This exhibition is presented as part of Tending Land, a program marking the 40th anniversary of the Digital Arts Resource Centre (DARC), and bringing together several artists from around the world, whose works relate narratives about the ways in which land may be perceived, connected with, and cared for. The program honours the fact that questions concerning land and sovereignty are of particular significance in Canada, where traditional territories have been expropriated by the settler-colonial state, and historic treaties around Indigenous Peoples’ land rights were often reneged upon. The exhibition also draws links to the centrality of land in the struggles of many communities around the world, especially the global majority who have experienced colonialism in various guises, and who continue to endure its troubling aftermath today.
Behind the Sun* recalls one of the worst human-induced environmental disasters in recent history, when retreating Iraqi forces set ablaze Kuwaiti oil fields during the Gulf War. In this work, Monira Al Qadiri raises questions about humanity’s detrimental impact on land, whether through extractive capitalism, organized violence and endless conflict over resources, or deliberate acts of ecological sabotage. Found footage of the catastrophe is juxtaposed against contemporaneous poetry recitations broadcast by Kuwait Television. The visuals document a long drive under ominous dark clouds, which had turned day into night, to arrive at a horrifying spectacle, where everything seems to be burning indiscriminately, including the soil, trees, and even the air. Meanwhile, the voiceover recites poems praising the divine sense of order, presumably witnessed in the harmony of the world—a world which has clearly been turned upside down in the imagery of an inferno. The orator also evokes the cosmic balance, evinced by the earth’s relationship to the sun and other stars, and yet ironically, the artist shows how the sky is occluded behind raging flames and enormous smoke plumes. The work’s continued relevance is tragically evident, with frequent environmental disasters, and humanity’s exploitative relationship with the land, warning of an impending end to life as we know it.
Tending Land is curated by Amin Alsaden.
Monira Al Qadiri (b. 1983) is a Kuwaiti visual artist born in Senegal and educated in Japan. In 2010, she received a Ph.D. in inter-media art from Tokyo University of the Arts, where her research was focused on the aesthetics of sadness in the Middle East stemming from poetry, music, art and religious practices. Her work explores unconventional gender identities, petro-cultures and their possible futures, as well as the legacies of corruption. She is currently based in Berlin.
* Monira Al Qadiri, Behind the Sun, 2013. Single channel video, color, sound, 10:00 mins. Arabic with English subtitles.
Commissioned by: Beirut Art Center, Beirut, Lebanon (2013)
Concept, direction and editing: Monira Al Qadiri
Filmography: Adil Al Yousifi (1991)
Sound: Kuwait Television archives
Sound design: Fadi Tabbal