Sameer Farooq: The Fairest Order in the World

5 October – 22 December, 2023

Sameer Farooq. Restitution Series (Stone Heads), 2020.

In this first exhibition in his home province of Nova Scotia, Cape Breton born, Toronto based artist Sameer Farooq presents a new installation that offers a deeply poetic space to reflect on the fraught and violent histories of art and anthropological museums, their colonial origins, structures, and impulses. 

With The Fairest Order in the World, Farooq probes notions of provenance, repatriation, and repair, composing a series of new and recent sculptures and images to articulate unique ideas for repurposing the emptied spaces of museums devoid of their spoils. Mining the possibilities offered by sustained engagement, Farooq invites us to envision what the museum might become through the mechanics of restitution, what it may shift to collect and document, and what kind of experiences it could nurture. 

The installation elicits prolonged attention, asking visitors to look intently and to spend time with the objects, contemplating their physical and emotional presence as well as the absences they evoke. The artworks may serve as tools for meditation, revealing a deeper potential that transcends their aesthetic value. An audio environment composed by Farooq's collaborator Gabie Strong (Los Angeles, CA) sets a deliberately slow pace, encouraging six-minute intervals at each vantage point. Lyrical texts contributed by poet Jared Stanley (Reno, NV) unsettle the rigid format of institutional labels and imagine the objects' own voices. Farooq’s film produced in collaboration with Mirjam Linschooten (Amsterdam, NL), The Museum Visits a Therapist, offers a reflection on trauma and recovery, personifying the museum and imagining therapeutic strategies for healing historic wounds. 

The exhibition takes its title from a text fragment of Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus: "The fairest order in the world is a heap of random sweepings." Contained in this duality of opposites is the idea that the most organized and just attempt at a universal order is equally as flawed or filled with balance and beauty as an arbitrary pile of refuse. Considering this paradox, Farooq's meticulously choreographed assembly invites us to interrogate our relationship with art objects and museum displays, as well as the ordering narratives they uphold. 

Press Release for Sameer Farooq: The Fairest Order in the World

Suggested Reading List

The artist would like to thank: 


Nedda Baba, Sharlene Bamboat, Charles Becker, Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Thomas Bollmann, Sofia Cardone, Melanie Colosimo, Pamela Dodds, Mike Drolet, Pamela Edmonds, Chris Flanagan, Galerie Nicolas Robert, Michele Gallant, Susan Hobbs Gallery, Michael Hurley, Forest Kelley, Joshua Lue Chee Kong, Ante Benedikt Kurilić, Raeesa Lalani, Roger Lewis, Mirjam Linschooten, Sarah Little, Frankie Macaulay, Katherine MacGillivray, Melany Nugent Noble, Shannon Parker, Amber Peck, PIKTO, Prismatic Arts Festival, Sarah Prosper, Becs Semple, Jared Stanley, Gabie Strong, Smokestack Studio, Superframe, Lawrence Switzky, Carla Taunton, Kika Thorne, Toleen Touq, Kyle Tryhorn, Indu Vashist, Kate Walchuk, Geoffrey Webster, Adam Williams, Shellie Zhang, the Dalhousie Art Gallery staff, the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council.