L'espace de l'alphabet – II, 1999-2001
(The Space of the Alphabet - II)
Video installation: two videos (Topsy Turvy Land, 1999;
Les langues du monde, 2000), wooden bookshelf,
glazed ceramic tiles, miscellaneous objects
Lent by the artist
(Photo: Harry Foster © Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation)
Note: Bookshelf built by Ron Benner based on a design of bookshelves
in the Special Collections Library, D.B. Weldon Library, University of Western Ontario, London, Canada
" L'espace de l'alphabet - II (The Space of the Alphabet - II) is a version of an earlier larger installation titled L'espace de l'alphabet. It presents various cultural artifacts in a replica bookshelf, which would have originally been designed to hold rare books. The installation includes two videos, in them two children are filmed over a two-year period. In Topsy Turvy, the children investigate their relationship to Arabic geography, history and language, and discuss their efforts to learn Arabic as they move through familiar sites. In Les langues du monde, the setting is the library and a third person reads in French a text on the Arabic language.
Moving between fragments of English, French and Arabic, L'espace
de l'alphabet - II asks the viewer to question definitions of identity as
belonging exclusively to the realm of language. "
Excerpt from the artist's statement
Jamelie Hassan was born in 1948 in London, Ontario. Her maternal grandfather and her father travelled from mountain villages in Lebanon to North America in the early 1900s, fleeing Turkish military conscription and the First World War. After completing her high school studies, Jamelie Hassan travelled to Rome (1967) and Beirut (1968), where she studied art. On her return to London in 1969, she continued her studies and, while working in the library at the University of Western Ontario in London, she established her first studio and became very active in the cultural community of her city. In 1978, she travelled to Baghdad, Iraq, and studied Arabic at the University of Mustansyria. Extensive travel continues to enrich her work, which often reflects this artist's respect for popular, traditional and indigenous art forms.
Home of Jamelie Hassan, London, Ontario, 2000
Gelatine silver prints
Collection of the Canadian Museum of Civilization
Jamelie Hassan creates a dialogue in her work between past and present cultural references and elements in her own history. In her installations, she combines images and sounds (watercolour, mural painting and photography with video and audio), objects (actual or reproduced often in ceramics) and texts. Montreal-based cultural critic Monika Kin Gagnon has recently written of her work: "A thematic quality [...] of Hassan's oeuvre is her reverence and engagement of everyday, smaller histories, those that deliberately thwart the grander statements of a singular History. From her earliest installations, a quality of tension emerged between the lived aspects of day-to-day histories and how they are eclipsed or effaced by official accounts."
Profoundly aware of the construct of Orientalism and involved in a program of cultural activism, she found in the analysis of Edward W. Said and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, among others, a critical discourse that reflected her concerns around issues of representation and subjectivity. This accounts for the importance she assigns to aspects of language and narration as well as to diverse forms of cultural "translations." She is among those artists who seek to destabilize the dichotomy of production/distribution through positioning her works in situ and in context, whereby she dislodges our simple conception of art as object.
Jamelie Hassan has participated in numerous exhibitions in Canada and internationally. Her works are in many public collections, including the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa), the Canada Council Art Bank, the Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto) and the New Museum of Contemporary Art (New York City). She received the 2001 Governor General's Award in Visual Arts.