For over twenty years, artists and filmmakers Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige have collaborated across the worlds of art and film to reimagine the relationship between fiction and reality. Both born in Beirut, Lebanon, Hadjithomas and Joreige’s collaboration began by exploring histories of their home country. Across diverse media, they have investigated topics from the Lebanese Civil War to Beirut’s participation in the space race of the 1960s, underpinned by a commitment to questioning the ways that history is written.
This exhibition presents works from the landmark series On Scams (I must first apologise), a multi-part project exploring notions of trust and faith across geographical and virtual borders. This series takes as its point of departure an archive of over 4,000 spam emails Hadjithomas and Joreige have received and collected since 1999. They were intrigued by the emotional appeals of these messages, and the manner in which these fictions were grounded in political realities: the messages often contain references to real people, places, and conflicts to legitimize their claims.
The exhibition presents the immersive multi-screen installation The Rumor of the World (2014), in which scam emails are brought to life by amateur actors that appear on monitors encircling the viewer. Relocating email texts to the bodies of actual people, the work’s cacophony of voices generates a reimagining of recent history in which war and unrest are the backdrop to a series of ultimately implausible circumstances.
Considering the scammers’ fictions as representative of the geopolitical fault-lines of our time, Hadjithomas and Joreige extend this project in a series of related works in video, sculpture and drawing. In the Fleck Clerestory, a group of large-scale oxidized steel sculptures entitled The Geometry of Space (2014) map the geographical trajectories of these stories onto globe-like forms, translating fictional narratives into physical space.
The video work It’s All Real (2014) explores the life stories of the Beirut-based actors who perform the scammers’ tales in The Rumor of the World, conjuring the stories of immigration and refuge-seeking that have shaped their realities. In The Jerusalem Letter (2014), Hadjithomas and Joreige interrogate historical precedents for scams, reproducing an example of a late-eighteenth century scam letter sent during the French Revolution – a period, like today, when bases of power and trust were unsettled. Like elements of a film in which fiction and reality are blurred, the exhibition’s works construct a web of stories to investigate the shifting nature of belief.
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The Power Plant
231 Queens Quay West
Toronto, Ontario M5J 2G8 Canada