Finalists for Canada’s Biggest Photo Prize Offer New Visions of the World
Dazzling rainbow colours abstracted from close-up photographs. A glamorously posed woman juxtaposed with the question, “AFTER IDENTITY, WHAT?” Intimate, candid images documenting the African diaspora. Found videos on an iphone transformed with otherworldly glitches by a flatbed scanner. These are a few of the bodies of work highlighted in the 2017 Aimia | AGO Photography Prize, Canada’s largest photography award, which is co-presented by the data-driven marketing and loyalty analytics company Aimia and the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO).
Now celebrating its 10th year, the prize awards $50,000 to the winner, who is selected by public vote. Viewers will have a tough time making a selection this year: the four finalists are exceptionally strong.
Each of the 2017 finalists hails from a different country. Liz Johnson Artur (Ghana/russia), Raymond Boisjoly (Haida Nation/canada), Hank Willis Thomas (USA) and Taisuke Koyama (Japan) were selected from a longlist of 30 international nominees by a jury of three experts. The jury consisted of artist Ken Lum and curators Sophie Hackett and Eva Respini.
There is little in common, at first glance, in the works of each of the four artists. But close examination of their practices reveals that they all carefully upend and deconstruct expected narratives about their worlds.
Take the Unbranded series by Thomas, which uses archival advertising materials, but alters them so that the company’s logos and actual products are erased, offering a clever skewering of consumer culture, particularly as it intersects with race. Or look to Koyama’s colourful images; they may appear entirely abstract, but their source material is often lifted from the shifting urban landscape of Tokyo. Within Artur’s oeuvre, a nuanced, diverse depiction of Blackness mounts a counterpoint to the frequently problematic representations of Blackness throughout the history of the medium. In the work of Boisjoly, an artist of Haida and Quebecois descent, colonial narratives and historical certainty are complicated; nowhere is this clearer than his From age to age, as its shape slowly unravelled… series, which subverts found source material that highlights museological approaches to nonwestern objects, which are often severed from their context in institutions.
Visitors to the AGO can see work by each of the finalists in an exhibition curated by Hackett. The exhibition is open from September 6, 2017 to January 14, 2018. Voting begins in person at the AGO after the exhibition opens and on the Prize's website beginning on September 13, 2017. The winner will be announced on December 4, 2017.
3 Raymond Boisjoly Station to Station (detail, 1 of 5 prints) 2014 Five-screen resolution Lightjet prints mounted on dibond Each 45.75 x 61 cm
2 Taisuke Koyama Untitled (Rainbow Form 02) (from the series Rainbow Form, part of Rainbow Variations) 2009 Archival pigment print 90 x 60 cm
4 Liz Johnson Artur Untitled (from the series Black Balloon Archive) 1986–2010
1 Hank Willis Thomas After Identity, What? 2012 Aluminum letters on wood and ink-jet print 2.03 x 1.07 m