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Mon. 12.10.20 / 9 am The Upper Side of the Sky

A Virtual Reality Archive Exhibition by Jawa El Khash, Curated by Dana Qaddah

The Upper Side of the Sky was an online exhibition created by Jawa El Khash and curated by Dana Qaddah.

As described by Qaddah, El Khash’s project was “an interactive virtual reality archive of the ancient ruins of Palmyra, Syria, created by the translation of collective and personal memory. Through a medium that resists the thresholds of space and temporality, El Khash materializes the ruins of a site, destroyed by ISIS during the Syrian civil war, among an ecosystem of architecture, animal and plant life. Agricultural archives, 3D models, and celestial scales generate an embodied experience of what is lost, forefronting the value of digital preservation and production within majority diasporic populations – much of whom are attuned to the orchestrated destruction of the homeland.”

The online exhibition was a desktop experience that could be viewed at from October 12, 2020-April 30, 2021.

Additional programming occurred in the form of an online conversation titled Posterity and Expatriation between Qaddah and El Khash on Saturday, November 28, 2020 at 2pm. Dr. Laura U. Marks, a scholar in media art and philosophy with an intercultural focus, generated a written response to "Posterity and Expatriation" and El Khash's virtual exhibition in February 2021.



Jawa El Khash (b. 1995, Damascus, Syria) is a Toronto-based artist and researcher. Her work blurs the lines between fantasy and reality, using technologies such as virtual reality and analogue holography to explore the everyday paradoxes and obscurities of living in the world. She uses the contradictions inherent in these spatial mediums to build environments that act as portals to investigate how we experience agriculture, architecture, archeology, and lepidopterology (the scientific study of butterflies and moths). The marriage of technology and art is the backbone of her research, process and thinking, through studying optics, 3D and VR technology to create replicas of reality.

Dana Qaddah (b. 1996, Beirut, Lebanon) is a third generation expatriate, artist and organizer based on the unceded territories of the Coast Salish people: the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh, and Musqueam nations. Qaddah’s interdisciplinary practice draws upon the condition of generational displacement, being abstracted from the destruction of one’s own sense of self, place, and home. Qaddah completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Emily Carr University of Art and Design in 2019. In 2018, Qaddah participated in Plug In ICA’s Summer Institute II: BUSH gallery. The following year, Qaddah was invited to be the writer in residence at Access Gallery’s PLOT space, and is currently one of the artists in residence at the Media Arts Committee’s sound art program. Qaddah’s upcoming shows include a group exhibition at Unit 17.

Dr. Laura U. Marks works on media art and philosophy with an intercultural focus. Her most recent books are Hanan al-Cinema: Affections for the Moving Image [2015] and Enfoldment and Infinity: An Islamic Genealogy of New Media Art [2010]. With Azadeh Emadi, she is a founding member of the Substantial Motion Research Network of artists and scholars working on cross-cultural approaches to media technologies. She programs experimental media art for venues around the world and is the founder of the Small File Media Festival. Marks is Grant Strate Professor in the School for the Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.

A transcribed version of Posterity and Expatriation: A Conversation Between Dana Qaddah and Jawa El Khash is available here

Thank you to curator Allison Collins for initiating this project.


Laura U. Marks

"A World Where Flowers Reign," February 2021

A World Where Flowers Reign

"Two towering crystalline poppies guard the temple of Al-Lat. As we approach the temple, there are flashes of light, like an unseen presence. The air shimmers with wireframe camellias and crescents, moving in unison like swallows, their petals sharp as swords. A floral force-field. Al-Lat was one of the goddesses worshipped by Arab peoples before Mohammed destroyed the idols at Mecca. (Al-lat is “the god” in Arabic in feminine form, while Allah is “the god” in masculine form, and in monotheism, the God). It strikes me that these scintillating figures are the rejected deities returned, pissed off at humans but still prepared to do favours and be adored. Have they now turned their attention to the flowers and butterflies? Inside the temple towers a single flower, a five-petaled lily, languidly moving its petals. Each of the orb-like anthers, glowing against the black petals, is a wireframe map of the starry sky. If you traveled into this lily, you would be traveling out to the farthest stars. Like those fecund motifs on garden carpets, this marvelous flower encloses the entire cosmos!"

— Excerpt from Laura U. Marks' "A World Where Flowers Reign"

Full Response (PDF):

View Response