Unfortunately, It Was Paradise: Screening and Panel Discussion Series

July 25 and August 1, 2020


Larissa Sansour, still from Nation Estate, 2013. Video, 9:00 minutes. Courtesy of the artist.

Unfortunately, It Was Paradise

Exile is more than a geographical concept. You can be an exile in your homeland, in your own house, in a room.
– Mahmoud Darwish

The current era of imposed isolation has ushered in a seismic disruption to the communal structures of daily life. Freedoms of movement and communal living have been fundamentally redefined in the wake of uncertain futures. New relational topographies of immobility and social distance are now shared globally. To live within the present day requires a conscious consideration of place as co-created with and between others.

Unfortunately, It Was Paradise positions place-making as a radical, collaborative yet unstable process measured against experiences of exile, social upheaval, and political rupture. In The Disquiet (2013), Ali Cherri charts the history of earthquakes and tsunamis along Middle Eastern fault lines intersecting Lebanon as a metaphor that draws parallels to the country’s civil conflicts. Jumana Manna’s A Sketch of Manners (Alfred Roch’s Last Masquerade) (2013) and Farah Saleh’s Cells of Illegal Education (2016) are performative reenactments of Palestinian history, juxtaposing the imbalanced conditions faced by the state before and during the current period of Israeli occupation. Larissa Sansour’s Nation Estate (2013) borrows filmic tropes from sci-fi cinema to proffer a dystopian solution to the question of Palestinian statehood. These works trace elusive narratives of home and belonging grounded in broad questions of freedom and bondage, stasis and movement, and unease and catharsis. Conceived in response to shared experiences of physical distancing, the exhibition maps itself onto the dynamic and shifting nature of place as a landscape impacted by circumstance.

Curators: AXIS (Noor Alé + Claudia Mattos) and Matthew Kyba

Screenings and Panel Discussions:

Saturday, July 25th
11:00 am EST / 9:00 am MDT / 5:00 pm CEST / 7:00 pm GST
Screening of Jumana Manna’s A Sketch of Manners (Alfred Roch’s Last Masquerade), 2013 and Larissa Sansour’s Nation Estate, 2013.
Followed by an artist talk with Jumana Manna, moderated by curators Noor Alé and Claudia Mattos.
RSVP: https://forms.gle/ciSFyPAHd1ngpv1S7

Saturday, August 1st
11:00 am EST / 9:00 am MDT / 5:00 pm CEST / 7:00 pm GST
Screening of Ali Cherri’s The Disquiet, 2013 and Farah Saleh’s Cells of Illegal Education, 2016.
Followed by an artist talk with Ali Cherri and Farah Saleh, moderated by curator Matt Kyba.
RSVP: https://forms.gle/Ye9DEVCJpoJC4Hi4A


Farah Saleh, still from Cells of Illegal Education, 2016. Video, 12 minutes. Courtesy of the artist.

Hosting Institution:
Visual Arts Centre of Clarington, Bowmanville

Institutional Partners:
Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah
Video Pool Media Arts Centre, Winnipeg
Durham Art Gallery, Durham

Artist Biographies:

Ali Cherri’s multidisciplinary practice—which includes installation, video and print—draws parallels between instances of political unrest and geological disasters in his native Lebanon and the surrounding region. His work has been shown at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Para Site, Hong Kong; and Jameel Arts Centre, Dubai. Cherri lives and works between Beirut and Paris.

Jumana Manna is a Palestinian artist whose films and sculptures examine bodily expressions of power in relation to narratives of nationalism and histories of place. Manna has presented her work in exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo; the M HKA-Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp; the SculptureCenter, New York; and the Nordic Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale. Manna lives and works in Berlin.

Palestinian dancer and choreographer Farah Saleh addresses issues of freedom, statelessness and refugeehood in her performances; her practice is informed by Palestinian acts of resistance against Israeli occupation. Saleh has danced at the Ramallah Contemporary Dance Festival, Palestine; Dance International Glasgow; and Veem House for Performance, Amsterdam. Saleh lives and works in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Larissa Sansour is a Palestinian artist whose interdisciplinary lens-based practice draws tropes from popular culture and film to foreground the socio-political complexities of life in Palestine. She has exhibited her work at the Tate Modern, London; the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; and the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Sansour represented Denmark at the 58th Venice Biennale. She lives and works in London.

Curator Biographies:

AXIS, a socially-engaged curatorial collaborative comprised of Noor Alé and Claudia Mattos. In their joint curatorial practice, Alé and Mattos are committed to producing exhibitions, projects, and screenings of contemporary art that respond to the pressing social, cultural, and political conditions of our time.

Noor Alé is Assistant Curator at the MacLaren Art Centre, Barrie. She has contributed to curatorial and public programs at the National Gallery of Canada; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Art Dubai; and the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Claudia Mattos is a curator and writer based in Miami. She has curated exhibitions and contributed to research at The Baltimore Museum of Art; Performa; Locust Projects; and the art gallery David Castillo, among others.

Matthew Kyba is an independent curator and writer. His curatorial projects question and critique the systematic oppression of historically marginalized people within cultural institutions, fueled by ongoing site-specific research. Currently, he is working on projects that reflect on under-represented and marginalized voices, examining modes of oppression, and agency reclamation.

He is currently the Curator of The Visual Arts Centre of Clarington and Founder/Co-Director of Bunker 2 in Toronto, ON. His recent exhibitions include To Play in the Face of Certain Defeat at Museum London and Reading Silences at Forest City Gallery. His writing has appeared in Canadian Art, YYZ, Magenta Magazine, and the Journal of Curatorial Studies.

Media contact: Áine Belton, Marketing Coordinator
Email: communications@vac.ca Phone: (905)-623-5831 ext. 1
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