September 14 – December 31, 2022
Curated by Amin Alsaden
The work of Montreal-based Iranian artist Anahita Norouzi stems from her long-term research into the intersections of identity and memory, especially in relation to experiences of immigration and displacement. This exhibition examines the legacies of botanical explorations, when scientific research and agricultural production became entangled in the exploitation of non-Western geographies, shaping cultural attitudes towards the human and non-human “other.” By underlining hostilities towards displaced persons and migrating plants alike, through terminology used to describe both as foreign and invasive, Norouzi draws attention to the fragile and conflicted state of those who had to leave their homes behind.
Planting Displacement brings together an expansive body of her work that includes archival documents, photographs, cyanotypes, sculptures, and videos, all of which investigate the plant colloquially referred to as giant hogweed. Originating in Southwest Asia and known in the artist’s ancestral homeland of Iran as Heracleum persicum (Persian hogweed), the plant spread to the West in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries through European colonial interventions, trade routes, and Western interest in acquiring “exotic” species. In recent decades it has been recognized as a noxious weed in southern Canada affecting native flora and fauna, and human beings too, due to its toxic sap. Today, there are national campaigns to not only ban the cultivation of this plant, but to also eradicate and curb its growth. Norouzi sheds light on the history and changing perceptions of giant hogweed, while marking its gradual disappearance.
Planting Displacement is organized and presented by the Art Gallery of Guelph with the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and Ontario Arts Council. Anahita Norouzi acknowledges that a portion of the work presented in this exhibition was developed during her residency at the Grantham Foundation for Arts and Environment, where she was the recipient of the Grand Prize for Creation.
Anahita Norouzi is a Montreal-based multidisciplinary artist, originally from Tehran. She has continued to travel between Iran and Canada to conduct her research exploring the notions of displacement, memory and identity from a psycho-historical point of view. Norouzi excavates historical narratives, in order to consider the global impact of colonialism and how it permeates contemporary culture. Her work is research-driven, instigated by marginalized or forgotten histories, and articulated across a range of materials and mediums including sculpture, installation, photography, video, and performance. Represented in both individual and collective exhibitions, she is the recipient of both the Grantham Foundation Award and Liz Crockford Artist Fund Award, as well as a finalist for the Magic of Persia Contemporary Art Prize recognizing pieces exhibited at the Royal College of Art in London and in Dubai. Her work is currently on view at Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
Amin Alsaden is a curator, educator, and scholar of art and architecture, whose work focuses on transnational solidarities and exchanges across cultural boundaries. With a commitment to advancing social justice through the arts, Alsaden’s curatorial practice contributes to the dissemination of more diverse, inclusive, and global narratives, by decentering and expanding existing canons, and challenging hegemonic knowledge and power structures. He is particularly interested in how artists and architects interrogate collective agency in the public realm and level institutional critique, while envisioning novel visual and spatial responses to the experiences of alienation and belonging. Alsaden’s research explores the history and theory of modern and contemporary art and architecture globally, with specific expertise in the Arab and Muslim worlds. He has published and lectured widely.
Image: Anahita Norouzi, Arid Florilegium (detail), 2022, archival prints on paper and archival matte paper, 23 x 35 cm