Jeffrey Gibson: Can Land and Water Be Archives? A Pandemic-Era Toronto Biennial Mines the Histories Beneath Our Feet

Maximilíano Durón, ARTnews, March 23, 2022


There are hundreds of biennials in the world, and with each edition, a new curator is picked to take the reins. That makes the Toronto Biennial of Art, whose second edition opens on March 26, unlike its colleagues. For the second edition in a row, the same curatorial team has taken the helm, allowing some artists to create work over the course of four years instead of just two.


At its first edition, in 2019, the Toronto Biennial explored the hidden, buried, and intentionally erased histories of the Greater Toronto Area, in particular those of Indigenous and Black communities. Artist Ange Loft’s Toronto Indigenous Context Brief, a document that charts some 1,000 years of history along the city’s Lake Ontario waterfront, has served as a guiding document for the biennial’s curatorial team as well as the artists involved.


While the 2019 edition focused on exploring the histories of the lake’s waterfront and shoreline, the 2022 iteration has moved more inland. This year the venues include the Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto, Mercer Union, Arsenal Contemporary, the Fort York National Historic Site, and the Textile Museum of Canada. Its two main venues are at adapted spaces: 72 Perth Avenue in the city’s West End and the Small Arms Inspection Building in nearby Mississauga.


Among the artists who will show new work are Jeffrey GibsonJudy Chicago, Camille Turner, Tanya Lukin Linklater, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Eduardo Navarro, Syrus Marcus Ware, Susan Schuppli, and Eric-Paul Riege. Brian Jungen, Victoria Mamnguqsualuk, and Denyse Thomasos will also be represented by preexisting works.


To learn more about the Biennial and how its planning has changed over the past two and a half years, ARTnews spoke with the exhibition’s curatorial team—Candice Hopkins, senior curator; Tairone Bastien, exhibitions curator; and Katie Lawson, curator—by Zoom in February.


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