Vera Frenkel

Vera Frenkel, multidisciplinary artist, independent video artist, writer (b at Bratislava, Czech 10 Nov 1938). First recognized internationally as a printmaker and sculptor, Frenkel, since 1974, has been in the forefront of the visual, spatial and narrative uses of video and media-based art. Her first video work, String Games: Improvisations for Inter-City Video (1974), a direct transmission between Toronto and Montréal, investigated questions of language, codes and signs, and the construction of meaning. The video installation Signs of a Plot: A Text, True Story & Work of Art (1978) and a video trilogy, The Secret Life of Cornelia Lumsden: A Remarkable Story (1979), written, directed and performed by the artist, are situated at the boundary between documentary and fiction. The Last Screening Room: A Valentine (1984) and Ruling Fictions (1984) continued her work with the mythic properties of popular culture.

Frenkel's stand against censorship is the focus of The Business of Frightened Desires: Or the Making of a Pornographer (1985), a slide-sound installation. Attention: Lost Canadian, a computer work for multiple monitors designed for the Canada Pavilion at Expo 86, was later transmitted electronically to the Italian Pavilion at the 1986 Venice Biennale. With Lost Art: A Cargo Cult Romance (1986), a new cycle of work began examining the attribution of meaning, false messiahs and millennial fantasies. These investigations continued with This is your Messiah Speaking (1990-91) presented in Toronto and in Newcastle, Eng, as a single channel video and as a computer animation designed for the Piccadilly Circus Spectacolor Board in London.

Her most recent work, which began with ...from the Transit Bar (1992), consists of individual life stories of exile, asylum, immigration, and other cultural and geographical displacements which are recounted on several monitors in a video installation/functional piano bar. This work came to international attention at Documenta IX, the major showcase for contemporary art held every five years in Germany. An extension of this project was exhibited at the Art Gallery of York University (1993). Since then, it has been the basis for exhibitions/installations in Toronto's Power Plant (1994), the NATIONAL GALLERY OF CANADA, Ottawa (1996), and at the Riksutstallningar in Stockholm (1997). This work offered the departure point for Body Missing, a video and website which originated with Frenkel's research on the cultural policy of the Third Reich, art plunder and the fate of missing objects after WWII.

In addition to a survey of her work at York in 1994, Frenkel has exhibited and lectured in Canada and abroad (England, France, Poland, Japan, Austria, Germany, Hungary and the United States). At the University of Toronto, 1970-72, and York, since 1972, Frenkel has gained a reputation as an innovative teacher and writer of essays, fiction and poetry. Frenkel has been awarded, among other honours, the Canada Council's Molson Prize for the Arts (1989), The Toronto Arts Foundation's Visual Arts Award (1991) and the Gershon Iskowitz Prize (1993).