Composed Escape:
a retreat exploring time and productivity
4–8 August 2023

This retreat is part of Toleen Touq’s MA research project which investigates decolonial temporalities that disrupt the capitalist notion of time as a commodity. Focusing on artistic and curatorial practices such as residencies and retreats, her thesis positions these gatherings against the notions of “use” and “productivity” under the capitalist temporal paradigm; creative forms that cannot be quantified in material value and serve no end in the global economy of things.

The retreat conditions a non-traditional learning environment that engages a community of artists, students and scholars in sustained dialogue and study to think through and support each other’s creative practices. Over a period of 3 days, the retreat moves between the overly-defined and the undefined, shuttling between structure and openness. Composed Escape is part of a wider research that tracks the history of time and temporality under modernity and capitalism, together with and through practices that embody the right to temporal agency.

Invited artists and scholars are Parastoo Anoushahpour (filmmaker, Toronto), Sharlene Bamboat (filmmaker, Montreal), Aman Sandhu (visual artist and PhD candidate, Montreal/Glasgow), Oliver Husain (visual artist, Toronto), Serena Lee (visual artist and PhD candidate, Toronto/Vienna), and Fan Wu (poet and PhD candidate, Toronto/Kingston). Designed as a retreat to “do nothing” where doing nothing together means doing many things, participants engage collaboratively in seeing, listening, reading, drawing, lingering, foraging, dreaming, moving and other sensory activities.

Curated by Toleen Touq, Queen’s MA candidate in Cultural Studies, in collaboration with Nasrin Himada, Associate Curator, Academic Outreach and Community Engagement.

This project is generously supported by the Queen University’s Faculty of Arts and Science Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Indigenization (EDI-I) Fund, the Cultural Studies Research Creation/Community-based Research Fund, and the Agnes Etherington Art Centre.

Snapshot from micro-residency Composed Escape: a retreat exploring time and productivity. Courtesy of Toleen Touq.

Snapshot from micro-residency Composed Escape: a retreat exploring time and productivity. Courtesy of Toleen Touq.

Snapshot from micro-residency Composed Escape: a retreat exploring time and productivity. Courtesy of Toleen Touq.

Snapshot from micro-residency Composed Escape: a retreat exploring time and productivity. Courtesy of Toleen Touq.


Toleen Touq is a curator, cultural producer and facilitator working between Toronto, Canada and Amman, Jordan. In Amman, she is co-founding director of Spring Sessions (2014-ongoing), a yearly residency program that brings together artists, researchers and cultural practitioners in a collaborative and experiential learning environment that is fueled by responsiveness to place and deep curiosity. She co-initiated and co-curated The River Has Two Banks (2012-2017), a multi-disciplinary artistic platform that addressed the historical, political and spatial relations between Jordan and Palestine. In Toronto, she was artistic director (2018-2022) of SAVAC, a nomadic artist-run center dedicated to presenting and developing the work of marginalized and racialized artists. She co-initiated Ways of Attuning (2021-2023) to study intimate and expansive curatorial practice with a group of participants across Turtle Island. In 2024, she is guest curating the second edition of Greater Toronto Art for the Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto. Her writings have been published with Ibraaz, Sternberg Press, A Prior, Manifesta Journal and others.

Parastoo Anoushahpour (Iran / Canada) is an artist originally from Tehran now based in Toronto working predominantly with film, video and installation. She was an artist in residence at the Mohammad and Mahera Abu Ghazaleh Foundation (Jordan), Tabakalera International Center for Contemporary Art (Spain), Taipei Artist Village (Taiwan), and Banff Center for Arts & Creativity (Canada). Her recent solo and collaborative work has been shown at the ICA, Berlinale, MoMA, The Flaherty Film Seminar, Punto de Vista Film Festival, Sharjah Film Platform, Viennale,NYFF, TIFF, IFF Rotterdam, Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen, Experimenta (Bangalore), and Media City Film Festival. Since 2013 she has been working in collaboration with Ryan Ferko and Faraz Anoushahpour. Their shared practice explores the tension of multiple subjectivities as a strategy to address the power inherent in narrative structures.

Sharlene Bamboat is a moving image and installation artist based in Tiohtià:ke/Montreal. Her practice engages with translation, history, and sound to uncover sensory and fractured ways of understanding the relationship between the self and the social in transnational contexts. Her works examine the role of colonialism, globalization, culture, and desire through poetics, abstraction, and collaboration by working with artists, musicians and writers to animate historical, political, legal, and pop-culture materials. Her most frequent collaborator, since 2009, is Alexis Mitchell. In addition to her art practice, Sharlene works in the arts-sector, including artist-run organizations and collectives in Canada, and with artists both locally and internationally.

Aman Sandhu (b. Toronto) is an artist working between Glasgow and Montréal. His installations encompass drawing, moving image, and text. He considers them as ensembles of objects that refuse to come into view through institutions’ unrelenting calculations. He engages in a critique of whiteness and seeks to destabilise the centre-margin rubric evoked in encounters between racialised artists and institutions—engagements that often reify whiteness even by refusal. Through improvisation, Aman rethinks the place of refusal in critique to produce other ways of coming to knowledge.

Artist and filmmaker Oliver Husain is based in Toronto, Canada. His projects are often collaborations with other artists and friends; and often begin with a fragment of history, a rumour, a personal encounter or a distant memory. He uses a wide range of cinematic languages, technical experiments and visual pleasures — such as dance, puppetry, costume, special effects — to animate his research and fold the viewers into complex narrative set-ups.

Serena Lee works via polyphony to map how things come together and apart. She plays across cinematic, sonic, and martial arts practices, tracing dao through aesthesis. Serena often works in collaborative constellations that stretch language and geography, engaging with communities, artist-run organizations, cultural institutions, and film festivals. Ongoing collaborations include SHATTERED MOON ALLIANCE with Christina Battle: a DIY framework for sci-fi world-building, and Read-in: collectively researching political, embodied, and situated practices of reading. Serena holds an MFA from the Piet Zwart Institute (NL), and an Associate Diploma in Piano Performance from the Royal Conservatory of Music (CA). Born and raised in tkaronto/Toronto, Canada, Serena is currently based in Vienna as a PhD-in-Practice candidate at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna.

Fan Wu is a poet, performer, and teacher. His current research interfaces with Daoism’s concepts of effortless action and adaptive intuition and how they can support a process-oriented and counter-capitalist form of life. He is planning a series of reading & practice-based workshops in 2024 on the exigency of unifying spirituality and politics. You can read his writing online through Reassemblage Collective, PleasureDome, and Gallery TPW.

Image Credits

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