Farah Al Qasimi: Lady Lady at COOPER COLE, Toronto, Canada

Farah Al Qasimi
Lady Lady
COOPER COLE, Toronto, Canada
1134 Dupont St, Toronto, ON M6H 2A2, Canada
January 15 – February 13, 2021
All images copyright and courtesy of the artist(s) and COOPER COLE, Toronto

This is the artist’s first exhibition at the gallery, and first solo exhibition in Canada.

In this body of photographic work, Al Qasimi explores themes of mimicry, commodification, and escape as they relate to photography and global aesthetics. Looking at both private and public spaces, Al Qasimi considers how popular culture has become a tool for world-building and the formation of value systems for young people in her respective communities.

The photographs in this exhibition zoom in on personal, often idiosyncratic, expressions of identity, culture, and personality through adornment and the assemblages of mass production, whether in teenage bedrooms or shopping malls. Al Qasimi interrogates the roles and uses of photography with careful skepticism, posing that today’s visual fluency can often be too trusting of images (such as ‘perfect’ social media avatars and the inevitable subjectivity of mainstream news media). The artist does so by melding techniques of slick and enticing commercial photography, journalistic editorial photography, and fine art photography in a visual dialogue. Al Qasimi creates images that are luscious and inviting, while maintaining an opacity in their legibility. In doing so, she glitches the customary swiftness with which we are conditioned to consume images.

The title of the exhibition, Lady Lady, references an anime cartoon that was translated into Arabic and broadcasted in the Emirates in the 1990s. Imported fantasy worlds such as this one appear frequently in Al Qasimi’s work. Her 2020 film King of Joy most directly addresses issues of identity and mimicry. In it, the artist appears dressed in a costume purchased from Dragon Mart—a Chinese mall in Dubai—improvising a musical piece and with it, a range of emotions. While this portrait appears to differ from her still, intimate photographs of women and their homes, throughout these works Al Qasimi reflects on the lived experience of transnationalism and the reality that our lives are never completely our own.