Noor Bhangu

Toronto-based Curator and Scholar

01.01.2020   - 31.03.2020

Noor Bhangu is a curator and scholar of South Asian descent based in Toronto/Tkaronto; the Mohawk name for Toronto, meaning the place in the water where the trees are standing. Her work employs cross-cultural encounters to examine issues of the diaspora in post-colonial and settler-colonial contexts, engaging with issues surrounding diasporic belonging, archival practices, and cultural translations.

In the past, Bhangu’s exhibitions have centered around art production relating to the diaspora, while critically examining archival and counter-archival practices in a diverse range of social contexts, including South Asia and Canada. Bhangu views the archive as a metaphor for the systematically destructive ways indigenous cultures have been treated in the past. In future curatorial projects, she plans to focus on the digital and virtual plane, further considering ways in which identity is shaped and translated online to dismantle neglected histories of impartiality and erasure. Using digital means, she would like to transform her focus from art as a way of navigating the past, to different ways art can move throughout the world. In her curatorial projects and writing, she looks closely at the art collecting practices of Canadian institutions, including traces of colonialism, gaps within collections, and a lack of records of inclusion and representation of marginalized people.

Nobody warns you how difficult it is to step into and find your footing in diaspora. I emigrated to Canada from Patiala, India with my family in 2003. I was 10 years old and, in many ways, not yet ready to let go of the safety of my home and childhood. We settled in Winnipeg, whose Prairie-flatness resembled and often filled in for the Punjab of my feelings. Growing up as an immigrant in predominantly white communities, I wrestled with my identity and sense of place. In recent years, I have been able to sift through my internal diasporic storm by coming into contact with the creative work of other women, who have lived with their own histories of displacement and movement.

Noor Bhangu,

 

During her curatorial residency at SomoS, the curator continued to develop a group exhibition called Digitalia, which confronts the vision of the internet as a Utopian space. Bhangu cites a popular and oft-criticized TV commercial titled “Anthem”, in which a cast of characters take turns citing, “There is no race, there is no gender, there is no age…There are only minds. Utopia? No. The Internet.” For her, “This motto is significant, for it clearly outlines the problem at stake: to enter the Utopian space of the Internet we must forfeit our race, gender, and age. However, for those that exist outside the nice, un-chaotic pockets of white, male, and straight subjecthood, and are therefore intimately linked to their bodies, this forfeiture is a luxury that cannot be attained.” Digitalia takes a possible starting point the term coined by the Canadian film critic Cameron Bailey, to speak on the convergence of genitalia, marginalia, and wires.

In Berlin, Bhangu aims to familiarize local and global audience with the work of several Canadian artists, thus attempting a deeper look at the ways in with the digital, marginal, and genital intersect. In addition to the exhibition, she is preparing an accompanying catalog, which will stay with the show in future iterations.

Bhangu earned her BA and MA from the University of Winnipeg, and PhD from Ryerson/York University, and earned awards, grants, and scholarships at both universities. She has given public lectures at the Venice Biennale, and the University of Winnipeg, and has attended many conferences and workshops. She has completed four curatorial projects for the University of Manitoba School of Art Special Collections Gallery, a project for SOUTHASIA.ART, and four independent curatorial projects. Her writing and editorial work have appeared in many publications, both online and in print.