conferences on her work at the Offenes Kulturhaus, Linz, and the Gesellschaft für Aktuelle Kunst (GAK) Bremen.

Group and two-person exhibitions featuring Vera Frenkel works include the current Telling Stories, Secret Lives exhibition, Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston; This Must Be the Place, InterAccess, Toronto, 2005; My Generation, LEA, London, 2001; Not On Any Map: Travel and Identities of Displacement, The Film Center, Art Institute of Chicago, 1999; Fragile Electrons, National Gallery of Canada, 1998 & ongoing; Deep Storage, Haus der Kunst, Munich, & tour, 1997–1999; Virtualität des Verschwindens, Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst, Berlin, 1997; and Andere Körper, Offenes Kulturhaus, Linz, 1994.

Frenkel’s video-photo-web project on art theft as cultural policy, Body Missing, installed most recently at the Freud Museum, London, 2003, was the focus of From Theft to Virtuality, an international conference on the artist’s work organized at the Institute of Contemporary Art, London, by art historian, Griselda Pollock. The conference papers, edited by Pollock, will form the basis for the first published anthology on Vera Frenkel’s work.

A mid-career survey of Frenkel’s video works, the Spotlight Programme of the Images Festival of Film, Video and New Media, curated by Dot Tuer, provided the core selection to which new material was added for Of Memory and Displacement / Vera Frenkel: Collected Works, a four-disc DVD/CD-ROM boxed set, launched in April 2005.

Until her 1995 decision to focus fully on her practice, Vera Frenkel was professor in the Interdisciplinary Studio Programme which she helped to establish at the Faculty of Fine Arts, York University, Toronto.

Much in demand as visiting professor and artist-in-residence, Frenkel has been the Barker Fairley Distinguished Visitor, University College, University of Toronto, 1994-95, and the Leverhulme Professor at the School of Fine Arts, Leeds University, 2003-4, among others. In February 2006, she was the Michael and Sonja Koerner Artist Resident artist at Queen’s University, Kingston.
Artist-in-residence invitations have also taken Vera Frenkel to the Slade School of Art, London; the School of the Chicago Art Institute; the Akademie der Bildende Künste, Vienna; the McLuhan Programme in Culture and Technology, Toronto; the Royal University, Stockholm; the University of British Columbia and the Centre for Cultural Analysis, Theory and History (CentreCATH) at the University of Leeds, among others.

The artist has also lectured and screened work at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin; the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Musée d’Art Contemporain, Montréal, the OK Centrum für Gegenwartskunst, Linz; the Academy of Fine Arts, Stockholm; and at symposia such as Konfigurationen - Zwischen Kunst und Media, Kassel, 1998, Museums after Modernism, Toronto (2002) and Urban Interventions, Toronto (2005). During her centrepiece exhibition at Videoculture 2000, Detroit, Frenkel was one of two artists invited to speak at the related symposium, and one of three international presenters at the 2001 World Wide Video and New Media Festival, Amsterdam.

Frenkel’s writings have been anthologized in several key publications including Archive et Mémoire (Musée d’art contemporain, Montréal, 2000); Capital Culture (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2000); and Penser l’indiscipline: Interdisciplinary Practices in Canadian Art (Concordia/Optica, Montreal 2001). Her image-text work ‘Strands from the Archive-Rhyzome’ appeared in Alphabet City’s “Lost in the Archives” issue, Fall, 2003. With permission of the Sigmund Freud Museum, Vienna, her catalogue text, ‘A Narrative of Absence and Return’, was published in the first issue of Zaesuren/césures/incisions, the international journal of cultural theory and politics. Current and forthcoming articles include: “A Place for Uncertainty: Towards a New Kind of Museum” in Museums after Modernism, (Ed. Griselda Pollock), and “Metropolitan Chords and Discords”, in the arts and activism journal, Public: The Visible Cities Issue (Ed. Janine Marchessault). The next issue of the interdisciplinary journal, Intermédialités, on the theme of ‘Rémédiation’ will feature a 36-page dossier on Vera Frenkel’s work.

The artist’s presentations during the Queen’s University Koerner Foundation residency coincided with the installation at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston, of “Her Room in Paris”, a key work, now in the AE collection, on the life, work and fate of the brilliant artist in exile, Cornelia Lumsden.

The Institute™: Or, What We Do for Love
The Body Missing Project
Museums after Modernism: Strategies of Engagement
Vera Frenkel