Burning Glass, Reading Stone 7: Migratory Passages


Yassine Rachidi, Theme for the Cross, 2019. Courtesy the artist.

Burning Glass, Reading Stone 7: Migratory Passages
Jumana Emil Abboud, Sasha Davai, Forensic Oceanography, Yassine Rachidi

April 26–May 23, 2021

Migratory Passages confronts the politics of sea space and migration, figuring water as both a lifeline and a dangerous or unknowable threat. The series brings together artists and collectives to address the oppressive restrictions around maritime migration; the policing and “illegalizing” of migrants and refugees; the ambiguous territorialization of oceanographic space; the risks associated with irregular border crossing; the personification and mythologization of water sources and bodies; and the spectropolitics surrounding the history and legacy of colonialism across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

Popular news coverage of the migrant crisis is oversaturated with images of migrants and refugees in precarious conditions. The images in Migratory Passages intentionally reject the dehumanizing depiction and commodification of pain and trauma, privileging melancholic ruminations, diagrammatic reconstructions, and folkloric allusions over explicit, brutal imagery. In so doing, they invite us to critique and challenge the violently differential logic of necropolitics, underpinned by capitalism and fueled by mainstream media. Through biographical, narrative, cartographic, and imagistic strategies of representation, Migratory Passages aims to generate more responsible and thoughtful discourse around crises of borders and nationalisms in the postcolonial theatre of MENA, harkening back to water as a transformative entity and risky passageway.

Visit the Blackwood Gallery website for documentation, an interpretative video tour with Educator-in-Residence Laura Tibi, a response by a Reader-in-Residence, and more to be released throughout the series.

Reader-in-Residence Program

Across the eight-part lightbox series Burning Glass, Reading Stone, the Blackwood Gallery activates a Reader-in-Residence program that brings readers into dialogue with each image set. This month, the Blackwood is pleased to welcome writer and curator Omar Berrada into dialogue with Migratory Passages.

Adapting the familiar artist’s residency format to one that focuses on practices of reading— reading an exhibition, reading a text, reading as interpretation—each Reader-in-Residence will respond to a series of works presented in the Blackwood’s lightboxes. For each four-week image set, a Reader responds to the series in the form of a reading, set of images, performance-for-the-camera, score, or other experimental interpretative form (distributed via the Blackwood’s website). Bridging local and international respondents, including artists, poets, humanities scholars, and scientists, the Reader-in-Residence program creates a network of sustained engagement with Burning Glass, Reading Stone, and encourages the development of new dialogic and interpretive possibilities in a time of quarantine.

About Burning Glass, Reading Stone

Part of an eight-part lightbox series
Collectively curated by current and recent Blackwood Gallery staff
September 8, 2020–June 27, 2021


Oscar SantillĂĄn, process image of lens from Solaris, 2017.

Activating four outdoor lightboxes in public space on the University of Toronto Mississauga campus throughout the 2020-2021 academic year, Burning Glass, Reading Stone explores the conditions, technologies, and spaces of spectatorship that mediate our engagements with the world—physical and virtual. The lightbox program features eight sets of images: each provides a distinct testimony borne of a particular mode of observation or narration.

Distributed across a University campus still navigating social distancing protections necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the lightbox series responds to COVID-19 as a rupture that brings both public space and digital media under examination. What habits of looking has social distancing concretized? What wakefulness to the already existing inequities and gaps produced in our mediated environment is required? What responsibilities do images ask of us? What responsibilities do they occlude? How can various regimes of looking (scientific, testimonial, documentary, intimate, science-fictional) refocus collective attention?

The Blackwood Gallery gratefully acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, and the University of Toronto Mississauga. We would also like to acknowledge the support of the University of Toronto affinity partners: Manulife, MBNA, and TD Insurance. Lightbox infrastructure is supported by the UTM50 Anniversary Fund, established to showcase the innovative, collaborative spirit of UTM.


Blackwood Gallery
University of Toronto Mississauga
3359 Mississauga Rd.
Mississauga, ON L5L 1C6

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Please note: The Blackwood’s gallery spaces are currently closed to the public. Burning Glass, Reading Stone is FREE and open to the public, and accessible 24 hours a day in four outdoor lightboxes across the University of Toronto Mississauga Campus. Some movement throughout the campus is required—ramps and curb cuts are in place across the University premises.

Please respect social distancing protocols while on campus.

Image descriptions:
1) A superimposed image shows the back of a Tunisian man, Mohsen Lihidheb (Momo) layered with a body of water off the coast of Zarzis in the southeast of Tunisia; a paddle boat is in the choppy waters, blurred and overlapping with the image of the man; remnants of an analogue filmstrip appear on the left and bottom edges of the image.
2) A circular image appears in the middle of a black background. In it, an out-of-focus desert scene appears upside-down. The handmade quality of the lens producing this image is readily visible, with many streaks and imperfections on its surface.