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 nonprofit that organizes empowerment programs for the neighborhood.


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.


Curated by Suzanne Wallinga, in conversation with Nathanja van Dijk.




HE.RO, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

3 November – 22 December 2018


Dawood’s exhibition Leviathan: Memories of the Future Pt. 2 presented a (televisual) series of storyboards, masquerading as large-scale landscape paintings. In addition we featured the latest episode of the artist’s multi-year, multi-part series Leviathan, co-commissioned by the gallery.


Leviathan Cycle, Episode 4: Jamila reverses the usual path of migration (from North Africa to Italy) to question ideas of migration historically always being one way, and to question how crossings between Italy and North Africa are also deeply impacted by climate change affecting the marine environment both above and below the sea.


A series of dreams or hallucinations take the place of the Netflix image and narrative feed, by substituting the moving image for the still (if unstable) image of a volatile future. If the works in the exhibition act as a mirror to places and narratives so far unexplored, it’s because they represent the landscapes of as yet uncharted narrative arcs in Shezad Dawood’s imagination. These still images, or fragments of narrative, are punctuated by text from existing and forthcoming chapters of Dawood’s stream-of-consciousness monologues that score the various episodes of Leviathan. Playing with the function of the serialisation of narrative, the installation at HE.RO allows the viewer to insert themselves in this logic of the ebb and flow between narrative and iconic image; the space between the world as it is and as it may be.


Step in, the water’s warm.

Public Programme

symposium ‘art, ethics, schizophrenia & the marine environment’
24 November 2018, HE.RO Art Gallery, Amsterdam


On Saturday 24 November A Tale of a Tub i.c.w. HE.RO Gallery organized an afternoon of screenings, talks, and a panel discussion during Amsterdam Art Weekend in the context of Leviathan. Speakers included Amira Gad (Serpentine Gallery, London), Martin Ziegler (Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research), Jeff Diamanti (Lecturer Literary and Cultural Analysis at the University of Amsterdam, author of Terminal Landscapes: Media Ecologies of Postindustrial Energy Cultures — forthcoming) and Shezad Dawood. The video registrations of their presentations can be viewed online (click here).

Symposium ‘Art, Ethics, Schizophrenia & The Marine Environment’
A talk by Dr Jeff M. Diamanti

Heliotropism at the Terminal Beach of Critique
A talk by Dr Jeff M. Diamanti

Climate Change – Clues from a Distant Past
A talk by Dr. Martin Ziegler (University of Utrecht).

How Does It End When You Start at the End?
A talk by Amira Gad (Curator at the Serpentine Galleries in London).

Part of A Tale of a Tub and HE.RO’s afternoon of screenings, talks and a panel discussion on Saturday 24 November 2018 during Amsterdam Art Weekend, on the occasion of Leviathan exhibition at A Tale of a Tub in Rotterdam and HE.RO in Amsterdam, 2018-2019.