Terra Forme – Geomorphology, Deep Time, and Indigenous Beliefs

Curated by Dr. Kōan Jeff Baysa

Featured Artists: Halldór Ásgeirsson, Heimir Björgúlfsson, Solomon Enos, Leslie Gleim, Hamilton Kobayashi, Mucyo, Michelle Schwengel-Regala, Arngunnur Ýr. Dedicated to the memories of Hawai’i painter Hamilton Kobayashi and French geologist Jean Francheteau. Exhibition Venue: East Hawai’i Cultural Center, Hilo, Hawai’i Island, Hawai’i, USA. https://ehcc.org/content/terra-forme

Installations by Mucyo (Rwanda) and Ásgeirsson (Iceland) using lava sourced from their respective countries. In Hawai’i, lava is considered sacred property of the volcano goddess Pele, who delivers swift retribution to those who dare to remove pieces from Hawai'i
Installations by Mucyo (Rwanda) and Ásgeirsson (Iceland) using lava sourced from their respective countries. In Hawai’i, lava is considered sacred property of the volcano goddess Pele, who delivers swift retribution to those who dare to remove pieces from Hawai’i

Terra Forme regards the Earth as a vast, diverse, and dynamically evolving entity. Adapted from the science fiction term: terraforming, the exhibition title describes the long-term transformation of an alien environment to support human life. Kīlauea volcano has added nearly 900 acres of new landmass to Hawai’i Island, but it is only in deep time, geologic time of 25,000 years, that the area will develop into a full and viable ecosystem.

In 2021, the curator flew to view dramatic volcanic eruptions in two disparate global locations: Fagradalsfjall on the Reykjanes Peninsula of Iceland and Kīlauea, the youngest and most active Hawaiian shield volcano located on Hawai’i Island, the largest in the island chain. He was further fascinated by volcanoes that lay beneath different forms of water: Öræfajökull in Iceland threatening massive floods and widespread destruction when its superheated magma violently meets its glacier cap; and the rising seamount, Kamaʻehuakanaloa, that is predicted to break the ocean surface in a conservative estimate of 50,000 more years to become Hawaii’s youngest island. 

Foreground: Schwengel-Regala (Hawai'i); Background: Mucyo (Rwanda)
Foreground: Schwengel-Regala (Hawai’i); Background: Mucyo (Rwanda)

A gathering of volcano-inspired artworks by artists from Iceland, Hawai’i, and Africa, Terra Forme embraces concepts of geomorphology, deep time, and indigenous beliefs. The paintings by Honolulu-based Hamilton Kobayashi capture the fiery energy and palpable heat of Kilauea’s eruptions. The spectacularly detailed photographic images by Honolulu-based photographer Leslie Gleim taken from a helicopter flying over active lava flows contrast with those of older lava fields rejuvenated by new growths of ferns and ‘ohi’a lehua trees. The paintings by LA-based Icelandic artist Heimir Björgúlfsson portray resilient winged inhabitants that return to and adapt to the new environs of   Kilauea’s post-eruption caldera: a koa’e kea (white-tailed tropicbird), pueo (owl), and pulelehua (Kamehameha butterfly). 

The concept of new land through terraforming is taken to fantastical heights with the work of Honolulu-based native Hawaiian Solomon Enos and Icelandic artist Arngunnur Ýr. Enos presents a strikingly different vision of new landscapes with flying islands suspended aloft and trailing clouds. Ýr’s triptychs, each linked by a continuous horizon line, are unified panoramic combinations of geographically disparate locations in Iceland, Oregon, and Hawai’i where she has visited or resided.

L to R: Bjorgulfsson (Los Angeles), Yr (Iceland), Mucyo (Rwanda), Gleim (Hawai'i)
L to R: Bjorgulfsson (Los Angeles), Ýr (Iceland), Mucyo (Rwanda), Gleim (Hawai’i)

A lava lake is a rare characteristic of volcanoes and three artists including Hamilton Kobayashi depict it in their artworks. The Rwanda-based artist Mucyo presents a bleach process painting referencing the world’s largest permanent lava lake: Mount Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo near its border with Rwanda. The lava lake in the inner summit crater of Mount Erebus, the highest active volcano in Antarctica, has been present for the last fifty years. Based on her visit there, Honolulu-based artist Michelle Schwengel-Regala created a twisted sculptural abstraction made of multihued anodized aluminum evoking a crater and its rim above which are suspended dangerous lava bombs of the same material that are in real life violently ejected by volcanic eruptions. Iceland-based Halldor Ásgeirsson also presents abstracted works with an entire wall mounted with small colored works on paper that represent elves freed from the lava stones that held them captive until released by a torch wielded by the artist.

Images: Solomon Enos (Hawai'i)
Images: Solomon Enos (Hawai’i)

Volcanic activities act as potent agents of change not only of topography, but they shape thinking as well. Eruptions have often been interpreted by indigenous communities as the results of godly displeasures. In two separate paintings, the artist Mucyo depicts the Congo-Rwanda sibling volcano goddesses Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira from Africa’s Rift Valley. Eruptions occur when the younger sister Nyamuragira attempts to assuage her older sibling’s discontent. A world away, the artist Enos offers a monochromatic fractionated figure that incorporates the Polynesian volcano goddess Pele (Pere in Tahiti) whose vigorous arguments with her sister Nāmakaokaha’i, a powerful ocean deity, are manifested through active lava flows.

Images: Gleim (Hawai'i), Kobayashi (Hawai'i), Mucyo (Rwanda), Enos (Hawai'i)
Images: Gleim (Hawai’i), Kobayashi (Hawai’i), Mucyo (Rwanda), Enos (Hawai’i)

Both installations by Ásgeirsson and Mucyo incorporate volcanic material sourced from their countries, Iceland and Rwanda respectively. Ásgeirsson arranges volcanic glass droplets in a widening spiral that originates with a large lava piece brought from a recent Icelandic eruption. Mucyo’s installation begins with a wall-mounted painting of Nyiragongo that flows onto the floor with scattered pieces of Rwandan mica and feathering trails of black sand. Accompanying this is a live recording of female elders recounting volcano mythologies in Lingala, their native tongue.

The works created by the artists of Terra Forme help us to appreciate powerful natural phenomena that fall outside the boundaries of human lifetimes, experiences, and beliefs, prompting us to reflect about time on this planet, its care, and our place in the cosmos.

K8N Collective and the Geography of Scale

by Steve Rockwell

K8N Collective installation view
K8N Collective installation view at Gallery 1313, Toronto

The use of planes, trains, and automobiles are required to get to the place where this article might take us. The cultural product being shipped has triangulation points between New York, Toronto, and the town of Belleville, Ontario. Its cargo designation comes under late minimalism, set in motion here by the Bellville artist collective K8N, and arriving at their Gallery 1313 exhibition in Toronto last November, in all likelihood by automobile. Belleville exhibitors Steve Armstrong and Elizabeth Fearon were were joined by the third K8N member Toronto artist Rupen, to produce a thoughtful, cohesive show.

The divergent aesthetic concerns of Armstrong and Rupen, displayed on the walls of the gallery, knit nicely together into a “body of work” helped by Fearon’s six stone sculptures on plinths, which cleaved the show space like the vertebrae of a spinal column. A self-evident human scale gave primacy to the hand of the artist, the burden of meaning falling on the materials employed and their craft.

Richard Serra, Tilted Spheres, 2004, steel, 4.35 x 13.86 12.11 meters overall. Courtest Richard Serra and Pearson International Airport
Richard Serra, Tilted Spheres, 2004, steel, 4.35 x 13.86 12.11 meters overall. Courtesy of Richard Serra and Toronto Pearson International Airport

Some time after beginning my deliberations on the K8N exhibition, I boarded a jet for a winter holiday. To get to the gate at Toronto Pearson International Airport required me (or rather I chose) to walk through Richard Serra’s “Tilted Spheres.” Having previously looked “at” a work of art, I was compelled here to reconcile being a observer “within” a work. Serra’s massive steel forms were carted from New York, where Richard Serra is based. Toronto has a large art scene by Canadian standards, but New York’s is large globally. By this token, Belleville has no art scene to speak of. My own journey in art matches this hop from small to large, with the international ethos a shifting point of reference.

Rupen, Rebounding Energy, 2020, architectural paint on primed MDF, 45” X 45’
Rupen, Rebounding Energy, 2020, architectural paint on primed MDF, 45” X 45’

This fabric of geographic connectivity is the soil out of which much of the art which is presented to us grows. In 2004 Rupen exhibited a series of wall works in wood, beige panels with networks of red lines inspired by railway tracks leading in and out of “the great art cities,” such as New York and Paris. My first exposure to the K8N collective was at Rupen’s show space and home in the Junction district of Toronto in 2019, very nearly where its four lines of track intersect. The K8N name itself is the postal code designation for Belleville. The environment and how the body situates itself within it, has a part in the making of Rupen’s art, who employs a process of distillation that includes a subtle playback loop with each creative adjustment. Rupen views the body as the recipient of life-affirming energy, that is released in the making of each work.

Elizabeth Fearon, Untitled 1, alabaster, 8” x 6 ¼”v x 6 ¼”
Elizabeth Fearon, Untitled 1, alabaster, 8” x 6 ¼”v x 6 ¼”

Fearon’s 1997-03 photo-booth work explored the movement of face and body, having led the artist to considerations of the framed capture of an individual in “official” uses such as passport photos and other licensing protocols. Isolated frame demarcations that form grids apply not only to our immediate urban environment but engulfs the entire globe ultimately. Information networks structure the flow our personal data electronically much the same as air, sea, and land transport does physical counterparts, both synched to their respective red and green lights. These considerations situate the patiently filed facets of Fearon’s stone sculptures within a dynamically alive environment, while the objects themselves evoke a stillness. Each surface performs a sublimation, condensing and purifying all that it absorbs as the work progresses.

Steve Armstrong, untitled, acrylic on plywood, 13.5″ x 15.5″

Surface ambiguity has been an abiding interest to Armstrong, much of his work designed to read as second and third dimensions simultaneously. This playfulness is welcomed in art, but not so much on subway platforms, elevator shafts, and edges of cliffs. Getting the gestalt of what we see around us is obviously important to our survival. Distinguishing the illusionary in our art may serve as helpful training wheels for the real world. We also accept Armstrong’s sly sophistry that drilling a hole in an object doesn’t yield an interior, only more surface. Worms, on the other hand, understand that boring through the skin of an apple doesn’t yield yet more skin, but pulp, something materially different from the apple’s surface. This focus of Armstrong’s art on the nuances of visual perception and the language that we employ to describe it, packs our daily “spectacles” into the retinal arena of our eye – a kind of microscopic Roman coliseum.

The funnel of all fabrication from the hand-manipulated to the mandibles of an industrial-sized forge, channel our compressed experiences through the wires of a common neural network. Viewer and artist tap into the same channels. The twelve meter steel walls of Serra’s “Tilted Spheres” at Pearson Airport close in over heads, and we experience its potential crush in our gut. It makes palpable the cabin pressure in the hull of the jet that we don’t feel, but know is there. The congestion of an urban grid, and its electronic counterpart carries its own crush, which Feoron somehow eases with the honing of her alabaster facets. The filing of the stone subtracts to reveal its material beauty. In the ordering and reordering of the folding ribbon of planes in his “Rebounding Energy” Rupen plays the scales of line and plane to elicit “sound” from a mute form. The fundamental question that Armstrong raises is, “What can I come to know about the object that I see, if what I sense from it is a contradiction?” Whatever the scale and scope of the object in our vista, the neural bandwidth that equips us all is essentially the same.

A Matter of Perspective

by Steve Rockwell

A Matter of Perspective exhibition installation view
A Matter of Perspective exhibition installation view

A way to describe the exhibition of work at the Lonsdale Gallery in Toronto featuring Andrew Ooi and Tyler Matheson might be a study in two-point perspective. The viewer will tend to structure the gallery’s “A matter of Perspective” show around a common focal point. If Matheson speaks to the individual and their private journey of discovery, then Ooi addresses society in a holistic sense. Nevertheless, both artists in their own way arrive at a cosmology. 

Tyler Matheson, Oblivion 8, 2022, mixed media on canvas,, 12 x 10 inches. Image courtesy of Matthew Zse
Tyler Matheson, Oblivion 8, 2022, mixed media on canvas,, 12 x 10 inches. Image courtesy of Matthew Zse

The “Oblivion” half of Matheson’s contribution grapples with image and identity of the self in a game of hide-and-seek. There is a sense that the thickly troweled grout elements are engaged in a chase with the reflective looking glass portions of the canvas, motivated somehow by a wish to bury any fugitive reflection, thereby extinguishing or annihilating them. These iridescent islands themselves are effectively a pulverization of the familiar seven colours of the rainbow. Is it this threat of entombment to which the “Oblivion” titles refer?

The tiling grout in Matheson’s “Parallax” series is devoid of reflective properties, but possesses an iridescence that appears to have transitioned or migrated from the “Oblivion” works. The formerly lifeless grey concrete breathes iridescence, a beneficiary of the now departed reflected self. I read this dynamic of pitching one medium against another as a measured psycho drama, not different in kind to the musings of Shakespeare’s Hamlet in the soliloquy, “To be, or not to be,” apprehensive as the prince was about “the sleep of death” and “what dreams may come” in its wake.

Left: Tyler Matheson, Oblivion 8, 2022, mixed media on canvas,, 12 x 10 inches. Right: Tyler Matheson, Parallax (Red, Blue, Geen), 2020, tiling grout and spray paint on board, 12 x 10 inches
Left: Tyler Matheson, Oblivion 8, 2022, mixed media on canvas,, 12 x 10 inches. Right: Tyler Matheson, Parallax (Red, Blue, Geen), 2020, tiling grout and spray paint on board, 12 x 10 inches

Playing one line of sight against another is the optical law described by “parallax,” the everyday feature of vision that allows for depth-perception. Astronomers use its principles to measure relative distances between planets and stars. “Parallax” brings us to the doorstep of cosmology, the signifier through which our convergent lines of perspective must necessarily pass. Grinding out the etymological derivatives of cosmology furnishes us with enough links to deliver the universe and its order down to the level of the individual self with the words: cosmic, cosmos, cosmopolitan, and cosmetics.

Left: Andrew Ooi, Scale Study, 2022, ink, paper, cord, 15.75 x 15.75 x 2.5 inches. Right: Andrew Ooi, Scale 1, 2022, ink, paper, cord, 21 x 21 x 2 inches

Ooi’s meticulously obsessive art is a blueprint for something much larger than the less than two by two-foot paper constructions in the “A  Matter of Perspective” exhibition. The artist introduces the notion of scale with his titles without delivering their literal specifications as architects might do in their plans. Each Gampi paper cube, one of 49 in “Scale 2” for instance, is a unit of time and space within which the artist has, in some respects, inhabited quite literally. “Scale 2” is a compressed set of ordered forms that viewers may magnify to an indeterminate size through their imagination, much like the film projection to a screen of a film strip.

Andrew Ooi, Scale 1, 2022, ink, paper, cord, 21 x 21 x 2 inches (unframed). Image courtesy of Matthew Zse
Andrew Ooi, Scale 1, 2022, ink, paper, cord, 21 x 21 x 2 inches (unframed). Image courtesy of Matthew Zse

Similarly, the seven by seven cube composition stands in for the 49 days that a wall calendar of seven weeks might represent – a way of storing time spent, and now made visible in the intricacy of its fabrication. As Gampi paper is used in paper screens, windows, and lanterns, its particular sheen and lustre, the 49 cubes serve to sift and reflect their light energy, the ambient illumination displaying the inherent beauty of a Japanese paper perfected over the centuries. 

It is in the making of Ooi’s “Scale” series of art that the finer tissues of meaning are revealed. Ooi’s “anthropology” is holistic in the purest sense – the parts of a whole are intimately interconnected, to the extent that the cubes of its composition are knotted together with cords. In that respect each “Scale” work is a living skeleton held back from potential fragmentation by its sinews, no single cube being independent from the next. This perspective applies broadly to the human condition in that the individual within society interpenetrate their environment, each playing an essential role towards a harmony within the whole. Whether we like or not, each of us are mountaineers roped together.  

Matheson and Ooi, as it might be said of artists generally, address life energy, and how we choose to expend it. Steppenwolf in their “Born to Be Wild” song saw it as “Fire all your guns at once and explode into space.” The boosters of many of our life rockets may already have been spent. As capsules begin their descent, as it did at the launch, their countdown is meted out in seconds. Light years may, of course, separate the landing at a point, somewhere between Oblivion and Kingdom Come.

A Matter of Perspective continues through August 13, 2022. Lonsdale Gallery, 410 Spadina Road, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5P 2W2. info@lonsdalegallery.com www.lonsdalegallery.com

Hyperphantasia @ Artego

by D. Dominick Lombardi

YoAhn Han, Merman’s Dream (2022), acryla gouache, watercolor, yupo paper collage and resin on panel (all images courtesy of the artist)
YoAhn Han, Merman’s Dream (2022), acryla gouache, watercolor, yupo paper collage and resin on panel (all images courtesy of the artist)

The exhibition title, Hyperphantasia, refers to the capability of experiencing vivid mental pictures. Opening on September 1st at Artego gallery in Queens, NY, artists YoAhn Han and D. Dominick Lombardi will present works that feature some of those visual flashes that often occur during the creative process, where subconscious elements can end up on a painting, drawing or sculpture. YoAhn Han has many sources of imagery, most notably his fluctuating health issues, homosexuality compared with his strict Catholic upbringing, and the fact that he has roots in two very different cultures: South Korea and the US. For most of D. Dominick Lombardi’s career, he has relied on the collective unconscious for guidance and inspiration, resulting in loosely wound drawings, various responses to materials and colors, and visual alternatives received when working. Together, they bring a broad spectrum of what can result with such conditioning, from the powerful and poetic paintings of Han, to the darkly comedic socio-political observations of Lombardi.

D. Dominick Lombardi, CCWSI 126 (2022), alkyd and oil on linen previously painted in 1981 and 2007, 25" x 26"
D. Dominick Lombardi, CCWSI 126 (2022), alkyd and oil on linen previously painted in 1981 and 2007, 25″ x 26″

With Han and Lombardi, the swings in the content of their narratives are multi-layered and visually complex, wound around a strong pull from the past. Han refers to his paintings, which are composed of a variety of painting media, cut paper and resin as an “intersection of the imagery of my homeland Korea, together with Boston, in my own aesthetical conversion.” Han grew up in Chuncheon, South Korea, and maintains a strong bond with that culture. This results in a tendency to fold into his art, representations of the landscape and architecture, mixed with sexual references such as flowers, phallic symbols and the female praying mantis that consumes its male partner after mating – haunting elements that give his art its otherworldly, dreamy feel. In addition, his medical condition, which often causes temporary paralysis, has prompted Han’s obsession with the limitations of being. As a result of all these prompts, Han is clearly reaching for truth, enlightenment and a place where all of the aspects of his life can coalesce in a beautiful and brilliant dreamscape.

D. Dominick Lombardi, CCWS 99 (2020), acrylic, ink and charcoal on paper on canvas, 24" x 38"
D. Dominick Lombardi, CCWS 99 (2020), acrylic, ink and charcoal on paper on canvas, 24″ x 38″

Lombardi utilizes past prompts too, but in a more physical sense, as he often repurposes old paintings and drawings to create his multi-layered narratives. His process includes past life drawings done as classroom demonstrations, subconscious thoughts that inspire the lines of his ‘stickers’, old studies for paintings and sculptures, and previously painted canvases to help him to resolve or reimagine his past. Working often with flashes of shape suggestions, colors and compositional changes, Lombardi is also driven by the fleetness of life. However, what triggers most of Lombardi’s art is reliving past thoughts and experiences through repurposing, the utilization of input from the collective unconscious, and the sway of creative editing. Repurposing also occurs in his sculptures, as all of the objects in his work are found. However, subject to gravity, the structure and result of each sculpture is a bit more preplanned. 

Yoahn Han, Taboo (2021), mica, Acryla gouache, watercolor, paper pulp, yupo paper and resin on panel, 36” x 60”
Yoahn Han, Taboo (2021), mica, Acryla gouache, watercolor, paper pulp, yupo paper and resin on panel, 36” x 60”

The exhibition dates for Hyperphantasia are September 1 – September 30, with an artist reception on Saturday, September, 10. Artego is located at 32-88 48Th Street, Queens, NY 11103.

Shirin Neshat: The Land of Dreams at MOCA in Toronto

by Steve Rockwell

Shirin Neshat, Land of Dreams, 2019, video still. Copyright Shirin Neshat. Courtesy the artist, Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, and Courtesy Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, Cape Town and London
Shirin Neshat, Land of Dreams, 2019, video still. Copyright Shirin Neshat. Courtesy the artist, Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, and Courtesy Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, Cape Town and London

Shirin Neshat has super-powers, not unlike those of the DC Comics super hero who fell to earth in a rocket launched from the ill-fated planet Krypton. Like Jor-El, the father in the Superman story, Shirin’s father “saved” his seventeen-year-old daughter by catapulting her to America from the failing regime of the Shah of Iran before it imploded. With the Ayatollah Khomeini subsequently in power, everything changed for Neshat. Cut off from her family and roots, she was made an alien in a strange land.

The changes that Neshat observed of Iran’s political and religious upheaval upon her return in 1990, were both “shocking and exciting.” This new ideology had transformed the country’s culture in both appearance and habit. Her 1993-97 series “Women of Allah” gave expression to the inherent militancy that had infused Iran’s Islamic fundamentalism. This work signified the breaking of the dam of emotion built up from childhood of an inner dichotomy between her non-religious upbringing amid a conservatively religious Iranian town. She recalls having had tea in her garden as a child, and bursting into tears at the sound of quranic chanting.

Shirin Neshat, Rapture, 1999, video still. Copyright Shirin Neshat. Courtesy the artist, Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, and Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, Paris
Shirin Neshat, Rapture, 1999, video still. Copyright Shirin Neshat. Courtesy the artist, Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, and Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, Paris 

“Women of Allah,” infused Neshat’s work with a power that generated immediate success. At the same time the artist faced a flood of criticism from many sides. To the Islamic Republic it was anti-revolutionary, while the people of Iran thought it supported the revolution. Western critics felt it sensationalized violence, and took advantage of the controversy surrounding Islam. Feeling misunderstood, “Women of Allah” became a turning point for Neshat. It began her journey from an overtly political or religious art to the mythic and allegorical. While retaining its Iranian themes, “The Land of Dreams” exhibition signifies a completion of the transformation of Neshat into an American artist, reflecting her own displacement with those of other cultural minorities and disenfranchised at the country’s margins.

Shirin Neshat, Land of Dreams, 2019, video still. Copyright Shirin Neshat. Courtesy the artist, Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, and Courtesy Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, Cape Town and London
Shirin Neshat, Land of Dreams, 2019, video still. Copyright Shirin Neshat. Courtesy the artist, Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, and Courtesy Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, Cape Town and London

“Shiprock,” mountain in New Mexico was selected as the mythic site for “The Colony,” while the actual filming of the inhabitants took place in a power plant. The crew had been scouting for a dark, claustrophobic setting for the paper-pushing bureaucrats, but were delighted with the atomic bomb-facility ambiance of the power plant. Here, rows of lab-coated dream catchers could quietly go about their business of cataloguing and analyzing the dreams of the residents of a nearby town. It took a week to cast and photograph the actual 200 New Mexico residents from which the photo-based component of “Land of Dreams” were drawn.

Shirin Neshat, Portrait detail from Land of Dreams series, 2019, Digital c-print with ink and acrylic paint. Copyright Shirin Neshat. Courtesy the artist, Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, and Courtesy Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, Cape Town and London
Shirin Neshat, Portrait detail from Land of Dreams series, 2019, Digital c-print with ink and acrylic paint. Copyright Shirin Neshat. Courtesy the artist, Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, and Courtesy Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, Cape Town and London

Sheila Vand plays the part of a photographer who plumbs the dream world of the town’s people at the behest of the Iranian authority figure that leads The Colony. In a scene set in a darkroom we see her reflection meld with the face of her subject as it materializes in the bath of the developing tray. Vand’s character has entered the dream of another – a violation that carries with it the punishment of an inevitable loss of identity and the pronouncement: “The dream catcher will go mad.”

Shirin Neshat, Land of Dreams, 2019, video still. Copyright Shirin Neshat. Courtesy the artist, Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, and Courtesy Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, Cape Town and London
Shirin Neshat, Land of Dreams, 2019, video still. Copyright Shirin Neshat. Courtesy the artist, Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, and Courtesy Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, Cape Town and London

The “Land of Dreams” project was conceived as Neshat’s response to the collapse of the Iran nuclear deal that came with the transition of US administrations. Trump’s tenure had immediately ramped up hostilities and tension with Iran. The artist felt that “something had to be done.” The shadow of something falling over the world stage with which Neshat is only too familiar has crept in like a fog. Now her dichotomy of alienation is being played out in the country of her adoption, with the scale of the stakes much higher.

If the channelling of the quranic chant of a Muslim woman multiplied a thousandfold lent Neshat an expressive super-power some 30 years ago, how will this energy bottled as myth and allegory play out in America’s vast “Land of Dreams?” As the political pillars of power are being shaken globally, should the chord of polarization snap, it might be good to know where some of that kryptonite is likely to land.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto (MOCA) Shirin Neshat exhibition runs through to July 31, 2022