EXHIBITION: Garden of Broken Shadows

June 24, 2023 - August 5, 2023

Artist(s)  Lamis Haggag, Katherine Melançon, Ahmed Naji, Anahita Norouzi, and El Rass
Curator(s) Fatma Hendawy Yehia

Critical Distance is pleased to present Garden of Broken Shadows, curated by Fatma Hendawy Yehia. In a transglobal world, race and class are the basis of any immigration system. The fascination with building a new life elsewhere — thinking about immigration as an investment in the future — has become a condition of our times. While immigration can be perceived as a global commodity, used to improve people’s social status and well-being, the stories and histories held by migrant bodies are often tokenized through a western gaze. This exhibition is inspired by the personal experiences and stories that emerge from the condition of migration. 

The artists in Garden of Broken Shadows define their relationship with their native land and the process of migration that some of them went through, seeking refuge or a better living as immigrants. Through the use of organic material, text, sound, and technology, these artists manifest the ways in which one could survive and adapt within new environments. The exhibition interweaves these practices, producing a temporal space in which visitors can experience the possibilities of being both here and there — in both Canada and the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa) — simultaneously. 

Garden of Broken Shadows is grounded through conversation with author Ahmed Naji, who explains that the migration of Egyptians — from the Gulf area to North America, for example — is a collective act of seeking a better social status or class: a hope that usually dissolves as immigrants face the so-called integration process. Through his seamless Arab rap style, critical lyrics, and provocative music performances, El-Rass connects the vernacular with the philosophical to reflect the suffering of many displaced bodies from the MENA region. Mixing reality with fiction, Lamis Haggag captures the essence of the sorrow lived by immigrants through a story of a jasmine plant that transformed into a monotropa. Anahita Norouzi mutates irises in their form and nature: as they stand in a fragile yet solid state of suspension, we are confronted with the colonial values constantly projected on migrant bodies. Katherine Melançon juxtaposes the precision of digital scanning with the fluidity of plants, which resembles the resilience of migrant bodies, creating an alternative environment where our connections to nature, technology, and time are inextricable from one another

Programs, Events, and Public Art

Artist Talk + Opening Reception 
Friday, June 23rd
6:30 – 9:30 pm: Artist talk with El Rass in the Dark Horse Cafe at 401 Richmond, followed by the exhibition opening reception at CDCC (Suite 122).

Concert: El Rass الراس | Toronto
Saturday, June 24th
7:00 pm: El Rass in concert, co-presented by CDCC and  MARSM Canada at Adelaide Hall.

The Time of Balsams
Thursday, June 29th
6:00 pm: A conversation with artists Lamis Haggag and Marina Fathalla in the 401 Richmond Courtyard.

Artist Talks
Thursday, July 13th
12:30 pm: Virtual talks with exhibition artists Katherine Melançon and Anahita Norouzi.

Afternoon with the Curator
Saturday, July 29th
1:00 – 5:00 pm: Drop by the gallery for casual conversation with exhibition curator Fatma Hendawy Yehia.

Ahmed Naji and Fatma Hendawy in Conversation
Tuesday, August 1st
12:30 pm: A virtual dialogue between Egyptian author, Ahmed Naji, and curator, Fatma Hendawy.

This exhibition was developed through the Ways of Attuning curatorial study group facilitated by WaveForm Collective (Liz Ikiriko and Toleen Touq).

Thank you to our partners and funders

Critical Distance thanks co-presenter MARSM Canada for partnering on the programming for El Rass. Garden of Broken Shadows is made possible through the generous support of the Canada Council for the Arts. Critical Distance gratefully acknowledges funding support from the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.

Katherine Melançon extends thanks to the Canada Council for the Arts, Sophia Borowska, weaver and Pascale Tétrault, electronics.

Image: Anahita Norouzi, Arid Florilegium (detail), 2022, Inkjet prints on archival paper, paper cutouts, plexiglass, 16 x 20 in. Courtesy of the artist.

About the Curator(s)

Fatma Hendawy Yehia

Fatma Hendawy Yehia is an Egyptian-Canadian curator, based in Toronto since 2017. Her curatorial practice focuses on investigating censored archives, questioning inaccessible histories, and navigating militarised spaces.

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About the Artists

Lamis Haggag

Lamis Haggag is an Egyptian multimedia artist, living and working in Toronto since 2016. She received her MFA from The University of Calgary in 2013 and her BFA from Helwan University, Cairo in 2008. She participated in exhibitions and residencies in Toronto (Doris McCarthy AIR program), Montreal ( Artist in residence at Fonderie Darling), Calgary, St. Thomas Ontario, Cairo, Beijing, Dakar, Lagos, Berlin and Incheon.

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Katherine Melançon

Katherine Melançon’s practice is interested in the intersection of the natural and the technological. More recently, she has been exploring non-human beings’ agency; what could become of the world of art, if it was created with non-human people? Often using the starting point of scanography of natural specimens, she plants these new seeds in various materials, exploring images’ fluidity through cycles of metamorphosis between physical and digital soils.

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Anahita Norouzi

Anahita Norouzi is a multidisciplinary artist, originally from Tehran and active in Montreal since 2017. For the past four years, she has been traveling between Iran and Canada to conduct her research which lies at the intersection of colonial histories, experiences of immigration and displacement, and the issue of identity and memory.

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Ahmed Naji

Ahmed Naji is the author of three novels, Rogers (2007), Using Life (2014), And Tigers to my Room (2020), and another non-fiction book (Rotten Evidence: Reading and writing in prison) as well as numerous blogs and other articles. His work has been translated into different languages including English, Italian, Spanish, and others.

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El Rass

Mazen El Sayed (aka El Rass) is a rapper and music producer from Tripoli, Lebanon. His discography includes 8 albums, the most recent is titled “Ard El Khof” , as well as more than 200 singles in collaboration with other music-makers and rappers from the region.

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