Installed on scaffolding in a grassy field bordering King Street in Waterloo, Facing the Fortress reflects on inheriting and becoming responsible for difficult histories. Artist Abedar Kamgari draws inspiration from Shush Castle, an imposing monument constructed by French archeologists in Shush, Iran in the 1890s using bricks pillaged from nearby historic sites dating to 550-1250BCE. Like many other places, Shush seems to be remembered through its colonial history: names of French archeologists in a foreign land, crumbling palaces of long-dead kings, and stories of conquerors who toppled civilizations. But the ancient bricks bear evidence of something else, too. They hold memory of the hands that built them—the incredible skill and craftsmanship of everyday labourers and artisans who moulded earth and laid walls, carved Elamite cuneiform onto wet clay, and carefully brushed patterns in blue and yellow glaze.
Kamgari has meticulously handcrafted thousands of ceramic beads to honour the land and generations of ordinary people who built monuments to power only to be barred at their gates. The resulting installation—at once heavy, substantial, and see-through—deconstructs the fortress’ brick walls by reimagining them as a delicate, beaded curtain. With Facing the Fortress, Kamgari ruminates on living with diasporic families and colonial ruins.
Image credit: Facing the Fortress, 2022. Detail view at Shell Projects, Toronto. Image courtesy of the artist.
Abedar Kamgari is an artist based in Hamilton and Toronto. She makes performance art, sculptures, textiles, and videos. She intentionally engages tactile, repetitive, and labour-intensive artmaking strategies as way of reflecting on the contexts and conditions of displacement and diaspora. Abedar’s recent projects explore body memory, complicated inheritances, border spaces, and the idea of distance. Her current research is inspired by a play written by her father, feminist writings, archeological ruins, and the enduring presence of land. Abedar holds a BFA (2016) and an MFA (2022) in interdisciplinary studio and has performed, screened, and exhibited her work in a range of institutional settings. Upcoming exhibitions include Nuit Blanche Etobicoke and Artcite Windsor, both in fall 2023.
Facing the Fortress was created with the support, guidance, and labour from many contributors and funded by the Canada Council for the Arts and Ontario Arts Council.