Two Years in the Making

The Contemporary Art Forum Kitchener + Area is currently hosting its 16th biennial, a multidisciplinary month-long public art exhibition that takes the experience of contemporary art out of the gallery and into the community. This year’s exhibition, What We Do Together We Can’t Do Alone,
consists of 30 site-specific projects scattered across the region, including the University of Waterloo, Cambridge Sculpture Garden and downtown Kitchener.

Originally, the thematic titles of CAFKA were focused on the history of the region, like And Then We Take Berlin and Power to the People (which looked at the history of electricity in Kitchener).

“Over time, the themes for CAFKA became more abstract and they now come out of the process of evaluating [artist] submissions. This year’s theme What We Do Together We Can’t Do Alone is about communalism, working together and the mutual interdependency of art,” said CAFKA’s executive director Gordon Hatt.

“CAFKA is an artist-run organization, promoted at the base by artists in the community.”

When asked about some of the challenges of producing public installation Hatt explained: “We’re producing 14 different projects, working with artists or artist collectives from as far abroad as St. Etienne, France to places like Chicago and Quebec City. We’re communicating across time zones, working around language barriers, and adapting when building and electrical standards vary across municipalities.”

One of this year’s biggest challenges is SWOON, a five-metre-high tentacle protruding out of the water in Victoria Park. “Putting that in the water is a big engineering challenge. It’s a 700 pound structure and we want to make it sturdy and stable enough not to fall over,” said Hatt.20160528-IMG_6760This year, CAFKA is partnering with other artist projects to develop a region-wide festival of contemporary art, including the Open Ears Festival, Illuminate Arts, Altekrea, and the University of Waterloo Art Gallery.

“While you can come and see the CAFKA program in the day or evening, there are all sorts of additional events and programs, especially if you’re interested in contemporary music and sound,” said Hatt.

CAFKA has art tours in English, French and Mandarin; coffee crawls; bike hours; and family days at the Kitchener Market with activities for children. It is a great occasion to get some friends, enjoy the spring weather and see some art.


“Staging,” by Ed Pien, from Toronto, in the Rotunda at Kitchener City Hall.

“Staging” is a large-scale installation designed specifically for City Hall. The work builds a set of small modular theatre stages with multiple installations of mirrors, ropes, lights, video projections and other materials designed to blur illusion and reality.

“‘Staging’ in Kitchener City Hall is looking to be a showstopper. It is a big installation challenge featuring a 15 foot tower and the scale of the project makes it an outstanding feature,” said Hatt.

Hatt also recommends “Wind, Water, Wave,” by Mary Ma, on the second floor at 260 King Street West, Kitchener. “Wind, Water, Wave” takes a 50 foot length of fabric, suspends it from the ceiling, and uses fans to create ripples and waves. Video projectors then light up the fabric with water imagery from Lake Ontario.01_Wind Water Wave Diagram web

“‘Wind, Water, Wave’ in the old King’s College Cinema is going to be remarkable. It has been renovated to be a huge clean space with 25ft ceilings. It is an amazing piece in the space,” Hatt said.



“Every Day I am a Train,” by Kitchener’s Critical Media Lab, at their 44 Gaukel Street lab.

In “Every Day I am a Train,” 19 amateur actors bring the region’s light rail project to life as they each act as trains, each one representing a stop on the future LRT line. They remind us all that the
LRT project can be disruptive, bizarre, almost science fictional and “perhaps even a little bit mad.”

Don’t miss “Civilization of the Wild,” by Kitchener native Meghan Harder, on Roos Island, Victoria Park, Kitchener and at the Cambridge Sculpture Garden.20160528-IMG_6795

“Civilization of the Wild” creates four-season human shelters (inspired
by squirrel’s nests) on Roos Island of Victoria Park and in the Cambridge Sculpture Garden. The piece examines our connection to the natural world even in the urban core.

And, finally, “Akousmaflore” is the work of Scenocosme, from St. Étienne, France, and is installed in the Rotunda Gallery at Kitchener City Hall.

“Akousmaflore” brings a small garden of living musical plants that react to gentle contact. The plants sing when a viewer touches them, creating a language or concert of plants.