July 15 – August 24, 2016

The complicated relationship of home, motherhood and self were explored in Being Home, by acclaimed Canadian artist Farheen HaQ.

HaQ, a South Asian Muslim Canadian woman, draws on a feminist art practice of claiming and making space to record herself through various mediums in the domestic realm. Working to highlight the importance and emotionally rich nature of the home, her work explores territories dominated by the overlapping identities of motherhood, feminism, gender, and ethnicity.

Being Home made the metaphorical thresholds that mothers cross on a daily basis visible to the viewer. Through a combination of sculptural installation, photography and digital projection, the gallery space became fully occupied by domestic objects that seeks to change the way that the audience interacts with the area and the designation of the space.

  • Farheen HaQ: Being Home, July 15 - August 24, 2016

Being Home
Interpretive Essay by Karolina Bialkowska

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 making.

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 land.

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.

Being Home Interpretive Essay (PDF)

Interested in exhibiting in the Alternator’s Main Gallery? Check out the Submission Guidelines.