A Tale of A Tub

November 18, 2018 – January 27, 2019

The solo exhibition Leviathan by Shezad Dawood revolves around the latest episode of Dawood’s Leviathan Cycle series of films, which is co-commissioned by A Tale of A Tub and a Canadian partnership between Fogo Island Arts, Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto, and Toronto Biennial of Art. In dialogue with a wide range of marine biologists, oceanographers, political scientists, neurologists and trauma specialists, the Leviathan Cycle explores notions of marine welfare, migration and mental health and their possible interconnections. It is set in an imaginary future whose inhabitants are the survivors of a cataclysmic solar event. Each episode is told from the point of view of a different character and follows them as they drift across Europe, Asia, and North Africa. The Leviathan Cycle was inaugurated in Venice in May 2017 to coincide with the 57th Art Biennale, and will unfold between 2017 and 2021.

Leviathan Episode 5: Ismael looks at issues around cargo ships, international waters and free trade zones, and how maritime law creates a whole separate legal infrastructure. These human aspects of international trade, and globalization are paralleled with the migrations made by marine fauna, to look at ideas of frictionless trade, in relation to how the concept of ‘conservation’ might be applied to humans as much as to animals.

In addition to the new film, Dawood’s solo exhibition at A Tale of A Tub features a series of large textile paintings. The paintings have been developed in dialogue with the renowned textile manufacturer Fortuny in Venice, and incorporates several of their hand-made fabrics. Dawood has furthermore been working closely with the Labanof in Milan, an institute that conducts research on personal effects lost by migrants during sea crossings to Lampedusa, in order to help families identify missing relatives. A series of artifacts and objects from the Labanof archive have provided the visual references for the new textile works.

Shezad Dawood’s earlier film It Was a Time That Was a Time (2015) can be viewed on the mezzanine and is the result of a free-form, collaborative filmmaking experiment. Participants took turns documenting each other living in a speculative community formed in response to a theoretical environmental cataclysm, with devices that might have survived a devastating flood. As the artist explained, in this possible post-apocalyptic community, surviving on the periphery of New York, rules of society, gender and relationships are given new expression. Operating on the borders between speculative realism and performance, the piece was primarily filmed on Coney Island in the aquarium that was notoriously flooded during Hurricane Sandy. Participants and collaborators included Brooklyn-based artists, costume designers and choreographers, as well as youth participating in Red Hook Initiative—a non-profit that organizes empowerment programs for the neighbourhood.

Through the presentation of new and recent works—films, textile paintings and sculpture—the exhibition Leviathan explores speculative futures and questions where we could be if a deeper understanding of trauma and climate erosion is not found. Leaving us to deal with not only a humanitarian crisis, but a wider crisis affecting our entire biosphere.


Leviathan is supported by the Municipality of Rotterdam, BNG Cultuurfonds, Stichting Zabawas, the Mondriaan Fonds, Stichting Stokroos, National Film Board of Canada Archives, and Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds. Leviathan: Episode 5 is made possible by A Tale of A Tub, THE EKARD COLLECTION, the Hugo Brown Family Collection and a Canadian partnership between Fogo Island Arts, Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto and Toronto Biennial of Art.