Lebanese-Montreal artist Nayla Dabaji explores memory and migration in latest work

‘Documentaire en dérive’ exhibition looks back on the artist’s creative process

Photo Aude Simon

The exhibition Documentaire en dérive deconstructs the creative process of visual artist Nayla Dabaji’s 2019 video project Boomerang.

The project looks at the concept of memory through one video-based medium, while the exhibition presents its ambiguity in a physical space with mediums that range from photography, text, sound, and video. 

“I wanted to see what else I could do that could talk about the process because I think the creative process is really interesting and often it's something we just don’t look back on anymore when we have the final piece. This is what Documentaire en dérive is about, coming back to sound, text, images,” said Dabaji. 

With migration being a large theme in Dabaji’s work, the exhibition showcases different fragments of memory to demonstrate that several places can come together as one through remembering those experiences. Documentaire en dérive features several landscapes to represent places she’s been and Dabaji shows a special focus on seaside strolls. Through this, Dabaji demonstrates how memories can often bounce off each other from one place to the next. “[It’s] the movement of being from a place, and living in another place, having memories from different places and leaving them.”

Ambient sounds of waves, rain, fire, and birds echo throughout the exhibition. Dabaji explained hearing is associated with memory, and synonymously hearing sounds that aren’t normally found together can put the listener in a fragmented place. 

Dabaji’s view of art as an ever changing work and its ability to morph into something else is what led Documentaire en dérive to arise from Boomerang. The visual artist explained the space allows viewers to more easily connect to any part of the work and interpret it individually. 

“I'm offering something but it's not obvious. […] My wish is that anyone can pick up these fragments and create [their] own image of the piece.”

Documentaire en dérive is available for viewing at the Montréal, arts interculturels until April 16.