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the shoreline dilemma

Inaugural Toronto Biennial of Art: 15+ sites, Sept 25 2019 - Dec 1 2019

Role: Curator

Toronto’s shoreline has changed dramatically over the last 12,000 years, ever since the Laurentide Ice Sheet retreated to form Lake Ontario’s basin. The earliest human habitants—the Huron-Wendat, Haudenosaunee, and Anishinaabe, including the Mississaugas of the Credit—adapted to the changing topography. In the colonial era, surges in industrial production and economic growth radically altered the shoreline, which has alternately been extended, reshaped, and paved over.

Initially a site of trade and ceremony, and eventually mass settlement and industrialization, the waterfront is host today to relics of heavy industry, dense condominium developments, active and decommissioned military bases, lost rivers, and human-made spits. Recently, it has been subjected to “renaturalization” efforts—attempts to restore the lake’s habitat—that nevertheless seek to refashion nature to suit human convenience.

Shorelines resist conventional mapping. Ever-shifting and fractal, they have no well-defined perimeter and evade attempts at quantification. The shoreline dilemma (also called the “coastline paradox”) implies the breakdown of scientific conventions in the face of nature’s complexities. In Toronto, this dilemma has been amplified by the radical reshaping of the city’s waterfront, which calls into question the rights of land and water in light of accelerated development.

The implications of the changing shoreline—evidence of an increasingly anthropocentric world—prompted us to ask invited artists: What does it mean to be in relation?

Human and non-human relations can reaffirm connections and generate ecosystems, but they can also breed distrust, anxiety, and alienation. When rational systems fail, other knowledges and relations emerge. At stake is the responsibility to respect multiple subjectivities and diverse conceptions of freedom, dignity, and sovereignty for living creatures, land, and water, as reflected by the rich perspectives and histories in the Exhibition’s artworks.

Toronto’s inaugural Biennial embraces the unquantifiable, fugitive, and unknowable, and like the shoreline, resists the systems that seek to discipline and control.

Artists: AA Bronson, Abbas Akhavan, Abel Rodríguez, Adrian Blackwell, Adrian Stimson, Aki Inomata, Alfredo Ramos Fernández, Althea Thauberger, Alvin Lucier, Apitchatpong Weerasethakul, Arin Rungjang, Aryo Danusiri, Bárbara Wagner and Benjamin de Burca, Brandon Poole, Caecilia Tripp, Caroline Monnet, Charles Stankievech, Clarice Lispector, Curtis Talwst Santiago, Cyprien Gaillard, Dana Claxton, Dark Morph, Drexciya, Elder Duke Redbird, Embassy of Imagination, Fernando Palma Rodriguez, Hajra Waheed, Hera Büyüktaşcıyan, Isuma Productions, J.G. Ballard, Jae Jarrell, James Tenney, Jean Painlevé, Judy Chicago, Julian Charrière, Jumana Manna, Jumblies Theatre & Arts, Kapwani Kiwanga, Katarzyna Badach, Kite, Laurent Grasso, Lisa Rave, Lisa Reihana, Lisa Steele & Kim Tomczak, Lou Sheppard, Luis Jacob, Marguerite Humeau, Maria Thereza Alves, Moyra Davey, Napachie Pootoogook, Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa, New Mineral Collective, Nick Sikkuark, Nils-Aslak Valkeapää, Pauline Oliveros, Qavavau Manumie, Ramin + Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian, ReMatriate Collective, Revital Cohen and Tuur Van Balen, Shezad Dawood, Susan Schuppli, Syrus Marcus Ware, The New Red Order, The World Soundscape Project, Ville Kokkonen, Whatever, Wilson Rodríguez

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