Soheila Esfahani: Been T[here]


Study for There, Digital file, 2022

Been T[here]
Soheila Esfahani

March 16, 2022 – April 2, 2022

The Red Head Gallery is pleased to present Been T[here] an exhibition of new work by artist Soheila Esfahani.

Esfahani’s art practice explores the terrains of cultural translation and questions displacement, dissemination, and reinsertion of culture by re-contextualizing culturally specific ornamentation and various collected souvenir type objects.

Been T[here] investigates stereotype as otherness and explores process of ambivalence central to stereotype within post-colonial discourse. This body of work responds to Homi Bhabha’s notion of stereotype as “a form of knowledge and identification that vacillates between what is always ‘in place’, already known, and something that must be anxiously repeated … For it is the force of ambivalence that gives the colonial stereotype its currency: ensures its repeatability in changing historical and discursive conjunctures; informs its strategies of individuation and marginalization; produces the effect of probabilistic truth and predictability which, for the stereotype, must always be in excess of what can be empirically proved or logically constructed.” (Bhabha, 18)

Been T[here] is inspired by a souvenir collection by Starbucks that Esfahani encountered during her travels in Canada. “Been There Series: This exclusive series lets you collect the places you love, with designs inspired by your hometown and destinations across the globe” reads the label next to souvenir coffee mugs at the Starbucks. Through creating souvenir type objects, Esfahani uses the language of stereotype in order to destabilize the subjectification and cultural identification that occurs through stereotypical discourse.

Bhabha, Homi K. “The Other Question.” Screen (London), vol. 24, no. 6, Oxford University Press, 1983, pp. 18–36,


Soheila Esfahani grew up in Tehran, Iran, and moved to Canada in 1992. She received her Master of Fine Arts from the University of Western Ontario and her BA in Fine Arts from the University of Waterloo. She is an award-winning visual artist and recipient of numerous grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Region of Waterloo Arts Fund. She is a recipient of 2016 Waterloo Region Arts Awards and was nominated for the Jameel Prize at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, UK in 2015. Her work has been exhibited across Canada from Vancouver to Halifax and collected by various public and private institutions, including the Canada Council’s Art Bank. Currently, she is an Assistant Professor at Western University and is a member of the Red Head Gallery in Toronto.

Soheila Esfahani would like to acknowledge the generous support of the Ontario Arts Council.


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