Crossings: Itineraries of Encounter 3: Unruly Archives

Ali Eyal, Emily Jacir, Walid Raad, Zineb Sedira

January 10–March 6, 2022

Curated by Amin Alsaden


Ali Eyal, 6×9 doesn’t fit everything, 2021. Created for the exhibition Unruly Archives. Courtesy the artist.

This exhibition brings together artists whose works employ archival traces to underscore the global footprint of warfare and organized violence, and speak to dimensions of conflict that are usually overlooked or deliberately suppressed.

The war enterprise, rooted in the history of colonialism, genocide, and slavery, and sustained by extractive capitalism, is a force that has structured and continues to shape much of the world; governments today rely on war as a survival strategy, which produces a vicious cycle that often ravages the non-West, or minority communities in the West. The exhibition calls attention to the fact that this war enterprise rests on the consumption of fossil fuels, which places oil-rich regions at the nexus of global ideological rivalries and fierce competition for resources. Although the Arab world, stretching from South West Asia to North Africa, is commonly reduced in Western media to a volatile zone, warfare in this part of the world tends to encapsulate the imperial dreams of dominant powers and their insatiable appetite for oil (or their desire to quell existential threats, typically in the form of militant Islam). The exhibition confronts the problematic correlation between conflict and the Arab world, underlining international entanglements in the tribulations of this geography, through a history of colonialism as well as ongoing political meddling and recent military interventions.

Directly or implicitly, the participating artists raise polemical questions about the ways in which violence casts dark shadows onto archives, and think—in expansive and speculative ways—about the challenges of remembering a distressing past. They ask, in other words, how history is written, why, and by whom. Indeed, the space of the archive emerges in all the participating works, in various modalities: conventional, institutional, and state archives; personal, private, and community archives; invented, imaginary, and fictional archives; lost, displaced, and pillaged archives; covert, occluded, and non-existent archives; resistant, alternative, and counter archives.

This profusion of archives also begins to indicate the incommensurability between the scale of tragedy experienced in places and communities that have endured conflict, and attempts to account for the deep pain that remains largely obscured—by contemporary media and geopolitics, which habitually conceal international complicity in bringing about these catastrophes.

In their plurality and open-endedness, these are atypical, unruly archives: disruptive, loud, and impossible to contain. The events, narratives, and truths they communicate refuse to be silenced, returning relentlessly to haunt the world, demanding attention and room in our collective consciousness. Demanding justice.

—Amin Alsaden

Visit the Blackwood website for the full curatorial text, contributor biographies, documentation, and resources. Interpretative video tours with Educator-in-Residence Shalon T. Webber-Heffernan, and parallel programs, will be released throughout the series.

Respondent Program and Attunement Session

Across Crossings: Itineraries of Encounter, a Respondent Program and Attunement Session bring artists and interdisciplinary practitioners into dialogue with an image set. The Blackwood is pleased to welcome Dana Olwan, Rasha Salti, Anna Jayne Kimmel, and Rijin Sahakian, who will each write a love letter in response to an image in Unruly Archives.

Visit the Blackwood website for responses and educational resources throughout Crossings: Itineraries of Encounter.

About Crossings: Itineraries of Encounter
A six-part lightbox series

September 13, 2021–August 28, 2022


Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid

Artists: Golnar Adili, Asinnajaq & Camille Georgeson-Usher, Nydia Blas, Widline Cadet, Michèle Pearson Clarke, Jasmine Clarke, Azadeh Elmizadeh, Ali Eyal, Emily Jacir, Jenny Lin, Morris Lum, Sydney Frances Pickering, Walid Raad, Zainab Sidera, Ayesha Singh, and more to be announced.

Curatorial Consortium: Amin Alsaden, Noor Bhangu, Letticia Cosbert Miller, Ronald Rose-Antoinette, Becca Taylor, Ellyn Walker

Educator-in-Residence: Shalon T. Webber-Heffernan

Over the course of spring-summer 2021, a group of independent curators met during a series of working sessions to curate a public lightbox program on the UTM campus for the 2021–2022 academic year. The Curatorial Consortium fosters a unique connective and dialogical space in which to hold commonalities, in an effort to think together through negotiating differences. The resulting program, Crossings: Itineraries of Encounter, responds to this exercise in collaborative composition while honouring the independent thinking that makes group work possible—at a moment when the need to protect independent thought and academic freedom (within and beyond the university) is both palpable and deeply urgent.

For the full curatorial statement, please visit the Blackwood website.

The Blackwood 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.


The Blackwood
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. Crossings: Itineraries of Encounter is FREE and open to the public, and accessible 24 hours a day in four outdoor lightboxes across UTM campus. Some movement throughout the campus is required—ramps and curb cuts are in place.

Please respect social distancing protocols while on campus.

Image descriptions: 1) Hands grasp a photograph revealing only its reverse side. Composed of an inscription and a sketch of a hand, executed in blue ink on white paper, the back of the photograph is held above an arrangement of sketches, colour charts, albums, and hands clasping opened folders. Creased white fabric drapes across the background in behind. 2) An empty lightbox on UTM campus is photographed at dusk. The oversized, horizontal-format lightbox hangs on a concrete wall along a walkway, with a courtyard in the background.