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Farheen Haq: Being Home

July 15 - August 24 2016

Being Home
Farheen HaQ’s Being Home shifts memory. It is akin to the feeling of opening
your eyes for the first time after an extended closure. Everything looks a little
strange, yet nothing is new. It’s an experience that finds me, an hour later, dialing
the numbers to call my mom and hear her, see her, for the first time. Being
Home complicates and then takes down the impermeable barriers of the public
and the private woman.
I walk into the gallery and am immediately aware of my presence within it, in the
same way I’m acutely conscious of how my body moves as a guest in someone
else’s home – hushed tones, shuffling feet, an awareness of a certain granted
access. The transformation of gallery to familiar home space is catalyzed by the
careful arrangement of visual markers and intimate objects typically associated
with hidden, private spaces – a dresser, a table, a chair.
Looped video images play in, on, and around these objects, activating them: The
woman’s body and the things she touches every day constitute each other’s
A white dresser with a barely-floating frame plays a video of a woman
stretching, rolling, folding, and gathering a length of white fabric. I turn left and
encounter “Feast”, projected onto a side-turned grainy wood table is the image
of the artist’s rising and falling belly button. I’m immediately moved to consider
the table – activated over meals as a meeting space of agreement, of conflict, of
love. Her belly button draws me to consider our connections to the women
who bear us, bear our presence, and the violence we do onto their bodies and
hearts. The rising, falling, grainy belly button connects her to her mother, to her
grandmother, to her children. The body that feeds is the table that feeds. These
are feasting places.
Her feet swing infinitely, projected through the bottom of an overturned
white chair. Swinging legs recall a childish past. At the same time I also
consider how much motherhood is about waiting for unknown futures.
Waiting through days, years, tied shoelaces, birthdays, reclaimed lives, seeking
elusive quiet and lost moments. How much is the way we feel time
negotiated in the home? Those swinging legs complicate linearity.
Is home only that place we are always leaving? We close the doors on our
homes and on the selves that live in them. HaQ does not allow the doors to
close. She does not allow us to render invisible the spaces and places so
inextricably woven through who we are and how our bodies exist on this
HaQ explores her overlapping identities – gender, ethnicity, feminism, and
motherhood – in a way that is as moving as it is grounding. She reminds me
of mothers who knead tablecloths and roti breads. The wrapping of fabric
triggers a primal memory of a complex gendered body. The sensual
enveloping fabric of a tablecloth contain the traces of the bodies it has held
and fed.
The mounted display in the window gallery reclaims the space of the home.
My original impression of the tea morphs and shifts when I watch it again,
after experiencing Being Home. “Drinking From my Mother’s Saucer”
represents the layers and bounty of a maternal body. The teacup is an
homage to the sacrifice of the maternal woman, land, and home that pours
itself into us.
The layers of HaQ’s show peel back to expose complexity of the taken for
granted. The unravelling is a revelation of bodies, fabric, and conditions
hidden within ritual of the day to day.

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 The Alternator Centre for Contemporary Art is an artist-run centre...