Nour Bishouty: Nothing is lost except nothing at all except what is not had

February 2, 2022 – March 5, 2022

Co-produced with
Gallery 44
401 Richmond St W #120,
Toronto, ON M5V 3A8, Canada

This exhibition, Nour Bishouty’s first solo show in Toronto, centres on an oil painting made by her late father, Ghassan Bishouty, in Amman in the early 1980s. Nour is no stranger to her late father’s work, returning to it consistently over the years, posing questions around cultural value, personal and artistic legacies. This time, the artist takes Al-Wadi, an orientalist-style painting of a Bedouin landscape in Jordan as a point of departure to explore unregulated systems of mapping and legibility. In Nothing is lost except nothing at all except what is not had, the artist engages in a process of intentional obscurity with the painting to consider the idea of misunderstanding as a productive lens—intertwining and unfolding objects, images and ways of seeing. Replication, expansion, extrapolation and modification are used as interventions to redirect our lines of inquiry into unchartered horizons.

By suggesting spectres of absence and presence, the exhibition troubles our assumptions of awaited resolution or structured narration. The title of the show is borrowed from Gertrude Stein’s essay ‘Composition as Explanation’ which explores the “prolonged” and “continuous” presents in the structure of compositions. By proposing or suggesting new lenses through which to read the painting, Nour’s work extends its temporal register and simultaneously questions the stakes involved when re-orienting and re-settling it into contemporary contexts.

Intergenerational Dialogue and Late Style in the Palestinian Diaspora: Nour Bishouty’s Nothing is lost except nothing at all except what is not had at Gallery 44

By Tammer El-Sheikh

March 3, 2022

It had been several years since Edward Said’s untimely death from Leukemia, and his recently acquired papers were being indexed by staff and graduate students atColumbia University. They felt lucky to be tasked with the organization of an already meticulously sorted treasure-trove of letters, lecture notes, photographs and ephemera from the professional life of this key 20th century thinker, writer and Palestinian activist. One of the librarians remarked that it was as though Said knew in 1969, the start date of the collection and a decade before the publication of his best-known book Orientalism, that a record of his work would be important for posterity. Indeed, in the introduction to that book he writes: “In many ways my study of Orientalism has been an attempt to inventory the traces upon me… of the culture whose domination has been so powerful a factor in the life of all Orientals.”1 With pencil and notebook in hand I went searching for those traces and more in 26 milk crates packed with carefully ordered pages.

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Exhibition Public Program | A conversation with Nour Bishouty, Monica Basbous, and Jumana Manna
Saturday, Feb 26th 11am EST Toronto / 5PM CET Berlin / 6PM Beirut

In Nothing is lost except nothing at all except what is not had, Nour Bishouty explores questions around land, indigeneity, and history while questioning the desire for knowledge as a colonial impulse. Bishouty’s work impresses counter-gestures embodied in a poetic practice of extracting, exposing, providing, and withholding information. The artist has invited Jumana Manna and Monica Basbous to engage in a conversation elaborating on those questions and others related to their respective artistic practice. 

Nour Bishouty (b. 1986 Amman, Jordan) is a Canadian visual artist of Palestinian heritage working in a range of media including works on paper, digital images, sculpture, video, and writing. Her practice engages familial and material narratives to explore colonial legacies and pose questions around dissonance, opacity, legibility, and the generative possibilities of misunderstanding. Bishouty’s work has been exhibited in Canada and internationally including the Museum of Contemporary Art (Toronto), Access Gallery (Vancouver), Darat Al Funun (Amman), the Beirut Art Centre, Casa Arabe (Madrid & Córdoba), and the Mosaic Rooms (London). Her artist book, 1—130, a meditation on displacement, archives, memory, and Palestine, was co-published in 2020 by Art Metropole, Toronto and Motto Books, Berlin.

Monica Basbous (Beirut)  is an architect, researcher and educator. Her work investigates the nexus of spatiality, knowledge production and representation using critical and speculative frameworks.

Jumana Manna (Berlin) is a visual artist working primarily with film and sculpture. Her work explores how power is articulated through relationships, often focusing on the body and on materiality in relation to narratives of nationalism and histories of place.



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