The Upper Side of the Sky

As part of Recollective: Vancouver Independent Archives Week, Western Front is pleased to present an online exhibition of The Upper Side of the Sky by Jawa El Khash, curated by Dana Qaddah.

As described by Qaddah, El Khash’s project is “an interactive virtual reality archive of the ancient ruins of Palmyra, Syria, created by the translation of collective and personal memory. Through a medium which resists the thresholds of space and temporality, El Khash materializes the ruins of a site, destroyed by ISIS during the Syrian civil war, among an ecosystem of architecture, animal and plant life. Agricultural archives, 3D models, and celestial scales generate an embodied experience of what is lost, forefronting the value of digital preservation and production within majority diasporic populations – much of whom are attuned to the orchestrated destruction of the homeland.”

The online exhibition is a desktop experience that can be viewed at

Additional programming

“Posterity and Expatriation”, an online conversation between Qaddah and El Khash on November 28, 2020. An illustrated transcription of the conversation is available here.

A written response by Laura U. Marks, a specialist in media art and philosophy with an intercultural focus, is available here.


Thanks to curator Allison Collins for initiating this project.

Recollective: Vancouver Independent Archives Week is a series of free public events, panels, conversations, and screenings that highlight artist-run centre archives, artists working with archives, and the intersections between contemporary art practices and social movements in Vancouver. It is a joint initiative of 221A, Artspeak, grunt gallery, Rungh Magazine, the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, VIVO Media Arts Centre, and Western Front. We acknowledge support of the Canada Council for the Arts.


Jawa El Khash (b. 1995, Damascus, Syria) is a Toronto-based artist and researcher. Her work blurs the lines between fantasy and reality, using technologies such as virtual reality and analogue holography to explore the everyday paradoxes and obscurities of living in the world. She uses the contradictions inherent in these spatial mediums to build environments that act as portals to investigate how we experience agriculture, architecture, archeology, and lepidopterology (the scientific study of butterflies and moths). The marriage of technology and art is the backbone of her research, process and thinking, through studying optics, 3D and VR technology to create replicas of reality.

Dana Qaddah (b. 1996, Beirut, Lebanon) is a third generation expatriate, artist and organizer based on the unceded territories of the Coast Salish people: the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh, and Musqueam nations. Qaddah’s interdisciplinary practice draws upon the condition of generational displacement, being abstracted from the destruction of one’s own sense of self, place, and home. Qaddah completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Emily Carr University of Art and Design in 2019. In 2018, Qaddah participated in Plug In ICA’s Summer Institute II: BUSH gallery. The following year, Qaddah was invited to be the writer in residence at Access Gallery’s PLOT space, and is currently one of the artists in residence at the Media Arts Committee’s sound art program. Qaddah’s upcoming shows include a group exhibition at Unit 17.

Laura U. Marks works on media art and philosophy with an intercultural focus. Her most recent books are Hanan al-Cinema: Affections for the Moving Image (2015) and Enfoldment and Infinity: An Islamic Genealogy of New Media Art (2010). With Azadeh Emadi, she is a founding member of the Substantial Motion Research Network of artists and scholars working on cross-cultural approaches to media technologies. She programs experimental media art for venues around the world and is the founder of the Small File Media Festival. Marks is Grant Strate Professor in the School for the Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.