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Visual Arts   Literature   Music   Dance   Theatre  Film & New Media


Istvan Kantor at the Smash and Junction Arts Festival


September 10th, 2010


Kevin Burns

Smashing Subvertainment

Istavan Kantor posterThe Canadian art world has been invaded once more by Istvan Kantor. One of Canada’s most provocative and innovative visual artists, Istvan Kantor is about to smash up hundreds of old filing cabinets as part of Toronto’s Smash and Junction Arts Festival (September – October, 2010). Kantor describes this event as “subvertainment” and like many of his installations and performance art pieces will include a mix of new technology and mass media imagery. Kantor’s art is intended to provoke audience response. This description of some of the elements that make up Kantor’s film Broadcast captures the energy of both his live and recorded work, which is full of “sudden changes, intensive looping, and seemingly confusing, multidimensional construction built up from miniature fragments of action …. Images frantic videographic movements combined with elements of sonic disturbance.”

This new presentation for the Toronto festival is entitled “Re:Invasion – Recent Crimes and Punishments” and will include “plunderworks” and “mash-media” and like many of Kantor’s works is neither easily categorized nor simply explained. The festival release explains that Istvan Kantor has another public persona who will also make an appearance: Monty Cantsin, “the open-pop-star” that Kantor has created, appropriating “the trappings and gimmicks of the historical avant-garde, including the manifesto-style propaganda language, and integrated everything in an all-inclusive concept, Neoism.”



Neoism underpins Kantor’s work. As he explains on his website, it is a “confusing mess of millions of accumulating ideas” appropriated from, among others, “Buddhism, Taoism, the Islam, the sayings of Confucius, the Bible, the Vedas, the Talmud, The Complete Idiot's Guide series, the Gilgamesh, stupid idiots, murderers, gangsters, pop-stars, sex workers, unknown heroes, my father, the Catholic Church, the Rivington School, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, children books, the ideology of Fascism, Communism, Capitalism, Socialism, Zionism, Anarchy and Nihilism, all the philosophers from Aristotle and Plato to Baudrillard via Hegel, Kierkegaard, Fourier, Marx, Sartre, Marcuse, McLuhan, Reich, all the isms of the avant-garde from Dada to Post-Modernism via Surrealism, Futurism, Lettrism, Situationism, Fluxus, Actionism, Noism, Fuckism, Whatism, Stupidism, all the ideas of scientific and visionary minds from Descartes to Joe Davis via Galilei, Newton, Einstein, Edison, Tesla, Stephen W. Hawking.”


Banned and Celebrated

Istavan KantorBorn in Hungary, and initially pursuing a medical career, Kantor eventually opted to live and work in Canada in the 1990s after spending time in France, Germany, and the United States. His relationship to Canada’s traditional arts institutions has been characterized by conflict. Famously in 1991 he was forcibly ejected from the National Gallery of Canada for one of his “Blood Campaign” interventions. Then in 2006, Art Gallery of Ontario had problems with his “Supernova: Stars, Deaths and Disasters” performance and chose to ban him from the premises. But despite all the guerilla interventions and adverse headlines, the artist and the body of work he continues to produce has been recognized by his peers. In 2004, Istvan Kantor was awarded the Governor General’s Award for Visual and Media Arts. In an essay commissioned for the award ceremony New York editor Daniel Baird offers this interpretation. “The intent of Kantor’s work has always been to disrupt closed systems of power, political and aesthetic, to lay bare the ways in which technology transforms human bodies and minds into elements of a vast robotic machine, and to confront today’s deadening systems of technological control.”


A Never Ending Story

This fall’s “Smash” event in Toronto continues Kantor’s disruptive drive and comes on the heels of other recent European awards recognizing his important contribution to contemporary art making. Last year, Kantor’s semi-autobiographical film (The Never Ending) Operetta was awarded the prestigious EMAF Award by the European Media Arts Festival in Osnabruck, Germany before going on to receive an honorary mention at the Poland’s WRO International Art Biennale.


For more information on Smash and the Junction Arts Festival:


For more information on Istvan Kantor:


Read a review on Istvan Kantor at the Festival from the Toronto Star.


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