|Nina Levitt: Thin Air
The Koffler Gallery
March 6 to April 18, 2008
Opening Reception Thursday, March 6, 7 to 9pm; Artist Talk at 7:30 pm
Thin Air comprises a new multi-media installation by Toronto artist Nina Levitt. Developed for the Koffler Gallery, the exhibition continues her examination of the roles and representations of women during World War II. Inspired by the experiences of two Jewish women who worked for the British military during the war, Vera Atkins and Hannah Senesh, Thin Air is the result of the artist’s investigation into their presence in historical documents and popular culture.
Born in Romania, Atkins (née Rosenberg, 1908-2000), never revealed her Jewish origins. She was the highest-ranking female officer in British intelligence during the war and was responsible for all the agents sent into Occupied France. After the war, she tracked down the fate of missing agents, and worked on the prosecution team in the Ravensbrück war crimes trial. Hungarian-born Senesh (Szenes Anna, 1921-1944) was recruited and trained in Palestine for a mission into occupied Europe. After parachuting into Yugoslavia, she was later arrested upon entering Hungary, and tortured for several months before being found guilty of treason. She was executed at the age of 23 on November 7, 1944, three months before the Russian army liberated Budapest. Her diaries and poems survived and have become part of Israeli popular culture, transforming her into a Zionist icon.
From the intelligence headquarters in London to a secret field mission in Eastern Europe, these two women operated in entirely different capacities during the war. Their experiences are brought together in this exhibition. Thin Air evokes the emotional atmosphere of the site of departure — where agents received their final briefings — and the site of arrival by parachute. Levitt captures the uncertainty and tension that accompanied these actions, while involving the viewer’s presence. Unveiling the complex narratives that envelop these women’s stories and their portrayal in popular culture, the artist underscores the inadequate representations of women in history and visual culture. Ultimately, Thin Air illuminates the intricate structures that mediate our perception of information and influence the acts of looking, reading, and listening.
Nina Levitt holds a Masters of Fine Arts from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Media Studies from Ryerson Institute in Toronto. She has been exhibiting internationally since 1982 and was awarded a Chalmers Arts Fellowship by the Ontario Arts Council for her work on women spies. Recent solo exhibitions include: Little Breeze, presented at Oboro in Montreal and the Doris McCarthy Gallery UTSC, Toronto, in 2004; Gravity & Duet, presented at Gallery TPW, Toronto, in 1999; and Critical Details, exhibited at Oboro in 1994. Her work has been widely published and is represented in numerous public and private collections. Nina Levitt teaches in the Visual Art Department at York University in Toronto. For more information about the artist, visit www.ninalevitt.com.
Reception and Gallery Talk: Thin Air will be on view in the Koffler Gallery from Thursday, March 6 through Friday, April 18, 2008. A reception for the artist will be held March 6 from 7 to 9 pm, with an artist talk at 7:30 pm.
Group Tours and Workshops: Gallery talks and tours are free, with regular guided tours every Sunday at 2:00 pm during exhibitions. Group tours and workshops are also available and are offered in both French and English. For information, please call Mona Filip, Interim Curator, at (416) 636-1880 ext.270.
Acknowledgements: The Koffler Gallery of the Koffler Centre of the Arts gratefully acknowledges the support of its patrons and members, Cultural Season Sponsor CIBC Wood Gundy, the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, Mercer Union, the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council, the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts.