EXHIBITION: Garden of Broken ShadowsJune 24, 2023 - August 5, 2023
Featuring works by Lamis Haggag, Katherine Melançon, Ahmed Naji, Anahita Norouzi, and El Rass
Curated by 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.
This exhibition was developed through the Ways of Attuning curatorial study group facilitated by WaveForm Collective (Liz Ikiriko and Toleen Touq).
Programs and Events
Artist Talk + Opening Reception: June 23
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).
The Time of Balsams: June 29
6:00 pm: A conversation with artists Lamis Haggag and Marina Fathalla in the 401 Richmond Courtyard.
Artist Talks: July 13
12:30 pm: Virtual talks with exhibition artists Katherine Melançon and Anahita Norouzi.
Afternoon with the Curator: July 29
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: August 1
12:30 pm: A virtual dialogue between Egyptian author, Ahmed Naji, and curator, Fatma Hendawy.
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)
About the Artists
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.Find out more
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.Find out more
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.Find out more
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.Find out more