Vancouver International Centre for Contemporary Asian Art

Minutes from a Second Story


Hajra Waheed

September 13-November 2, 2013
Gallery Hours: Tuesdays – Saturdays, 11am-6pm
Opening Reception: Friday September 13, 2013, 7pm
Essay: Haema Sivanesan

In a city such as Vancouver which is internationally renowned for its contributions to contemporary photography and photoconceptualism, is it possible to imagine a culture where photography – as ubiquitous as it is today – is effectively forbidden?

Montreal-based artist, Hajra Waheed, grew up in Saudi Arabia, within the gated headquarters of Saudi ARAMCO, the largest transnational oil corporation in the world. ARAMCO enforced strict restrictions on the use of photography and video, which, combined with Saudi cultural proscriptions on photography and film, has meant that there is limited documentation of this place and its history.

“Minutes from a Second Story” is a comprehensive body of work that draws on Waheed’s experiences of growing up in Saudi Arabia. The exhibition includes two major bodies of work, The Video Project (2012), a series of small format video works recently commissioned by Centre A, which reflect broadly on contemporary life in the Gulf region; and The Scrapbook Project (2010-2011) a 34 page visual diary comprised of found images, collage and drawings that provide a personal reflection on a period of Gulf history between the end of the Cold War and the beginning of the first Gulf War, during which time the artist lived in Saudi Arabia. Recollecting the memories and geographies of her childhood in ways that are part autobiographical, part imagined or partially remembered, Waheed reflects on the mood and experiences of the everyday.

Hajra Waheed completed a BFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2002) followed by an MA (2007) and doctoral studies at McGill University, Montreal. Her work has been included in numerous international group exhibitions, including “Lines of Control,” Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY (2012); “In the First Circle,” Fundacio Antoni Tapies, Barcelona (2011-12); “Changing Stakes: Contemporary Art Dialogues with Dubai,” Mercer Union, Toronto (2011) and “Different Abstractions,” Green Cardamom, London (2011). Her debut solo exhibition, “The Scrapbook Project” took place at Green Cardamom, London (2012). Her first major Canadian solo exhibition, “Fieldnotes and Other Backstories,” was held earlier this year at the Art Gallery of Windsor. Her work can be found in a number of permanent collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the British Museum and the John Jones Collection, London.

An exhibition brochure with essay by Haema Sivanesan will be available at Centre A.

Press release


Visiting International Speaker
Hammad Nasar, Head of Research and Programmes
Asia Art Archive, Hong Kong

Thursday, September 19: 7pm
Djavad Mowafaghian World Art Centre
Room 2555
Goldcorp Centre for the Arts
Simon Fraser University
149 West Hastings Street, Vancouver.

Presented with the support of SFU Woodwards Cultural Unit, Vancity Office of Community Engagement and the Contemporary Art Society of Vancouver.

Hammad Nasar is a curator and writer, and recently moved to Hong Kong as Head of Research and Programmes at the Asia Art Archive, where he plays a strategic role in developing AAA’s collection and shaping initiatives, partnerships and programmes that generate new thinking around the material in the collection and about the art of the region. Earlier, he co-founded and was Curatorial Director of the London-based arts organization Green Cardamom. He was a Fellow of the Clore Leadership Programme, Research Fellow at Goldsmith College, and Arts Director for the UK’s Festival of Muslim Cultures (2006-07). His recent projects include: Safavids Revisited at the British Museum (2009); Where Three Dreams Cross at the Whitechapel Gallery, London (2010); Beyond the Page: Miniature as Attitude in Contemporary Art from Pakistan at the Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, CA (2010) and Drawn from Life at Abbot Hall Gallery & Museum, Kendal, UK (2011). His ongoing curatorial projects include Lines of Control: Partition as a Productive Space (2005-ongoing) and Mashq: Repetition, Meditation, Mediation (2009-ongoing). Prior to entering the art world, Nasar worked as a management consultant and banker.

Nasar will speak on questions of geography, region and nation with insights into developments in contemporary art from West Asia or the “Middle East”, and with relation to the current exhibition at Centre A, “Minutes from a Second Story” by Hajra Waheed.

Asia Art Archive is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to documenting the recent history of contemporary art in Asia within an international context. Founded in 2000, AAA is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading public resources for contemporary art in Asia. It continues to grow through a systematic program of research and critical engagement.

Minutes From a Second Story | Artist Talk
Hajra Waheed, artist
moderated by Michael Filimowicz, Faculty Director of Interdisciplinary Program (Philosophers’ Café) in Lifelong Learning, Simon Fraser University.

Saturday, September 21: 3pm

Co-presented by the Philosophers’ Café, Simon Fraser University

Three in One on East Georgia Street: A Guided Tour
Saturday, October 5: 2pm

Join the Directors of 221a, Access Gallery and Centre A for a guided tour of the newly opened exhibitions at all three arts organizations on this dynamic street in Chinatown. Meet at Access Gallery; free and open to all. Meet at Access Gallery.

Minutes From a Second Story | Panel Discussion
Laura U Marks, Dena Wosk University Professor,
School for the Contemporary Arts, Simon Fraser University, and
Dima Alansari, film-maker, producer, community activist
in conversation with Haema Sivanesan

Saturday, October 12: 3pm

Hajra Waheed’s art practice responds to strictly imposed restrictions on photography during her years growing up in Saudi Arabia. This panel discussion examines histories of aniconism in the Arab-Islamic world, and its tense relation to visual cultures and photo-practices that are ubiquitous in the West. This discussion will consider the role of photography and film/video with relation to the rise of modernity in the Gulf region, with implications for questions of history, memory and the imagination.



“The Scrapbook Project Recalls Life in Saudi Arabia”, John Thomson, DZine Trip: Online Design Magazine, Sept 25, 2013

“Recollection de mémoires interdites : La place du Moyen-Orient dans l’art contemporain”, Genevieve Depelteau, La Source, September 9, 2013


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