By Dawn Laing, Artist Manager - @loraxgirl on all things social

As part of our a-MAZE-ment series you will get to see numerous works of art spanning the genres of theatre, dance, film and visual arts. Some pieces you will be full immersed, others you will be able to step back and enjoy. Through our blog series, we hope to introduce you to a smattering of the artists we will be featuring as part of a-MAZE-ment. Everyone has a story and we want you to hear it.

Today we would like to introduce you to Vladimir Antaki who will be presenting one of his iconic GUARDIAN pieces as part of a-MAZE-ment. You can get to know a bit more about the man behind the piece through our quick little interview with the artist below.

1: Can you introduce yourselves and a bit about your practice?
My parents left Lebanon during the Civil War before I was born in order to give my sister and I a better life. We moved to Paris and were naturalized a few years later. I've spent most of my life trying to connect the dots between my origins and personal life experiences. This is probably why nostalgia is such an important ingredient in my work. I learned photography wandering the streets of Paris before moving to Montreal in 2003. I am genuinely interested in people’s life stories and how they are connected to each other, and I believe that this is something that reflects in my practice.

2. What does Honest Ed’s mean to you?
My understanding is that Honest Ed’s was a rite of passage for many immigrant families in Toronto, providing them with affordable goods and clothing, which has created a community feeling in the neighbourhood. Coming from an immigrant family myself, I know the importance of such an organization and I can relate to this. I have the highest amount of respect for what Ed Mirvish accomplished. His legacy very much lines up with my passion for unique institutions and people.

3. Why do/How do you think your project pays homage to Honest Ed’s / Toronto?
Most of my series are socially engaged. Whether I decide to pay tribute to mom and pop shops from around the world with The Guardians, to show the intimacy of an elderly woman with Behind the Green Door, or denounce social prejudice with My Name is Wesson Dagnew.

I'm going to be showing one of my most iconic Guardians pieces at the Honest Ed's farewell event: Birdman from NYC, who was forced to close his shop in September 2015. There’s a symbolic link between the closing of Honest Ed’s and my Guardians series. The great scourge of our society.

4. What does it mean to be a part of this project?
Having recently moved to Toronto last October, it is such an honour to have been selected as one of the artists tasked with paying tribute to Honest Ed’s, a Toronto landmark, during such an important and historical event. It is also very heartwarming and uplifting to feel that my work is reaching an audience and guiding them through various types of emotions.

5. The Guardians is a piece you’ve presented before, can you tell us a bit more about the exhibit and where people may be able to find it next.
The Guardians is my tribute to shopkeepers and artisans around the world. Some shops are still around but a few of them have since closed due to an ever changing world, so my photographs are often the only remaining visual proof of their existence. The Guardians, has been exhibited life-sized in more than a hundred cities including Paris, Toronto, Montreal, Philadelphia and Hong Kong.

My goal is to build and curate more public installations in other cities and have Guardians travel around the world, by always being open to collaborations with artists and cities around the world.

6. If someone wanted to see more of your work, where should they go? (eg - website and/or upcoming shows).. You know.. Because this entire exhibit will go down with the ship!
Five of my Guardians are still displayed on the windows of Katana on Bay in Toronto’s Financial District (Temperance and Bay). This installation was part of the 2016 edition of Toronto’s Nuit Blanche. Visit www.the-guardians.info/audio to listen to the complete audio stories.

Acquisition of Fine art prints is available by email: hello@vladimirantaki.com

You can visit Vlad’s work on the second floor of the eastern building as part of Toronto for Everyone, Feb 23 - 26. Soho House members can also visit him IRL as he talks as part of an artist panel Thursday February 16 (7:00 p.m.  - 9 p.m.). Contact Soho House Toronto for details.

Find out more about Vlad and his work here:
Website:  www.vladimirantaki.com
Instagram: @guardiansphoto / @artisticagitators