Skip to content

Alphabet City Festival 2009


Toronto, 31 October – 6 November
New York City, 12 November – 14 November
Montreal, 29 November

Festival Schedule

Festival Events Quicklist

Click to scroll down for details.

NYC Events Quicklist
Montreal Events Quicklist

Saturday 31 October

12 noon (Book Launch and Design Seminar)

TYPE Books
883 Queen Street West
(416) 366-8973

On Designing Water

Alphabet City art director Kelsey Blackwell discusses the processes and ideas she used in making the Water anthology. One of Canada’s leading book designers, Blackwell has previously worked at Bruce Mau Design and Pentagram.


Kevin Yates

2–4 pm (Exhibition Opening)

Susan Hobbes Gallery
137 Tecumseth Street
Thursday to Saturday from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm and by appointment; continues through December 12.

Kevin Yates

This exhibition features a selection of new cast bronze sculptures of vernacular architecture in miniature.  Along the gallery walls, weathered clapboard dwellings sit in silent intervals on an invisible horizon line, creating a suburban landscape caught in quiet repose.  Yates has painstakingly sculpted each building as a mirrored reflection of itself as if each one was partially submerged in water. These tiny, hermetic models exist quietly in the aftermath of a larger disaster, becoming impenetrable spaces to contemplate the psychology of this deserted community.

Kevin Yates has had solo exhibitions at Robert McLaughlin Gallery (Oshawa), Tom Thomson Memorial Art Gallery (Owen Sound), Artspeak (Vancouver), YYZ Artists’ Outlet (Toronto), ODD Gallery (Dawson City, Yukon), among others. He currently lives in Grafton, Ontario and is a faculty member in the department of Visual Arts at York University. 

For more information:
(416) 504.3699 or visit


3 pm to late (Installation and Festival Opening Party)

HotShot, 181 Augusta Ave. (Kensington Market)
Screenings every hour on the hour

Psychodrama: 13 Variations

Melissa Grey, composer
Psychodrama: 13 Variations is an audiovisual electroacoustic composition of 13 scores for the shower sequence from Alfred Hitchcock’s film Psycho. Written for large chamber ensemble, electronic/tape and video, Psychodrama is a continuous one-movement composition. Each variation performs a rescoring and a spatial restructuring of the original imagery while contributing to a larger through-line of repetition and variation. Patterns of lament in concert music, field recordings of watery environments, and the organization of sound in horror cinema contribute to a compositional palette that extends space and meaning beyond the shower sequence from 1960.

Chamber ensemble on tape and projected video
Duration c. 45 minutes

Video: Angela Grauerholz
Conductor: Edwin Gonzales
Performing Artists: The Orchestra of Agincourt, The Antara Ensemble
Flute: Harold Jones / Oboe: Megan Marolf / Bassoon: Patricia Wang / Horn: David Byrd-Marrow / Siren: Robert Kirkbride / Harp: Keith Goodman / Violin: Duane James / Chala Yancy / Viola: Nesrine Balbeisi / Cello: Robert Tennon / Bass: Anthony Morris

Sunday 1 November

1–4 pm (River Walk and Workshop)

Don River and Dance Maker Studio, Distillery District

Thirsty City Walk and Workshop Series presents:

Beyond The Water's Edge: looking upstream and downstream from the mouth of the Don River

1pm start at SW corner of Don Roadway and Villiers Street Map
Led by John Wilson, Chair of the Task Force to Bring Back the Don and Helen Mills, Lost Rivers

workshop & discussion
2:30pm at the Deaf Culture Centre (Building #5, Suite #101), Distillery District, 55 Mill Street

Facilitated by RiverSides and featuring guest speakers Elder Garry Sault of the Mississauga of the New Credit First Nation–who will discuss the Land Claim associated with the Toronto Purchase Agreement and the First Nations Water Declaration–andMark Mattson from Lake Ontario Waterkeeper. Mattson will discuss the multi-jurisdictional nature of water and its impacts on protection and management of waters with special focus on Lower Don and Toronto's Waterfront and Lake Ontario

For more information about this event:
t 416.868.1983

Riversides is supported by the Water Guardians Network, the Unilever Foundation, and Mountain Equipment Co-op.

5 pm (Exhibition, Readings and Panel Discussion)

The Department Gallery, 1389 Dundas St. West

Water, Life and Baths

Watery photographic works from Alphabet City's Water anthology are on exhibition one day only as part of AbC's exciting new Art from the Anthologies collaboration with Circuit Gallery that offers a series of affordable, limited-edition artworks drawn from the Alphabet City anthologies. For more information:


Under, Jowita Bydlowska (2008)

Moderator Ian Brown will convene three literary contributors to Water (all of them recent mothers)–Jowita Bydlowska, Astrida Neimanus, and Christie Pearson–who will read from their essays and reflect together on the life of watery beings.

WOMEN, WATER / A memoir portrays women in their baths and the traumas that follow them there. Jowita Bydlowska is a Toronto writer.

BODIES OF WATER / As human bodies, we are essentially bodies of water. What relations and responsibilities to other watery bodies flow from this liquid life? Astrida Neimanis teaches women’s studies and peace studies at McMaster University.

THE PUBLIC BATH AND THE CITY / What is the role of the public bath in the psychic economy of the city? Christie Pearson creates buildings, installations, and events inspired by world bathing traditions.

Monday 2 November

5:30 pm (Panel Discussion)

Hart House
7 Hart House Circle
University of Toronto

*** The first 25 audience members to arrive will get a free copy of Alphabet City’s Water anthology ***

HYDROCity* panel: Water, Cities, Disaster


Venetian Lagoon (near future), by Colin Ripley, Geoffrey Thün, and Kathy Velikov in Alphabet City #14, Water.

Panelists George L. Cooke (President and CEO, The Dominion of Canada General Insurance Co., Toronto), Prof. Robert Kirkbride (Parsons The New School for Design, NYC), Paul Kovacs (Executive Director, Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction, Toronto), and Tracy Metz (author and journalist, NRC Handelsblad, Amsterdam) discuss the future of urban life during an era in which global warming will drive catastrophic changes in hydrology even as cities face decades-long deficits in infrastructure investment. Moderated by Rotterdam independent curator Anneke Abhelakh.

Panel created in partnership with InfraNet Lab and sponsored by The Dominion.

*There are THREE HYDROCity events in the WATER festival, each exploring the future of urban water infrastructures. Water shortages are changing patterns of urbanization and requiring increasingly elaborate infrastructures by which to source and transport water to urban centers, which in turn need to be redesigned and retrofitted to conserve, collect, repurify, and recirculate water resources. HYDROCity asks what forms of urbanism and landscape systems will emerge, and what design potentials exist, in this expanding liquid infrastructure? HYDROCity was made possible through the generous support of the Mondriaan Foundation.

Tuesday 3 November

1 pm (Lunchtime talk)

John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, University of Toronto
Room 106, 230 College Street

The Building of “WaterpleinenWatersquare”: Jeroen Bodewits

Created for the City of Rotterdam, Watersquare responds to the increasingly violent rainstorms that will be driven by global warming by seeking to catch rain and thereby create playful public features while preserving the water quality in the canals. Watersquare was designed by Marco Vermeulen and Florian Boer and constructed by Jeroen Bodewits. Model on exhibition at Daniels through 13 November.

Wednesday 4 November

7pm (Opera Performance and Dinner)

Doors open 7:00 pm; performance 7:30 pm; dinner 8:15 pm
Drake Hotel, Dining Room and Lounge
1150 Queen Street W., 416.531.5042

The Ladies of the Lakes

Experience the the allure of famous watery ladies in opera scenes performed live at the Drake Hotel. Excerpts from Rossini to Dvorak will be accompanied by a sumptuous lake-themed, three-course dinner designed for the occasion by the Drake’s acclaimed chef Anthony Rose. This one-time-only evening brings together the arts of music, cuisine, and book-making in a fundraiser for Opera in Concert, a company that is truly one of Toronto’s cultural gems.

The evening will introduce you to some impressive Divas: Sopranos Catherine Rooney, Luiza Zhuleva and Mezzo soprano Amanda Jones. Guillermo Silva-Marin will be Master of Ceremonies and Pianist Michael Rose will be the Music Director for the evening.

Ticket price: $105 (does not include wine, gratuity, tax)
Optional Niagara Wine Parings +$17 for 3 tasting portions
Ticket price includes the performances, a three-course dinner, a copy of Alphabet City’s WATER anthology, and a $30 charitable receipt for tax purposes.

“...Opera in Concert deserves paeans of praise”
–Geoff Chapman, The Toronto Star

Dinner menu:

Appetizer Platter
Cured Salmon
Lake Trout Rillette
Smoked Sturgeon
Mussels Salad
Caviar Crème Fraiche
House Made Pickles

Niagara Wine Pairing: Cave Springs 2007 Dolomite Riesling

Main Course
Georgian Bay Whitefish with Mushroom Stew and Pumpkin Puree

Niagara Wine Pairing: Malivoire 2004 Chardonnay

Floating Island Meringue with Crème Anglaise

Niagara Wine Pairing: Inniskillin 2005 Sparkling Vidal Ice wine

Thursday 5 November


Terraced housing alongside the ravines, from Chris Hardwicke's "Ravine City" in Alphabet City #14, Water

6pm (Exhibition Opening Party)

Toronto Free Gallery, 1277 Bloor Street West
(416) 913-0461

HYDROCity Exhibition

Curated by Anneke Abhelakh, Chris Hardwicke, Ghazal Jafari, Sara Kamalvand, John Knechtel, Mason White

Models and drawings of design projects from Canada, The Kingdom of the Netherlands, the USA, and elsewhere.

HYDROCity exhibition extension venue: John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, University of Toronto 230 College Street

This exhibition was made possible in part through the generous support of RBC Blue Water Project™

9 pm – late (Performances and Festival Closing Party)

Drake Hotel, Lounge
1150 Queen Street W., 416.531.5042

The Wet Cabaret

The water is hot at the annual Alphabet City cabaret. At this year's party, the drinks will flow and the music will surge; the readings will be effervescent, and the performances will be steamy. From bubbly cocktails to literary lap dances, the Wet Cabaret is guaranteed to quench your thirst.

Friday 6 November

9 am – 5:30 pm (Symposium)

John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, University of Toronto 230 College Street

HYDROCity: A Symposium on Hydrology and Urbanism

This all-day symposium gathers international researchers to reflect on the future of urban water infrastructures.

Participants: Participants: Anneke Abhelakh (independent curator), Alan Berger (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Aziza Chaouni(University of Toronto), Jandirk Hoekstra (H+N+S Landscape Architects, Utrecht), Michael Hough (York University), Nina-Marie Lister (Ryerson University), Liat Margolis (University of Toronto), Koen Olthuis (, Rotterdam), Katherine Rinne(California College of the Arts), Catherine Seavitt (Catherine Seavitt Studio, New York), Kelly Shannon (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven), Richard M. Sommer (University of Toronto), David Waggonner (Waggonner & Ball Architects, New Orleans), Mason White (University of Toronto), Jane Wolff (University of Toronto), Robert Wright (University of Toronto)

NYC Events

Parsons The New School for Design presents an intensive week of activities that focus on threats to local, regional and global infrastructures.

Thursday 12 November

6 pm – 7:30 pm (Colloquium and Launch)

Kellen Auditorium
Sheila C. Johnson Design Center
Parsons The New School for Design, 66 Fifth Avenue at 13th Street
66 5th Avenue

Water Colloquium and Launch

6 pm — 7:30 pm, Public colloquium
7:30 pm, Book signing & light refreshments

A colloquium and book signing for the NYC launch of Alphabet City's WATER anthology. Hosted by Robert Kirkbride, Interim Director of Parsons SCE Product Design, the event will feature an overview from Alphabet City’s Editor, John Knechtel, and short talks by contributing authors Melissa Grey, Bhawani Venkataraman, Mei Chin, and Kirkbride

Friday 13 November

9 pm (24—hour Design Charette)

Aronson Gallery
Sheila C. Johnson Design Center
Parsons The New School for Design, 66 Fifth Avenue at 13th Street

Infrastructure Slam

12 November — 22 November

(Exhibition of Student Projects)

Aronson Gallery
Sheila C. Johnson Design Center
Parsons The New School for Design, 66 Fifth Avenue at 13th Street
Gallery hours: Open daily 12 pm — 6 pm and late Thursday evenings until 8 pm; closed all major holidays and holiday evenings
Admission: Free
Info: Please contact 212.229.8919 or visit

Student Exhibition

Includes several WATERTABLES produced by Product Design students, and results from the INFRASTRUCTURE SLAM.

Montreal Events

29 November

3 pm (Book Launch)

Canadian Centre for Architecture Bookstore
1920, rue Baile
Montreal, Quebec
(514) 939-7026

John Knechtel: Water

“Our urban water systems were built to prevent cholera and other water-borne scourges, but their unintended legacy has been the long-term degradation of our cities’ water ecology.”
—John Knechtel, Water (2009)

John Knechtel, editor of Alphabet City, discusses the publication Water, which considers the current state of this vital substance, from the mythic to the infrastructural. The book launch is part of the ABC Festival 2009: Water with events in Toronto, New York and Montréal including a panel, exhibition, and symposium series about the future of cities’ relationship to water.

Water is the latest release in the Alphabet City publication series, which rethinks central ideas of everyday life such as fuel, trash, and food. Co-published by The MIT Press, each volume addresses a single theme from various perspectives, revealing its processes and possibilities.