Self-taught artist recipient of city's Artist of the Year prize
May 26, 2017
A self-taught artist is the recipient of this year’s Toronto Arts Foundation Signature Awards Emerging Artist of the Year prize.
Anique Jordan was recognized with the prestigious honour at the annual Mayor’s Arts luncheon in Toronto last week.
The Signature Awards celebrate artistic excellence and recognize the contributions of artists and arts supporters across disciplines to creative city building in Toronto.
An innovation-driven trans-disciplinary artist, educator, activist and social entrepreneur, Jordan’s work employs photography, performance, poetry and installation to draw attention to the body as a sight of political resistance and futuristic imaging.
She actively seeks new ways of knowledge production that wrap and disrupt colonial histories.
“One of the most important aspects of winning something like this is that it tells me that the work I am trying to produce which is very political and Black Canadian-centred matters,” she said. “To have this art recognized as valid and important and for it to be affirmed in this way says something about the values of the jurors and the city to a certain extent. It tells me that work that is trying to circumvent some of the ideas of what we have of what is Canada is still valued and it affirms that I have to keep producing this work and that there is a need for it.”
Jordan said she has always embraced creativity.
“The thing about is I never always knew that it was OK to pursue that field,” she said. “It was instilled in me at a young age to think about a particular career. While looking for that title that I could call myself, I found that what I was actually creating was not leading to this so-called career. Instead, it was an option that I didn’t even know existed which is being an artist.
“I started with me asking a question about survival. I really wanted to understand how is it Black women were able to survive through things like Trans-Atlantic Slavery. I started asking the older women in my family that question and that led to my first photographic work. For me, part of the impetus behind creating is trying to find answers to something where language fails. It is a way of thinking about how we can subvert colonial legacies by creating something that doesn't have to be used as language.”
The product of Trinidadian immigrant Carolyn Jordan who came to the Greater Toronto Area via New York, Jordan graduated from Cedarbrae Collegiate Institute and studied international development, business and Spanish at York University. While pursuing undergraduate studies, she represented Canada at the inaugural 2011 World Afro-Descendant Youth Summit in Costa Rica.
Two years ago, Jordan completed her Master’s in environmental studies at York University. Her thesis focussed on how arts-based methodologies can expose approaches of community and self-survival to create community-led and self-sustaining models of local development.
The executive director of the Whippersnapper Gallery since September 2016, Jordan explained why she often describes herself as a futurist artist.
“I think of futurism as a way of subverting temporalities,” the former Seeland Development Trust renewable energy & community projects assistant said. “All of my work deals with ideas of the past and ideas of how we imagine the future, but within this present moment. While doing a residency recently at the Banff Centre with Wanda Nanibush (she is the Art Gallery of Ontario’s first curator of indigenous art), she said something I will never forget. She said ‘we can think about time as the present being impregnated with the past and the future’. That, for me, epitomizes how I understand time and futurisms. It is a way of thinking about multiple things happening at the same time.
“That is important for me as a lot of my work is relational. I talk to a lot of elders, artists and community members in everything that I produce. So, when I am thinking about that, often times there can be conflict in personalities and what people think are more important to be highlighted. I am always thinking about how we can hold multiple things that feel as if they are in opposition.”
Never one to forget the help she has received on her journey, Jordan praised the elders, mentors and artists who have influenced her artistic development.
They include multidisciplinary artist Amber Williams-King who was a finalist for the Emerging Artist of the Year Award, celebrated dub poet d’bi. young anitafrika who she did a residency with and York University professor Honor Ford-Smith.
“I met Honor when I started my Master’s program and she really saw something in me and encouraged me to think about how I could further some of the ideas I was working on,” said Jordan who also relishes writing and reading. “I have never gone to art school so all of my work is self-taught. She pushed me to experiment. I am taking my first photography class next year as all of my work is photo-based.”
Ford-Smith, who is also a poet and theatre worker, is proud of her protégé.
“It’s great to see Anique’s work bloom,” she noted. “It nurtures our soul.”
Jordan said her mother, aunts and older brother have also positively impacted her life.
“My brother does creative events around the city and just seeing him hustle and grind it out pushes me to strive for excellence,” she added. “My mother and aunts, on the other hand, have been the subject of most of my images. They have learnt what it means to be an artist, they have affirmed the work that I am doing and they do everything to support me which I am extremely thankful for.”
Jordan is working on the manuscript for her first book, ‘Possessed: Black Women, Hauntology and Art as Survival’.
She said the book is based on her Master’s thesis.
“A lot of my work started with the idea of survival,” she said. “I have always thought of survival in a material sense. I did a lot of work in social entrepreneurship, alternative economies and in the ways that we can use what we have to create what we need in a material sense. In spending a lot of time thinking about that, I realized that I am missing the things that we can’t commodify, the things that we can’t see, the survival strategies…That led me to understanding survival as an art form. It’s a creation.
“I think about art as this thing that constantly reminds us to imagine what’s impossible because in exercising that imagination, we create new tools that allow us to survive. It comes to life for me through the procession of carnival as the personification of the ghostly space where anything can happen along the parade route. I think about the energy that comes out of the space of pure imagination where everyone buys into this dream that we have. I think about what that can do for us if we were to use that energy to create new ideas.”
Eight months ago, Jordan was appointed an Art Gallery of Ontario curatorial assistant.
She’s supporting an upcoming exhibition, ‘Every. Now. Then: Reframing Nationhood’, which aims to address the mistakes of the past, rewrite and reclaim history and move into the future with new insight. The multimedia installation, which opens on June 29, features 33 new and recent projects by artists from across Canada.