Incident Light: Gendered Artifacts and Traces Illuminated in the Archives Tara Najd Ahmadi & Hannah Darabi*, Ala Dehghan* Maryam Jafri, Jumana Manna, Nahed Mansour, The Otolith Group & Tejal Shah

May 25 - July 27, 2014

Curated by Leila Pourtavaf

*works commissioned by Azar Mahmoudian in collaboration with the curator

Photo credit: Jumana Manna, A Sketch of Manners (Alfred Roch's Last Masquerade), 2013. HD video, 12:00 min, Video Still. Courtesy of the artist and CRG Gallery, NY.
Special Events

Opening Reception
Sunday, May 25, 3 – 6pm
A FREE shuttle bus will depart from Hart House (7 Hart House Circle, University of Toronto) at 3pm,  returning for 6pm.
Join us at 4pm for a tour of the exhibition with curators Leila Pourtavaf, Azar Mahmoudian, and artist Nahed Mansour


I've Heard Stories
A Film program curated by Azar Mahmoudian
Wednesday, May 28, 7 – 9pm
City of Toronto Archives, 255 Spadina Road, Toronto
FREE and open to the public
I’ve Heard Stories presents five international short films, each exploring the intersection of art and documentary practices:

I've Heard Stories 1 by Marwa Arsanios (Lebanon, 2008)
Swede Home by Shirin Sabahi (Iran/Sweden, 1966/1973/1975/2009)
Sans Titre (Untitled) by Neil Beloufa (Algeria/France, 2010)
Everywhere Was the Same by Basma Al Sharif (United States, 2007)
Why Colonel Bunny Was Killed by Miranda Pennell (UK, 2010)

For more information, please click here.


ARTbus Tour
Sunday, June 8, 12 – 5pm
The tour starts at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery (7 Hart House Circle, University of Toronto), and then departs for Blackwood Gallery and Oakville Galleries. A $10 donation includes admission to all galleries and afternoon refreshments by Trafalgar Brewing Company and Whole Foods Market, Oakville. Seating is limited. To RSVP contact or 905.844.4402 (ext. 27) by Friday, June 6 at 4pm.

Exhibition Statement

In photography, the term “incident light” refers to both the source emitting the direct light which illuminates a subject, as well as secondary sources which redirect light onto it to reveal unseen details. Incident Light features a group of Middle Eastern and South Asian artists whose works focus on traces of gender and sexuality within various archives from the region. The exhibit questions the authority that nationalist historiographies hold in relation to their subjects through a repositioning of the cultural artifacts from various historical depositories. Building new stories from fragmented knowledge, the exhibition harnesses generative forces that anticipate, foresee and fantasize about what was and could have been.

- Leila Pourtavaf


Click here for the full exhibition brochure.


Tara Najd Ahmadi & Hannah Darabi Image of artwork in exhibition
Tara Najd Ahmadi & Hannah Darabi, Studio DCI – attempt 1, 2014
Laminated black and white photo 8 x 12 inches.
Commissioned by Azar Mahmoudian. Courtesy of the artists.

Tara Najd Ahmadi is an Iranian artist who holds an MA in Motion Picture Directing from the University of Tehran and an MFA in Time-Based Media from the University of Oklahoma. She is currently pursuing her PhD in the Program in Visual and Cultural Studies at the University of Rochester. She works with photo and video installations, and is the recipient of many awards including the Norman Art Council’s Individual Artist Award (2011), the Madeline Collaborate Fellowship (2009 to 2012), and the OVAC Momentum Spotlight Honorarium (2009). She has exhibited internationally in places including Tehran, Split, Paris, New York, Rio de Janeiro, and Los Angeles.

Hannah Darabi is an Iranian ar tist who studied photography in the College of Fine Arts at the University of Tehran, and the Université Paris VIII in Saint-Denis. Her work deals with urban landscapes and has been exhibited in Tehran, Tokyo, and throughout Europe. She has self-published ar tist books that are par t of numerous collections including Bibliothèque Kandinsky at the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

Ala Dehghan Image of artwork in exhibition
Ala Dehghan, 7 HOLYdays from 30 HOLYdays series, 2014. Mixed media, newspaper,
colored pencil, gouache, acrylic, marker, burnt Bahman cigarettes, plastic cover, beads, nail polish,
watercolour, and tea. 7 frames, each 11 x 14 inches.
Commissioned by Azar Mahmoudian. Courtesy of the artist.

Ala Dehghan was born in 1982 in Tehran, Iran. She received a BA in Persian Miniature Painting from Alzahra University, an MA in Painting from the University of Tehran, and an MFA in Painting and Printmaking from the Yale School of Art. In 2010, Dehghan was a resident artist at the Delfina Foundation in London. She has participated in exhibitions at Kalfayan Galleries, Athens; Thomas Erben Gallery, New York; Other Gallery, Shanghai; Brigitte Schenk Gallery, Cologne; Il Gabbiano Gallery, Rome; Asar Gallery, Tehran; and Thaddaeus Ropac Gallery, Paris. Her work has been reviewed in frieze magazine and Time Out New York.

Maryam Jafri Image of artwork in exhibition
Maryam Jafri, Death With Friends, 2010. HD video, 9:23 min, Video Still.
Courtesy of the artist.

Maryam Jafri was born in 1972 in Pakistan, and is now based in New York and Copenhagen. She holds a BA in English & American Literature from Brown University, an MA from Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, and is a graduate of the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program. Jafri has exhibited widely in Europe and North America, most recently in Manifesta 9, Genk; Shanghai Biennial; Taipei Biennial; Beirut Space, Cairo; Bielefelder Kunstverein; M kHa, Antwerp; Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit; and Deutsches Filmmuseum, Frankfurt.

Jumana Manna Image of artwork in exhibition
Jumana Manna, A Sketch of Manners (Alfred Roch's Last Masquerade), 2013
HD video, 12:00 min, Video Still. Edition of 3 and 1 AP.
Courtesy of the artist and CRG Gallery, NY.

Jumana Manna was born in 1987 in New Jersey, USA. She works primarily with film and sculpture and focuses on the investigation of power structures, nationalism, history, and the body. She holds a BFA from the Oslo National Academy of the Arts and an MA in Aesthetics and Politics from California Institute of the Arts. Her recent solo exhibitions and screenings include Home Works Forum VI, Beirut; Henie Onstad Art Center, Oslo; Sculpture Center, New York; Performa 13 Biennial, New York; and Sharjah Biennale (2013). In 2012, Manna was awarded The Young Palestinian Artist of the Year Award from the A.M. Qattan Foundation.

Nahed Mansour Image of artwork in exhibition
Nahed Mansour, Satellite Telefizyoon, 2013. Video, 4:44 min, Video Still.
Courtesy of the artist.


Nahed Mansour is a Toronto-based artist who works in performance, installation, and video. She draws from personal and historic archives to address representations of gender and racial relationships. She graduated from Concordia University’s MFA program, and is currently the Director of Mayworks Festival of Working People and the Arts in Toronto. She is also a member of the Pleasure Dome Experimental Film & Video Programming Collective.

The artist would like to acknoweldge the support of the Toronto Arts Council.

The Otolith Group Image of artwork in exhibition
The Otolith Group, Communists Like Us, 2010 . HD video, 22:55 min, Video Still.
Courtesy of The Otolith Group and LUX, London.

The Otolith Group is an award-winning artist-led organization founded in 2002 by Anjalika Sagar and Kodwo Eshun and is based in London. The Otolith Group produces films, installations, and exhibitions that combine narrative, archival material, and documentary footage. Centered on close readings of the image in contemporary society, their work explores the legacies and potentialities of the document, the essay film, and the archive, as well as speculative futures and science fictions. Recent exhibitions have been presented at museums including MAXXI, Rome; MIT List Visual Arts Center, Boston; MACBA, Barcelona; Bétonsalon, Paris; and The Showroom, London. Their work has been included in such international exhibitions as dOCUMENTA 13, Kassel; the 29th São Paulo Biennial; and Manifesta 8, Murcia. In 2010, The Otolith Group was nominated for the Turner Prize.

Tejal Shah Image of artwork in exhibition
Tejal Shah, Between the Waves – Inner, 2012. Mixed media collage, digital print on archival rag paper
55 x 60 inches. Edition of 5. Courtesy of the ar tist and Barbara Gross Galerie, Munich.

Tejal Shah was born in1979 in Bhilai, India. Shah is a visual artist who works with video, photography, sound, installation, and performance. Their interests lie in the areas of sexuality, gender, ecology, and the interrelation between humans and nature. Shah holds a BA in Commercial and Illustrative Photography from Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, and was a visiting scholar at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago from 1999 to 2000. They have exhibited widely in museums, galleries, and film festivals including Tate Modern, London; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Brooklyn Museum, New York; National Gallery of Modern Art, Bombay; and Documenta 13, Kassel.

Azar Mahmoudian

Azar Mahmoudian (born 1981, lives in Tehran) is an independent curator and researcher. She received an MA in Contemporary Art Theory from Goldsmiths, University of London in 2009. Her research focuses on issues of archival and historical modes of cultural representation.

Leila Pourtavaf

Leila Pourtavaf is a Toronto-based writer, independent curator and doctoral candidate in the Department of History at the University of Toronto. She holds an M.A. in Media Studies from Concordia University, and a second M.A. in Near and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Toronto. Leila was a founding member and coordinator of the projet Mobilivre–Bookmobile project and is the co-editor of the forthcoming publication which chronicles the project’s five year history. She is also the editor of the Féminismes Électriques (2012), a bilingual collection of essays which reflect on the last decade of feminist art production.

Opening Reception
Installation Views
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Leila Pourtavaf and the Blackwood Gallery thank the Ontario Arts Council for its support of this exhibition
through the Culturally Diverse Curatorial Projects program.

Presented in conjunction with the Sixteenth Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, held at the
University of Toronto, May 22 – 25, 2014.

Generously supported by the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council, with additional support from the Berkshire Conference on the History of Women and the The Foundation for Iranian Studies.





Brochure design by Aliya Pabani
Copy editing by Megan Watcher