The Biennial takes its cues from Lake Ontario, which is part of the largest freshwater system on Earth, and the multi-layered history of Toronto’s ever-changing waterfront. The latter is a site of migration, colonization, and commerce that includes relics of heavy industry, dense condominium developments, active and decommissioned military sites, lost rivers, manufactured parks, and human-made spits.
Contingencies among people, nature, and economies inform the Biennial’s central question: “What does it mean to be in relation?” Relations, both human and non-human, can reaffirm communion and generate ecosystems, but also breed anxieties, glitches, anomie, and alienation. Artists have responded with works that explore the effects of connection and disjunction to project alternative futures: sculptures formed by the shape of soundwaves; multi-channel videos that bridge Indigenous and migrant storytellers; an ice core archive; installations that address our unsettled landscape; a massive diorama made from the city’s rubble; a public apology for Indigenous genocide. The works in the Biennial represent many voices, a reflection of Toronto’s status as the most diverse city in the world, where inhabitants speak over 170 languages and dialects.