How do we learn and listen with the lake? Taking up experiential and artist-led approaches, Programs 2019 explored issues, practices, and methodologies related to the inaugural Biennial.

Led by Ilana Shamoon and co-curated by Clare Butcher and Myung-Sun Kim, the five programming streams—Co-Relations, Currents, Storytelling, Tools for Learning, and the Toronto Biennial of Art Residency—activated the two main Exhibition sites, 259 Lake Shore Blvd E and the Small Arms Inspection Building, and also connected with projects around the city. Through storytelling, conversations, performative interventions, workshops, and readings, Programs invited visitors to gather and learn together in responsive and engaging formats along the water’s edge and beyond.

At 259 Lake Shore Blvd E, the Programs & Learning Hub was a place for gathering and sharing that invited visitors of all ages to engage in conversations, readings, and workshops within modular spaces, a library, and a listening room. Branching through this space, Flourish and Unfold, a mural by Caitlin Taguibao, represented mushrooms and their networks. The piece explored relational ecologies between the living and the non-living, and drew attention to overlooked possibilities for inhabiting the ruins of the present. Situated at the centre of the Hub, the Gendai Mobile Unit was an artwork that functioned as flexible seating, a presentation space, and a storage unit. Designed by Alexandre David and commissioned by Gendai and artist Yam Lau, it offered a platform for spontaneous, collaborative, and reciprocal methodologies that reimagined models of generosity and collective ways of gathering.

Between Biennial editions, Programs nurtures further collaborations and relationships to advance ongoing projects and partnerships across 2020 – 2022.

Moving beyond Exhibition venues, site-specific programs took place at locations across Toronto and Mississauga.


The Co-Relations program explored critical issues—livability, access, interconnectivity—that intersected with and extended ideas addressed in The Shoreline Dilemma.

Co-Relations demonstrated a deep commitment to placemaking in a series of performances, conversations, and gatherings. All participants were invited into shifting and expanding dialogues that revealed the often invisible, intangible, or overlooked connections to each other and the environment: mycelial fungi workshops investigated networked growth beneath our feet; apple tastings and orchard plantings reclaimed and revived rare historic apple varietals; and responses to a dispatch from a dystopian future initiated action in the present day. These unseen or unnoticed connections provided insights into how to better sustain symbiotic relationships over time.

Co-Relations built on methodologies of care, empathy, and understanding in an attempt to repair what has been lost or forgotten. Drawing from relational practices and social processes, these events responded to emerging conversations during the inaugural 2019 Biennial and extended them to explore their complexities in locations and with communities across Toronto.

Co-Relations was made possible with the generous support of the TD Bank Group through its corporate citizenship platform, The Ready Commitment.


Currents was a platform for artist-led programming that invited visitors to engage directly with the creative and critical processes at work in the Exhibition. This stream consisted of talks, performances, symphonies, star-gazing, and ceremonies that traced ideas circulating within and beyond the 2019 Biennial’s main sites and connected with other Exhibition locations. Be it through acts of restitution, revolutionary wearables, ways of knowing with the water, or the ethics of making, Currents asked participants to reconsider what it means to be in and out of relation in the context of artworks featured in the 2019 Exhibition.

Performance Program: Isonomia in Toronto

Adrian Blackwell’s two interrelated structures at 259 Lake Shore Blvd E and the Small Arms Inspection Building hosted weekly performances and readings throughout the duration of the Biennial. Invited guests include poet CAConrad, artists Camilo Godoy and Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Apache violinist Laura Ortman, Sister Co-Resister, and percussionist Marshall Trammell.


Storytelling sought to shift the mediation of contemporary art away from conventional modes of interpreting and informing to narrating and embodying through weekly walks and conversations. An intergenerational and multilingual group of storytellers shared personal insights and experiences of the city as they guided visitors through the 2019 Exhibition’s site-specific installations, research, and generative proposals. Storytellers brought submerged narratives to the surface in relation to the history and politics of Toronto’s shifting shoreline.

TBA Residency

The Toronto Biennial of Art Residency is an experimental platform for artists with socially engaged practices. It supports artists whose work is challenging disciplinary and aesthetic conventions to expand notions of collectivity and enact social change at various scales.

Life of a Craphead headshot

Tools for Learning

Tools for Learning, generated by and with Biennial participants and collaborators, comprises group exercises, performative scores, proposals for collaborative thinking and making, artist interviews, and audio tours. Tools can be instruments to make and repair, but also strategies to undo and refuse. Whether in the Biennial, the classroom, or at home, our multimedia toolbox can be put to use by educators, students, and other community members in connecting their own experiences and curricula with process-based, playful approaches to contemporary artistic practices. Practically and conceptually, Tools for Learning offers materials and methods for reimagining relations with land, water, and each other. Contributors include Isuma, Adrian Stimson, Curtis Talwst Santiago, and The New Red Order.