Demolition derby

Filling Beverley's empty spaces

HOW GOOD ARE YOUR DWELLING PLACES at the Koffler Gallery off-site (23 Beverley), to March 14. 416-638-1881. Rating: NNN

In the art-into-vacant-spaces spirit of last year’s Leona Drive Project, a house on Beverley awaiting demolition holds the latest offering from the Koffler Gallery.


Rochester-based curator Cyril Reade brings together four non-Jewish artists to reflect on modern Jewish life in the Biblically titled How Good Are Your Dwelling Places. The show’s highlights, in the frigid upstairs apartment, subtly speak to Jewish history and fading memory.

Rochester art prof Allen Topolski uses remnants left in his own home by its Jewish previous owners in an installation that plays with their 60s suburban aesthetic. A ring of salt surrounds an urn-shaped glass light fixture animated drawings of pairs of cooking pots (for milk and meat?) are projected into a fridge. Small, neat rectangles of garish wallpaper butt up against puddle-shaped bits of carpeting on the floor, as if getting ready to seep below consciousness.

Berlin-based Hungarian Rita Bakacs’s documentary-style video visits the former Mendelssohn Bartholdy estate in Bernau, a suburb of Berlin. Leaving questions about the fate of the noted Jewish family and current ownership pointedly unanswered, she takes a wintertime tour of the once-sumptuous house and grounds, now inexplicably home to a few sheep and goats tended by down-on-their-luck Germans. One caretaker remembers the building as a centre for disabled children and a Russian army base, but the family that produced composer Felix and philosopher Moses has been forgotten.

Portraits by Susan Lakin, who photographs her subjects reflected in their living room TV screens, and Ross Racine’s computer-drawn aerial views of imaginary suburban communities less specifically address the show’s theme. But Bakacs’s and Topolski’s intriguing work and the novel setting make this show worth seeing before the Koffler makes its own migration back to its renovated venue in the burbs.

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