When I decided to go to university, my choice to study philosophy was the perfect consequence of listening to too many albums by The Doors (and thus reading a lot of Nietzsche), combined with a desire to study science but knowing that I am no good at math. Maybe the logic is hard to follow, but art was not exactly there as a beckon. And yet. Through this funny journey I’ve had around to where I am now, these early impulses have come to deeply inform my curatorial practice and it is still astonishing to me that I get to practice philosophy through the medium of exhibition making, in space, alongside the wild propositions of artists. This is a real joy—the product of so much hard work, privilege and luck.
This week I was awarded the Hnatyshyn Foundation’s Emerging Curator of Contemporary Canadian Art award at a celebration at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art. This is an incredible honour. I am so thankful to the Hnatyshyn Foundation, foremost the late Right Honourable Ramon John Hnatyshyn for having the vision to create these kinds of recognition opportunities for cultural workers, and for the board members and staff there who imbue the process with such integrity.
This award makes a huge difference in my life. The prize is awarded to support professional development and the esteem that surrounds the Hnatyshyn Foundation will undoubtedly transform the work I will come to do in the future. This is a pivotal moment.
To know that the kind of work I have been doing resonated with the jurors, to know that other people think it is a worthy project to think colonization and decolonization and historical inheritance and sovereignty and translation and language and migration through art is heartening . And what a powerhouse jury! It was composed of Daina Augaitis, whose work at the Vancouver Art Gallery in a sense raised me to understand what exhibition-making can be at its most grand; Pamela Meredith, whose work with the TD Bank Group is a paragon of what corporate relationships to the arts can and should be; and Reesa Greenberg, who, as a scholar, was one of the first to consider exhibitions as historical units in need of analysis and this kind of attention is crucial to the kinds of exhibitions I make.
Over the years, I’ve worked with such imaginative collaborators, had the pleasure of engaging the practice of artists who have changed how I see the world, and the joy of generous friendships. Not to mention the sweetness of love that makes everything possible. I’ve also had incredible mentors, some of whom I was able to share the evening with. Here are some of the silly and profound things I’ve learned from the outstanding company I’ve kept…
Pablo de Ocampo is the man who thought to nominate me for the award. He taught me how to be chill in the face of all kinds of challenge and has become one of my best friends.
Alissa Firth-England and Kika Thorne were the very first people to extend their belief in my capacity as a curator, offering me my opportunities to propose resonances between artworks. Between them, in many different ways, I have learned precision.
When I arrived in Toronto five years ago, Kim Simon and Scott Miller Berry welcomed me and anchored me and supported me in finding a place in this city. They have continued to extend this kind of radical generosity and they’ve become some of my most trusted collaborators. Kim has taught me the value of difficult knowledge and of the importance of saying things that need to be said. Scott has taught me what it means to be a member of a community, how important it is that we nourish each other.
Srimoyee Mitra, through our collaboration at the Art Gallery of Windsor, taught me that the meaning of history is not fixed.
My friends are my most consistent interlocutors, asking me tough questions about my sometimes unnecessarily obstinate ideas and encouraging me in my best ones. They continue to teach me sanity and empathy and fun.
Pip Day taught be not to be afraid of what an exhibition needs to be, regardless of how it seems to fit alongside some Platonic idea of what an exhibition should be.
Amy Lynn Kazymerchyk has taught me what it means to be on a journey of change together and the importance of writing letters.
There so many others I deeply admire who have supported my writing and curatorial practice, including every artist I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. THANK-YOU. I hope I am able to support all of you in equal measure to the joy you’ve offered me.
I just can’t wait to see what the future holds.