Lines of Difference at La Maison des artists visuels francophones, Winnipeg

Has the word “solidarity” become more popular over the last few years because of the #metoo movement, women’s marches, labour movements, organized demonstrations against police violence, Indigenous rights protests, etc.? Or is this just a misapprehension and, in fact, we continue to live in a divided, everyone-for-themselves world? Having solidarity is not a passive activity to try on. You are not in one day and out the next. It requires a sustained exercise in empathizing to stand together through successes and failures.

Hassaan Ashraf, “!سَمَجھ ہَر اِک رَاز کو مَگَر فَریب کھَائے جَا”, text-based installation, 2019 (photo: Sarah Lamontagne)

When it comes of Lines of Difference, maneuvering past a world full of silly prejudices becomes a community-minded way of being. Curated by Noor Bhangu and hosted at La Maison des artistes visuels francophones, the show features four artists and collaborators framed within the context of Islamic Art – a designation that can be reductive just as easily as it can result in unforeseen possibilities. Luckily, the exhibition leans to the latter and inclines towards freer directions. It contemplates an alternate imaginary to the West’s exaggerated anxiety about Islamic bodies and communities. The artists are united here not because they all have ties to a shared discursive community, but because of their complex individual vantage points.

The contributing artists – Rah Eleh, Zahra Baseri, Hassaan Ashraf, Hazim Ismail, and collaboration between Omar Elhamy and Philippe Leonard – reflect the ever-evolving lived conditions of a diasporic community. Their diverging voices are transmitted both plainly and through the defiance of obfuscation. The artists here seem to know intimately the impossibility of preserving felt meaning through the act of translating experience. For Ashraf and Ismail, translating their (Urdu and Jawi respectively) text-based poetic works is not even an option. They purposefully keep non-speakers of their language out. This ends up a means of gazing inward with a desire to form community outside the shadow of an Anglo/Franco backdrop. This same shadow hovers over Eleh’s glossy character play: a disaffected hint at the sad and violent social conditions linked to the whitewashing of the Aryan race of Iran.

Omar Elhamy and Philippe Leonard, Noah, 2019, video installation (photo: Sarah Lamontagne)

Instead of falling into the trap of cultural tour guide, each artist offers a welcome sidestep. It is a testimony to the metamorphosis of experience that Bhangu aspires to achieve. The context structured here rejects a bird’s eye view of linear autobiography and instead emphasizes an affirmation of shared history. Lines of Difference keeps empathy on its mind and asks for a willingness to see oneself in another’s image. To give another thought to who we see as the other.

Lines of Difference continues until May 25.
La Maison des artistes visuels francophones:
The gallery is accessible.

Luther Konadu makes things such as photographs, paintings, and prints which he occasionally calls art. He self-describes as a transcriber. He contributes content to a publication called Public Parking. Most days his favourite colour is green and one of his goals in life is to never be an art brat. He is Akimblog’s Winnipeg correspondent and can be followed on Instagram @public_parking.