Late last winter, from March 17 to 24, 2015, 2014 Aimia | AGO Photography Prize finalist Nandipha Mntambo journeyed to Elk Island National Park‘s bison conservatory, not far from Edmonton. Each of the Prize’s shortlisted artists received a residency in Canada and for hers, Mntambo worked with Parks Canada‘s Pat Dunn to track and film the buffalo in the park, with help from videographer Christopher Boni and photographer Patrick Nichols. Below, she takes us through some of the residency’s key moments, captured in a series of stunning, candid photos. Read the rest of this entry »
About Garvia Bailey
Garvia Bailey has been a broadcast journalist for more than 10 years and currently hosts Good Morning Toronto on JAZZ.FM91. She spent 10 years with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. She got her start in the world of independent film with the start up production company Channel Zero – telling stories of social unrest around the world and with the CBC, she served as the host of Canada Live and Radio 2 Top 20 on CBC Radio 2, Backstage Pass on CBC-TV, Big City Small World and was a contributor at cbcmusic.ca. Throughout her career in broadcasting she has turned the spotlight on emerging talent from across the GTA and has interviewed many celebrated international artists including Jimmy Cliff, Maestro Fresh Wes, Russell Peters, Melanie Fiona and M.I.A.
For the first time, the Aimia | AGO Photography Prize is bringing its talented finalists to the streets. The travelling Aimia | AGO Photography Prize Art Truck will feature video footage of the four shortlisted artists discussing their practices, offering a glimpse into their artwork and allowing visitors an opportunity to vote for who should win the $50,000 prize. Track the location of the Art Truck using the hashtag #ArtIsMoving or follow the Prize on Twitter @AimiaAGOPrize.
The Art Truck arrives in Toronto on Sept. 27, 2014, making its first stop at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts on Front Street East and continues onto a number of locations across the city.
The Art Truck was created to break the Prize out of gallery walls and making it accessible by all who walk by. Voters will have the opportunity to win an expenses-paid trip to Toronto, a private tour with an AGO curator, dinner for two at the AGO’s FRANK restaurant, tickets to the exclusive winner announcement and 15,000 Aeroplan® Miles.
Making appearances at several key locations and festivals across Toronto, the Art Truck can be found at:
The Prize, co-presented by Aimia and the AGO, will award each of the four artists a six-week artist residency in Canada and will feature their work in an AGO exhibition, on now through Jan. 4, 2015. The winner will be chosen by public vote via the Prize’s website and Facebook page until Oct. 27, 2014 at 11:59 p.m. The winner will be announced on Oct. 29, 2014, at the AGO, and the Art Truck offers a unique way of voting by using iPads, so that all visitors to the truck can have their say.
The 2014 finalists are:
David Hartt (Canada);
Elad Lassry (Israel/USA);
Nandipha Mntambo (South Africa); and
Lisa Oppenheim (USA).
Search for #ArtIsMoving on Twitter to follow the Art Truck around town. For updates on the Prize, further details on the shortlisted artists and additional information, please visit AimiaAGOPhotographyPrize.com and follow @AimiaAGOPrize on Twitter.
Together with our partners at Aimia, we were excited to announce the 2014 Aimia | AGO Photography Prize shortlist on Aug. 13. Below, learn about the four artists from around the world who were our jurors’ top picks, then head to the Prize website to see more of their work and choose your favourite.
Image courtesy of the artist.
“Our understanding of ourselves is deeply rooted in the spaces we occupy.”
David Hartt was born in Montreal and currently lives and works in Chicago. In his installations, which include photographs, videos, and sculptures, he explores how physical spaces reflect the ideas and beliefs of a particular time and place. By investigating the materials, symbols and histories that shape our surroundings, Hartt calls attention to the ways our built environments exist and evolve. After extensive research and site visits, he distils this material into complex and elegant installations.
“The questions for me are about this very mysterious unit that is the picture. It brings on a set of assumptions and built-in ways of looking with which I am in constant battle.”
At the centre of Israel-born, Los Angeles-based artist Elad Lassry’s work is the question: “What is a picture?” His practice suggests that the photograph is an elusive “unit.” Lassry uses multiple aesthetic modes and technologies to create analog images, digital interventions, moving pictures, design applications and applied arts that seem utilitarian but produce complex visual sensations. His ongoing investigation leads him to refer back to and experiment with a variety of visual sources – textbooks, manuals, film stills, marketing materials and science texts – which at turns contradict and play off one another in his work. Lassry uses this dynamic to pinpoint what he calls a “contemporary condition” in which the photograph is a flexible entity, seductively powerful and yet untrustworthy. “Once the photograph is not what it appears to be,” Lassry asks, “what else is at stake?”
“I’m interested in uncovering that binary – that in-between space that you can’t always pinpoint or articulate.”
Nandipha Mntambo was born in Swaziland and lives in Johannesburg. She originally trained as a sculptor and then expanded her practice to include photography, performance, and video. Her work investigates such dualities as male and female, attraction and repulsion, animal and human, European and African. Mntambo makes sculptures from cowhide, using her own body to mould the forms. In many of her videos and photographs, she appears wearing her sculptures, suggesting our capacity as individuals to shape the world around us, while also highlighting the forces that form us, including notions of race, gender and history.
“I want the viewer to ask, ‘What am I looking at? How is it made?’ Somehow, that provides a way of critically reading how images come to all of us through our daily lives.”
Lisa Oppenheim, who lives and works in New York, creates photographs and videos that connect historical imagery and techniques with the present moment. Her process often begins with online research, to source images that she reinterprets using old and new technologies. Oppenheim also employs unusual materials as negatives – fabric, lace, slices of wood – directly recording the objects’ specific textures to create near-abstract compositions. Through her experiments with analog darkroom and digital methods, Oppenheim gives photographic images new forms and new contexts, inviting us to question and to wonder.
Chino Otsuka, Imagine Finding Me, 1975 and 2005, Spain, Japan, 2005, Chromogenic print, 305 mm x 406 mm.
Born in Tokyo and educated in the U.K., 2013 Aimia | AGO Photography Prize finalist Chino Otsuka uses photography and video to explore the fluid relationship between memory, photography, and time. She recently completed her residency at the Nikkei National Museum in Burnaby, B.C., which focused on researching Japanese picture brides and their forgotten stories. We caught up with Otsuka to discuss her residency research, work and experience.
AGO: While you were in Vancouver, you worked inside the archives and collection of the Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre. What did your research focus on, and what affect has working in Vancouver had on your work?
Chino Otsuka: The research I conduct is integral to the development of my work. For a while now I have been researching the history of Japanese emigrants. When I found out about the residency component of the AIMIA | AGO Photography Prize and was able to choose anywhere in Canada, I knew I wanted to go to the Nikkei National Museum. Since I had previously done similar research on a group of Japanese who went to the Netherlands in the mid-19th century, I wanted to see the museum’s collections and learn more about the history of Japanese-Canadian immigrants.
During the residency I had the opportunity to access and explore museum collections that are not normally seen or easily accessible. I knew very little about the history of Japanese immigrants in Canada, or the hardships and injustice that they suffered. I read and came across so many moving stories. All of this is a very important part of Japanese history, and I’m so surprised that many of these stories are untold outside of Canada.
As my research progressed I became more and more interested in the stories of young women who came over from Japan as a “picture brides,” young Japanese women usually between 17 and 19 years old who came to Canada as in the early 20th century. Their marriages were arranged by showing the prospective bride and groom photographs of each other. Most of these women travelled from Japan and saw their husband-to-be for the first time when they arrived in Canada. I was drawn to their innocence, ambition and courage — their journey. They all longed for a new life in their new country. Yet when they arrived in Canada the life they had imagined was completely different. Hardship and many tragedies would follow them. They struggled and endured so much.
I’ve looked through many photographs and artefacts in the collection and chose to focus especially on their journey to Canada. There is a sense of anticipation around the little moment in their life when they were dreaming about the future. I’ve been working with the old photographs as well as photographing their belongings that they brought with them from Japan.
With your residency now complete, can you speak to the effect that the overall experience has had on your work? Did your work move in a new direction during the residency? If so, how?
The residency has given me a new perspective on my practice, as well as time to explore and experiment with new ideas. The work I started during my residency is not quite finished yet. I’m done with the research and photographing and am now working with these materials through editing and finding ways to present them.
What has the residency allowed you to do in terms of your work and research?
In my work I mainly explore the notion of autobiographical memory, so the residency at the Nikkei National Museum has given me the opportunity to explore and research the history, the collective memory – how the individual memories weave together to tell a story.
In her essay “Chino Otsuka’s Time Machine” Michiko Kasahara writes that your “journeys into the past are not sentimental and do not display a nostalgic atmosphere,” yet much of your work explores issues of duality, history, memory and self. Can you elaborate on/explain your method? Do you agree with the writer’s statement?
I work with the past and many of my works show my past. How I take my works, restage and rework them is really about today, not yesterday.
My works are personal but by carefully selecting the images, and recreating them in the certain ways, I’m trying to engage the viewers’ internal dialogue of their experiences. I hope to make the images/stories resonate and trigger the viewers’ own memories.
Your work, specifically in the series “Imagine Finding Me,” is extremely personal with the subject being your own self and memory. The Aimia | AGO Photography Prize is awarded by public vote. As the subject of the work, what were your thoughts on it being considered in this way?
I visited the AGO during the exhibition while the voting was going on, and when I wandered around the museum strangers came up to tell me that they voted for me. I guess they recognized me from my work, and that was a really strange experience.
*This interview was conducted via email in July 2014 and has been edited for style and brevity.
The Art Gallery of Ontario shares in the loss of Lynne Cohen, one of Canada’s finest visual artists. Lynne’s remarkable body of work took us to extraordinary, often-foreboding places — places we would be unlikely to encounter in our daily lives, except through her compelling photographs. Her enigmatic, real-world photographs of interior environments, uninhabited by humans, alluded to her sense of wit and irony.
An internationally collected artist, Lynne was nominated for the Aimia | AGO Photography Prize (then called the Grange Prize) in 2009, and the AGO is proud to have exhibited her work alongside the nominees from Canada and Mexico. Lynne spent her Prize-sponsored residency in Mexico, inspired by interior spaces that became new installations of extraordinary photographs.
Lynne’s legacy will be remembered by all who admired her vision, dedication to students, loyalty to those who knew her and her incredible strength the past three years. Our deepest condolences to Andrews Lugg, her partner of 50 years, who was closest to Lynne in every way.
— Maia Sutnik, Curator, Special Photography Projects at the AGO
The latest video project by Edgardo Aragón – a finalist in the 2013 AIMIA | AGO Photography Prize – tracks bison across North American, in Wood Buffalo National Park in the Northwest Territories, in Yellowstone National Park and near Chihuahua in Mexico, his home country. We talked to him about the project, made possible by his AIMIA | AGO Photography Prize residency.
AGO: Of the three places you visited for your project, which was the most surprising, in terms of defying your expectations? Why?
Edgardo Aragón: I was very surprised and still I am about Fort Smith. Given the conditions under which people live in this place, it could seem impossible that there’s life there, but life exists, along with one of the strangest lights that I will ever see in my life.
Since going to these places, has your plan for the project changed?
Whenever I plan a new project, I always expect that the circumstances change the nature of the project itself. In this case the change happened, without a doubt. Natural conditions modify the project a great deal, complementing and giving body to it in a way that a sketch could not. I’m satisfied.
Many animal species migrate – why did you choose to focus on bison?
I chose the bison for two reasons. The first is that it had a natural frontier that would shift according to the climate conditions, modifying substantially the life of the First Nations people who depended on the bison to survive. They would conform to the bison’s behaviour. That’s why the project is not, in fact, trying to create a portrait of bison so much as one of the invisible men that has ceased to live in harmony with it.
The second reason is that this animal species does’t migrate. After nearly becoming extinct at the hands of the white man, it has endured some sort of domestication. Today it is a species in the process of recuperation in Mexico and Canada. It is curious to note that in the U.S., where there are more reserves, the bison is not a protected species and is limited to its territories. This domestication is an aspect of extermination as well, of the animal and its animal nature and, of course, of what little spirit of the First Nations people remains.
Why did you decide to use video for this project instead of still images?
Video is a more organic tool, more malleable. You can move it in many directions to generate a specific discourse or an open one. I think I choose video because I like having elements that are closer to a sense of physical presence, closer to the movement of the apparatus, to the presence of a witness and specifically to the manipulation of time. Duration plays a fundamental role in establishing the dimensions of the theme. The sounds of the places or the absence of such sounds plays a fundamental role in the atmospheres that I’m trying to convey and generate in the project.
When you gave an interview to the Northern Journal, you said, “In a way, the real subject of the video project does not exist…It’s an invisible phantom.” Can you elaborate on that? What is the real subject?
The subject I am portraying is the human who lived with the presence of the bison. That way of life is poorly understood by Eurocentric cultures. That was what I was interested in discovering or portraying. I followed the path of the bison because it represents the way First Nations people lived. All the vacant spaces left around the bison are the spaces left by earlier lives – lives lived within the cultural shock generated by contact with Europe – and the near-extermination of the bison. The creation of reserves for the native people of the Americas were really the extermination of a spirit that generated a sense of life.
With the westernisation of North America a philosophy of life was destroyed – a loss which we have not been able to fully understand yet. This is why I like to think about this video as a portrait of an invisible human being, a portrait of a philosophy of life inherent to the creative and cultural spirit of a human being that disappeared many years ago. The presence of reserves for human and animal species is only one of its forms of annihilation. This is the central objective of the project.
All photos courtesy of the artist. Keep up with this year’s Aimia | AGO Photography Prize on Twitter and Facebook.
Voting won’t begin until late summer, but the 2014 Aimia | AGO Photography Prize is well underway. Over the past few months, individuals around the world have been researching and discussing exciting new ideas and directions in fine art photography and putting forward the names of artists whose recent work has shown extraordinary potential. The nominators — a group of 13 curators, critics and artists — submit two artists each for inclusion on the long list, and then a three-person jury selects a short list of four. Later this year, the shortlisted artists’ work will be exhibited at the AGO and online, and the public vote will decide who wins the $50,000 CAD prize.
We’re happy to introduce you to this year’s jury, led by the AGO’s associate curator of photography, Sophie Hackett, and we hope you’ll follow along as the Prize develops in 2014. Keep an eye out for long-list and short-list announcements in the coming months, and follow the Aimia | AGO Photography Prize on Facebook and Twitter for more news.
This year’s jury:
Sophie Hackett is the Associate Curator, Photography, at the Art Gallery of Ontario and adjunct faculty in Ryerson University’s master’s program in Photographic Preservation and Collections Management. She has contributed to several Canadian art magazines, international journals and monographs, and she has curated or co-curated several exhibitions and public projects at the AGO, including Suzy Lake: Rhythm of a True Space (2008); Barbara Kruger: Untitled (It) (2010); “Where I was born…”: A Photograph, a Clue and the Discovery of Abel Boulineau (2011); Songs of the Future: Canadian Industrial Photographs, 1858 to Today (2011); Album: A Public Project (2012) and Light My Fire: Some Propositions about Portraits and Photography (2013-2014), a wide-ranging consideration of the photographic portrait, drawn from the AGO’s permanent collection. Upcoming projects include What It Means To be Seen: Photography and Queer Visibility and Fan the Flames: Queer Positions in Photography — both opening in June 2014. She is the lead juror for the 2014 AIMIA | AGO Photography Prize, a role she also held in 2010 and 2012.
Laurie Simmons (b.1949, USA) stages photographs and films with paper dolls, finger puppets, ventriloquist dummies and costumed dancers as “living objects,” animating a dollhouse world suffused with nostalgia and colored by an adult’s memories, longings, and regrets. Simmons’ work blends psychological, political, and conceptual approaches to art-making, transforming photography’s propensity to objectify people, especially women, into a sustained critique of the medium. She has received many awards, including the Roy Lichtenstein Residency in the Visual Arts at the American Academy in Rome (2005), and fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (1997) and the National Endowment for the Arts (1984). She has had major exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Baltimore Museum of Art; San Jose Museum of Art, California; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis and she has participated in two Whitney Biennial exhibitions (1985, 1991) and was included in the 2013 Venice Biennial. Her work is represented in many noted collections including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, among others.
Okwui Enwezor is a Nigerian-born, German-based scholar, curator, and writer and has been director of Haus der Kunst since October 2011. He was adjunct curator at International Center of Photography, New York, and previously adjunct curator of Contemporary Art, at the Art Institute of Chicago. Enwezor has served as the artistic director of several leading biennials and international exhibitions and in December 2013 he was appointed as director of the Visual Arts Sector of the 56th Biennale di Venezia. Enwezor’s curatorial credits include exhibitions presented in museums and venues across the U.S., Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America, including Guggenheim Museum, Tate Modern, Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art Barcelona, Museo Tamayo, Mexico City, Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels, PS1 / MoMA, New York and the National Gallery of Canada. Enwezor has received numerous awards and honors for his work including an honourary fellowship from the Royal College of Art, London (2010) and an award for Curatorial Excellence from Center for Curatorial Studies and Art in Contemporary Culture, Bard College (2009). He lives in Munich and New York.
This year’s nominators were:
Grant Arnold, Audain Curator of British Columbia Art, Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver
Veronica Cordeiro, curator, Centro de Fotografía de Montevideo, Uruguay
Moyra Davey, artist and nominee for the 2010 Aimia | AGO Photography Prize (then called the Grange Prize)
Jon Davies, associate curator, Oakville Galleries
Gary Dufour, adjunct associate professor, University of Western Australia and former chief curator/deputy director, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth
Tamar Garb, Durning Lawrence Professor in the History of Art, University College, London, U.K.
Gauri Gill, artist and winner of the 2011 Aimia | AGO Photography Prize (then called the Grange Prize)
Marie-Josée Jean, head of the VOX Contemporary Image Centre, Montreal
Mami Kataoka, chief curator, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo
Vince Timpano (left), with 2013 Aimia | AGO Photography Prize winner Erin Shirreff and AGO director and CEO Matthew Teitelbaum.
In November 2013, before an excited crowd at AGO First Thursdays, Canadian artist Erin Shirreff was named as winner of the Aimia | AGO Photography Prize. Shirreff receives the $50,000 cash prize and will head to the Maritimes in spring 2014 for her residency. Meanwhile, visitors to the AGO can see her work and that of the other shortlisted photographers — Edgardo Aragón, LaToya Ruby Frazier and Chino Otsuka — until Jan. 5, 2014, inside the Aimia | AGO Photography Prize exhibition.
In the new year, another exciting part of the Prize program begins. The Aimia | AGO Photography Prize Scholarship Program will award three $7,000 scholarships each year to students entering their final year of study toward Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees with a focus or major in photography. The scholarships are awarded to students at select Canadian academic institutions who have shown extraordinary potential throughout their undergraduate studies. This year’s partner schools are OCAD University, Ryerson University, Concordia University, Emily Carr University of Art + Design, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University (NSCAD), Alberta College of Art and Design (ACAD), Université du Québec and the University of Manitoba. The program also awards $1000 CAD honorariums to the schools of the winning students.
Starting in March 2014, each academic partner institution will form a jury of three faculty members to review their students’ submissions and select one finalist, and the finalists will be evaluated by the Scholarship Program jury, consisting of two representatives from the Art Gallery of Ontario and a previous winner of the Aimia | AGO Photography Prize.
In November 2014, the three winners of the scholarship and a faculty member of their respective institution will be invited to Toronto to celebrate their success, where they will meet the artists short-listed for the Prize and attend the winner announcement celebration.
Next year, the Prize cycle will begin again, with nominators and jurors named in early spring, long-list and short-list announcements over the summer, before a new round of voting next fall. We hope you’ll follow along with us and discover some of the world’s best photo-based art in 2014.
Stay connected with the Aimia | AGO Photography Prize on Facebook and Twitter.
Today, four extraordinary international photographers were selected as finalists for the 2013 Aimia | AGO Photography Prize, Canada’s leading award for contemporary photography and the first major art prize in the world whose winner is chosen entirely by public vote. Voting opens today at AimiaAGOPhotographyPrize.com and, for the first time, on Facebook.
The finalists, selected by jury from a long list of 14 artists, are: Edgardo Aragón (Mexico), LaToya Ruby Frazier (U.S.), Chino Otsuka (Japan/U.K.) and Erin Shirreff (Canada). As a group, these four artists represent a snapshot of current directions in photography and video in which images are used to build powerful, complex and often personal narratives.
Edgardo Aragón was born in Mexico, and his work invites reflection on the history of violence in his homeland. Deeply engaged with political and social histories of Oaxaca, the province where he was born and still lives, his video and photography often document performance and sculptural interventions against landscapes that appear at once serene and foreboding.
LaToya Ruby Frazier was born and raised in Braddock, Pennsylvania. Her work is informed by late 19th- and early 20th-century modes of representation in documentary practice. She uses the conventions of social documentary and portraiture to expose untold stories of post-industrial decline in the United States, filtered through the experiences of her own family and community in Braddock.
Chino Otsuka was born in Tokyo and moved to the U.K. at age 10 to attend school. Often mining her own autobiography, Otsuka uses photography and video to explore the fluid relationship between memory, time and photography.
Erin Shirreff was born in 1975 in Kelowna, B.C., and now lives and works in New York. Her work interweaves photography, video and sculpture to extend and explore the act of looking, asking questions about the often paradoxical relationship between time and space and the image, and the impact of perception on the location of meaning.
A jury of three — comprising lead juror Elizabeth Smith, former AGO executive director of curatorial affairs and current executive director of the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation in New York; Urs Stahel, director, curator, and editor of Fotomuseum Winterthur; and artist Kader Attia — selected the four finalists from the long list.
“The jurors were delighted with the strength and diversity of the long-listed artists,” said Smith. “In choosing the four finalists, we responded most to qualities that made the work fresh, powerful and original in some way. We looked for strength, coherence and consistency in the interplay of imagery and content and selected the artists whose work made the most pronounced impact on all of us.”
An exhibition of works by the four short-listed artists, curated by Smith, opens at the AGO on Sept. 11, 2013. We’re also hosting a free public launch party that night, with presentations by nominators and members of the jury about each of the four artists.
The following evening, Sept. 12, 2013, at 7 p.m., the four artists will speak at a special panel event at the AGO alongside Smith; AGO associate curator of photography Sophie Hackett; and nominators Jennifer Blessing, senior curator of photography at The Guggenheim; and Helga Pakasaar, curator at Presentation House Gallery, Vancouver. Tickets to the event are available now.