The Toronto Biennale of Art honored Camille Turner, whose work reveals colonial Canada's involvement in the transatlantic slave trade.
The Toronto Biennial of Art (the Biennial/TBA) announced on March 25, during the opening celebration for its second edition, that Camille Turner is the recipient of its Artist Prize, recognizing an artist’s outstanding contribution to the Biennial. The prize includes a $10,000 (CAD) award.
Canadian artist Camille Turner (born in 1960, Kingston, Jamaica; lives in Los Angeles, USA) explores themes related to race, space, home, and belonging. Her work combines Afrofuturism and historical research. In her Biennial immersive multimedia installation Nave (2022), Turner reveals the entanglement of colonial Canada in the transatlantic trade of enslaved Africans through links between the nave of a church, the hold of the ship, the tomb, and the womb of the world. In this Biennial-commissioned artwork, a time traveller from the future Age of Awakening—performed by the artist—visits a church in the Age of Silence, circa 2021, to perform a ritual connecting with ancestors of the past. Nave situates the viewer within the context of memory embodied by the ocean.
At an opening event on March 25, Turner said ”I am so thrilled to be the recipient of this prize! This artwork is dedicated to ancestors known and unknown and I want to thank my amazing dream team: Editor Chris Wiseman, Cinematographer Esery Mondesir assisted by Andrew Osei, Cody Westman who shot the footage in Newfoundland, Performer Emilie Jabouin, Makeup Artist Kristen Gallacher, and Production Manager Roxanne Fernandes. Many thanks to the Biennial for the opportunity to unfurl this vision.”
Awardees participating in the 2022 Biennial, What Water Knows, The Land Remembers, were selected by a distinguished jury that included: Michelle Jacques, Chief Curator, Remai Modern, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; Dr. Julie Nagam, Artistic Director of Nuit Blanche 2020 and 2022, Toronto, Ontario; and Canadian artist Lisa Steele, an innovator in video art, educator, curator, and co-founder of Vtape in Toronto, Ontario.
“In experiencing Nave, the deep trauma of the transatlantic slave trade is conveyed through the visuals of the ship as both womb and tomb, container of bodies and souls. But this trauma is transformed into redemption and peace through the beauty of both the gently lapping waves themselves and the tranquility of the church interior, as seen on the transformed face of Camille herself. This three-channel video installation encourages the viewer to enter and be immersed, with the work enveloping the viewer and the audio seeping into one’s consciousness so effortlessly, as one moves back in time and forward in hope,” said juror Lisa Steele.