Delayed six months by the pandemic, the long-awaited second edition of the Toronto Biennial of Art opens to the public on Saturday, March 26. As the exhibition’s founder and executive director Patrizia Libralato said during a press preview on March 23, “I’ve been saying we’re not a biennial until we’ve done it twice, so it’s official—we are now a biennial. Otherwise, we’d just be an -ennial, I guess.”
Featuring more than 100 works by 37 artists, including 23 new commissions, this iteration of the biennial takes as its title “What Water Knows, the Land Remembers.” The curatorial team consists of Candice Hopkins, Tairone Bastien, and Katie Lawson, who all also worked on the 2019 edition. The biennial’s title reflects their guiding idea of water and land serving as an archive to the histories that have been purposefully lost, hidden, buried, and erased in Toronto, Canada, and beyond. Some of the stories of Indigenous and Black people, and of people of color, may not have survived to today, but the water and land can serve as a witness and source of knowledge to fill in the blanks.
Spread out across nine venues throughout the city, with various programs and performances unfolding throughout the biennial’s run, the exhibition, which ends on June 5, offers a sweeping survey of various approaches to contemporary art, with a specific focus on installation, film and video, and textile works. Many of the works on view poignantly reflect on belonging and place, aptly attuned to a public that has largely felt a sense of isolation since the onset of the pandemic two years ago.
“‘What Water Knows, the Land Remembers’ draws from polyphonic histories that are sedimented in and around Toronto,” Hopkins said during the preview. “These narratives can reveal entanglements and ecologies both across time and space. … It’s an opportunity to ask the question, especially now ‘What do we believe in?’”