PUBLIC ART: Billboard on Shaw by Zinnia Naqvi

August 18, 2020 - September 29, 2020

The Border Guards Were Friendly is part of a larger body of work that brings together Zinnia Naqvi’s family photos with assemblages of books, games, and VHS tapes. Documenting a 1988 holiday across various tourist sites in Ontario, the images were taken as a reconnaissance mission of sorts, marking the family’s decision to immigrate to Canada from Karachi, Pakistan. The mixture of personal snapshots—featuring places like the CN Tower and the Cullen Gardens & Miniature Village—with Naqvi’s deliberate object choices makes visible the tensions between Canada’s mythmaking of multiculturalism and the nation’s persistent legacies of colonialism and injustice. In this particular image, Naqvi extends the project to consider the realities and failings of Canadian citizenship. Referencing surveillance culture and systems of public scrutiny, this work is an apt reminder that violent systems of policing are intrinsic to the maintenance of citizenship within a nation state. Who does—and who does not—have the right to move and subsist freely?

This Shaw Street Billboard project is co-presented in partnership with Gallery TPW in the context of their ongoing project MOVEMENTS, an online and site-specific program that reflects on both the intimate scale of the body as it shifts through time and space, and organized actions that provoke vital, unsettling change.

The Border Guards Were Friendly is on view at 180 Shaw Street, outside Artscape Youngplace, through August to September, 2020.

Image: Zinnia Naqvi, The Border Guards Were Friendly, 2020. 8 x 8 foot billboard at 180 Shaw Street in Toronto’s West Queen West neighbourhood. 

About the Curator(s)

Noa Bronstein

Noa Bronstein is a curator and writer based in Toronto. Her practice is most often focused on considering issues around place and space-making and thinking through how artists disrupt and subvert systems including those registering across social, political and economic structures.

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About the Artists

Zinnia Naqvi

Zinnia Naqvi is an interdisciplinary artist based in Tiohtià:ke/Montreal and Tkaronto/Toronto. Her work examines issues of colonialism, cultural translation, language, and gender through the use of photography, video, writing, and archival material.

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