Adorned with acanthus leaves on one side and Kufic script on the other, a marble stele in the Aga Khan Museum Collection is a testament to artistic ingenuity: its original purpose was architectural decoration for an ancient Roman structure — yet in the 10th century, it was repurposed to mark the grave of a leather merchant. The object bears the inscriptions of different cultures and different times. Its many layers speak to and through each other; its present is the sum of at least two different pasts.
The contemporary artists featured in HERE suggest that Canadian identity, too, is made of many “inscriptions” and embedded stories. Whether Canadian-born or naturalized, permanent residents or ex-pats, these artists carry experiences from multiple geographies and generations, from neighbours old and new. Rich with questions, their works may point to a pathway for both individuals and nations. Building a future means recognizing our complex histories, finding spaces to grow, and allowing conversations to continue.
“A lot of my work is very much about building imaginary museums, to talk about what is not captured, what is lost, what is not represented, what has kind of disappeared in the quicksand of history… I want to encourage the viewer to imagine artifacts from their own lives that could have a place in the museum — but because of various institutional forces, do not ever end up being there.” — Sameer Farooq, visual artist
On July 22, 2017, the Aga Khan Museum premiered the exhibition “HERE: Locating Contemporary Canadian Artists” in celebration of Canada 150. Featuring museum-wide installations, the exhibition highlights the work of 21 artists — Canadian-born and naturalized, permanent and ex-pat — who carry experiences from multiple geographies and generations. Their artworks are rich with questions about Canadian identity — and the meaning of Canadian art.