Jimmy Manning Floe / Flow

Devonian Square ⁠ accessible_forward
Gould St and Victoria St
May 15–Sep 30
    Jimmy Manning, Icebergs, August, 2012, Courtesy of the Artist

This site-specific installation by Kinngait-based Inuk artist Jimmy Manning elicits a sense of awe and of deep time, while ringing the global alarm. Conveying a palpable tension, his delicate and haunting photographs of Arctic icebergs fuse with the ancient Precambrian stones in Devonian Pond to generate a new space—a composite landscape reminding viewers of the natural world’s power and beauty, while warning of things to come.

The planet has been catalogued and categorized by humanity for centuries, but the sovereignty of the vast, wild Arctic has remained relatively untouched, until recently. When one is face-to-face with a frozen monolith it’s easy to understand why the Arctic is still a kind of modern frontier. Manning has always loved watching icebergs. For over forty years he has photographed the people, wildlife, and world around him, and he still takes pleasure in observing icebergs when he’s out hunting or travelling by boat in the summer. He considers them to be natural sculptures—they come in so many shapes and sizes and the grooves carved by melting streams of ancient ice create crevasses and shadows that capture the light in alluring and surprising ways. While they are an elemental inspiration to many photographers, icebergs are also a litmus test for our rapidly heating planet.

Manning’s digital photographs, adhered to the huge boulders in Devonian Pond, are striking reminders of the melting ice caps. Located at the centre of the Ryerson University campus within an artificially-made pond, the imagery is particularly poignant as the heat rises during the city’s spring and summer months, standing as a powerful testament to the urgent climate crisis. The placement of the photographs on two-billion-year-old boulders imported from the Canadian Shield adds depth to the urgency of this plight—what took billions of years to form through natural processes has been undone in decades, through exponentially increasing human activity. An existing rift that severs one of the boulders from top to bottom evokes the calving of icebergs from the glacial sheets of the polar regions. 

Manning is a deeply community-oriented person—his work over the last forty years is a visual history of his people, ranging from portraiture to nature photography. Although this installation doesn’t directly depict the human implications of changes to the weather, land, and sea, Manning’s home of Kinngait, Nunavut is one of the places where people are experiencing drastic climate change first-hand. With his large-scale artwork prominently situated in the core of the city, Manning brings the awe and power of the Arctic ice and snow to audiences in southern Canada.

Inuit, who have always taught and learned by observation and example, maintain a keen awareness of the world around them. This highly-developed sense of the land and water lends itself to a life of making striking and emotionally-laden art. Manning’s eye for light and composition, as well as his intimate knowledge of Arctic conditions, bring the natural frozen masses to life in a city of stone and metal.

Essay by Napatsi Folger

Curated by Bonnie Rubenstein

Presented by CONTACT in partnership with Ryerson University and the Ryerson Image Centre. Part of ArtworxTO: Toronto's Year of Public Art 2021–2022

Jimmy Manning (b. Kimmirut (Lake Harbour), NU, 1951) is a self-taught photographer based in Kinngait (Cape Dorset). Manning’s primary medium is photography, but he also makes drawings, prints and carvings. He is grandson to photographer Peter Pitseolak, his earliest inspiration. Manning’s work explores day-to-day life in his community, creatively documenting landscapes and gatherings of family and friends. He strives to capture scenes and emotions that reflect how Inuit culture actively thrives and changes. Manning was formerly a member of the Inuit Art Foundation Board of Directors, and his photographs are included in the collections of the Canadian Museum of History, Gatineau, QC, and the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal, Montréal, QC.