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Unfortunately, it was paradise

July 2020

Visual Arts Centre of Clarington, Bowmanville, in partnership with the Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah; Video Pool Media Arts Centre, Calgary; and the Durham Art Gallery, Durham. 


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.

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