A Look Around the Inaugural Toronto Biennial

The skyline of Toronto, viewed from East Island, a group of man-made islands in Lake Ontario.


The inaugural edition of the Toronto Biennial of Art runs through December 1. Helmed by senior curator Candice Hopkins and curator Tairone Bastien, the exhibition is titled “The Shoreline Dilemma,” which the curators have defined as a paradox that “implies the breakdown of scientific conventions in the face of nature’s complexities.” Shorelines, which are constantly evolving and nearly impossible to map accurately, are but one example.

The tour de force exhibition looks at the various ways in which artists are exploring some of the most pressing issues in contemporary society, from climate change to water rights, and places a focus on centering the voices of indigenous artists from around the world.

[Read a review of the 2019 Toronto Biennial of Art.]

Among the best works in the Biennial is the New Red Order’s Never Settle (2019), a room-sized installation with recruitment and initiation videos for a secret society that seemingly advocates for indigenous people. The work skewers the ways in which non-indigenous people often have a tendency to speak for indigenous people rather than allowing them to speak for themselves. “I know it’s not about me … but for me, it is,” one non-indigenous person says during a testimonial in the video.

Other highlights include Syrus Marcus Ware’s multi-channel video Ancestors, Can You Read Us? (Dispatches from the Future), and photographic and video documentation of Judy Chicago’s 1960s ephemeral fireworks performances that countered the environmentally intrusive and male-dominated Land art of its era.

Below, a look at some of the highlights from the numerous venues spread across Toronto.

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