THE TENSIONS BETWEEN language and words, words and action have always inspired artist Zainub Verjee—along with the role of the artist in society.
“Every fortnight marks a death of a language. A language dies! What does it mean when a language dies? It means a way of thinking dies with it. Language is not just words strung together with syntax and grammar. Beyond the rudimentary notion of communication, a language conveys its community’s mode of thinking, ability to forge associations with reality and most importantly, to imagine, says Dr Verjee.
An exhibition at Centre A brings a lot of those ideas together in a multidisciplinary installation, where the neon words “Status of the Artist” glow in the same room as “ART IS THE PUBLIC GOOD”, as metaphorical cardboard boxes lie helter-skelter on the floor below. Elsewhere, the word solitary shatters over a photo triptych of a breaking plate, set above a floor scattered with broken ceramics.
There is more, much more, behind a show that rallies, questions, and exposes the way language can be used to stifle discourse.
She draws on the Nairobi-born Verjee’s long and varied life and career, starting with her education in England and immigration to Canada in the early 1970s, the same decade she made her part in the thriving intermedia arts community in Vancouver. Apart from her practice as a multidisciplinary artist, she’s a programmer and curator, critic, writer, and arts administrator. Among her many accomplishments, she was integral to the forming of the BC Arts Council and she is a laureate of the 2020 Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts for Outstanding Contribution. She is currently executive director of the Ontario Association of Art Galleries
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