Erin Brubacher is Making Maps and Memories
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Erin Brubacher is Making Maps and Memories

“This show is about a particular moment in time for me, personally, but I hope it can speak to other times for other people as well.”
This moment in time is artist Erin Brubacher‘s return to Toronto (“This period of homecoming,” she calls it), her first time living in the city since she was an 18-year-old highschooler in 1998. In the years since, she’s lived in 10 different cities across Canada and Europe, and now she’s returned to rediscover her childhood home, 13 years later, as an adult. She’s inviting the city to discover it with her.

Upon her return to Toronto in late January, Brubacher designed a performance project—which was part of Buddies in Bad Times’ Rhubarb Festival—where audience members were invited to mark points of significance on a map of Toronto, with anonymous mini-biographies delineating each place’s back story in connection with the person who chose it. Brubacher then visited these locations over a three-day period and made portraits of the places and people she encountered there. The images collected on this expedition, and corresponding images from nine other cities where Brubacher has lived, are the basis for Map Making, Brubacher’s new photographic exhibition.
The inspiration for Map Making came shortly after Brubacher’s return to the city. “When you’ve had your stuff in a few different countries in boxes and attics, and you’ve re-amalgamated it for the first time after so long, you kind of go through this process of unpacking that’s really intense,” says Brubacher. She realized, in the process of sorting images and snippets from her nomadic adulthood, that the pieces spoke to each other. It only made sense to continue the narrative.
The decision to create a performance piece so heavily informed by audience participation also came easily. “There’s always the possibility of connecting with someone else when the people you’re connecting with are strangers, if that makes sense.”
The photographs speak—each reveals a piece of someone else’s Toronto narrative. A photograph of St. James Cemetery was prompted by a stranger’s childhood memory of playing there with friends. Another, taken at Kipling and Steeles, tells of someone’s misspent high school years in the area. One of Harbord hangout Sam James Coffee Bar recommends the place for its java and for people-watching, which Brubacher is glad to have discovered. “They make really good coffee,” she laughs, noting that it’s become one of her new favourite places.
With Map Making and the passage of time, Brubacher’s slowly beginning to carve a sense of place for herself here. “Eventually you have to choose somewhere [to put down roots], and I really think this is a great city.”
Map Making will be on exhibit at Communication Art Gallery (209 Harbord Street) until June 1.
Photos by Andrew Budziak.