Alves’s sculpture traces the former curving path of the Don River, straightened in the 1880s to open and speed up the flow of polluted waters as part of the City of Toronto’s Don River Improvement Plan. Phantom Pain makes visible the complicated and often buried histories of Toronto’s watersheds, both natural and built. Yet, in spite of the radical changes to the river, the water still makes its way to the lake.

Co-commissioned by Evergreen’s Don River Valley Art Program and the Toronto Biennial of Art, and a partnership with the City of Toronto and Toronto Region Conservation Authority. Garrison Creek, a related project by Alves, is on view at 259 Lake Shore Blvd E.

Learn more about Maria Thereza Alves’ practice by listening to the Short Format series on the Toronto Biennial of Art Podcast. Interviewed by Aliya Pabani, episode 2 with Alves is is available HERE.


Maria Thereza Alves (born in São Paulo, Brazil; lives in Naples, Italy and Berlin, Germany) has participated in exhibitions including: Manifesta 12, Palermo, 2018; Sharjah Biennial 13, 2016–18; 32nd Bienal de São Paulo, 2016; and dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel, 2012. She is the recipient of The New School’s 2016–18 Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics. Alves co-founded the Partido Verde of São Paulo in Brazil. As a member of the International Indian Treaty Council, Alves made an official presentation of human rights abuses of the Indigenous population of Brazil at the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva. She is a participant in the Biennale of Sydney, 2020.

Learn more about Maria Thereza Alves’ practice by listening to episode 2 of the Toronto Biennial of Art Podcast “Short Format”, available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify.

Exhibition Site

Riverdale Park West

Spanning both sides of the Don River, Riverdale Park opened in 1880. Like the river itself, the park has been shaped and reshaped many times over the last two centuries. Iterative settler developments uncovered Indigenous belongings, homes, and agricultural sites. The Lower Don River itself once flowed right through Riverdale Park before it was radically straightened in the 1880s as a part of the City’s Don Improvement Plan. This urbanized watershed has a long history of ecological degradation, contaminated by pollutants that create an environment inhospitable to the native flora and fauna that once thrived in this river valley, which is now host to an incredibly high percentage of invasive species.

375 Sumach St.
Toronto ON
M4X 1B8