Art from the heart

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In the heart that has no love/pain/generosity is not a heart, artists Jayce Salloum and Khadim Ali allow their subjects to speak for themselves.

What is the point of beauty?

Consisting of hundreds of images that chart the journey of Canadian artist Jayce Salloum and Afghan-Hazara artist Khadim Ali across an embattled landscape, the heart that has no love/pain/generosity is not a heart proposes beauty as subversion.

In one of Salloum’s videos, clear-voiced girls at a refugee school sing their passionately idealistic school song: “Bless me with a tongue that always speaks out/ about the pain of others/ Oh, God, give me a heart full of love/ in a soul burning with desire.” Salloum’s photographs and videos are not so much his way of speaking out about the pain of others as allowing these people, objects and scenes to speak for themselves. the heart that has no love/pain/generosity is not a heart is not a neatly laid out path; it resists directing viewers to see, think and feel as Salloum does. Instead, the exhibition allows one to wander the loosely grouped constellations of photographs, reams of research material, bits of production detritus and Ali’s astoundingly delicate paintings.


Ali paints with a brush made of only one or two hairs. His paintings depict a king-turned-monster, an allegory for the political situation in Afghanistan. Forms in the paintings echo many Salloum’s photographs or drawings by children encountered on the trip.

Each viewer creates their own journey through this rich, confusing and moving landscape of Bamiyan/the exhibition. Metaphorically, this is acknowledged with (a little) blank space for the viewer to make their additions and connections — several photographs in the back corner are banded with white along the bottom.

“Photographs never represent adequately; they’re just a shimmer,” Salloum states. The inadequateness of photography explains the excess of beautiful and violent images — plum blossoms, rusted Solviet tanks, little boys in wool sport coats, serenely serious girls, empty caverns where the Buddha statues once were, the ordinary glamour of cooking oil and transport trucks — in this exhibition, they are an attempt to bring an experience of this place into being. In discussion with my curator friend Sigrid Dahle, she noted that unlike many a photo essayist, Salloum has given us his process rather than his biography. And that may be a more intimate offering, one from a generous heart.

Sandee Moore is an intermedia artist, a former director of Video Pool and occasional arts writer.

the heart that has no love/pain/generosity is not a heart
Jayce Salloum and Khadim Ali
Until Oct. 9, Plug In ICA (460 Portage Avenue)

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