12 April—26 September 2024

Sukaina Kubba


Now the Voice of the Second

Mercer Union’s SPACE billboard commission has invited artist Sukaina Kubba for its 2023–24 season for a yearlong series titled, Jealousy. Formally trained as an architect, Kubba deploys transitional objects and textiles alongside historical research and narrative fiction to propose novel methods of unpacking and relating to cultural artefacts. Through sculpture, drawing, embroidery, and various forms of image transfer, her practice is a study of motifs in heirlooms and fibre objects of high trade, that are often activated by historical and fictional characters.

Working with materials such as photo emulsion, plastic filament, and various sheer fabrics, Jealousy presents three sculptural works, each forging an impression of the one before to form a series of abstracted theatrical drapes. Prompted by the history of Mercer Union’s building as a cinema in the early part of the last century, these works come together as adverts for a fictional premiere: a new film adaptation of Alain Robbe-Grillet’s 1957 novel La Jalousie. Noting the double-meaning of the title (“jealousy” or “louvered window”), Kubba attunes to the history and architecture of the building, taking cues from the various mediating forms punctuating its façade—vents, chutes, and other porous passages—that elicit transgression and permit the senses to travel.

Jealousy: Now the Voice of the Second is the final edition in the yearlong series; the title is borrowed from the chapter “Now the voice of the second driver” in La Jalousie (1957) by Alain Robbe-Grillet. An accompanying text is forthcoming.

“Now the voice of the second monitor crescendoes: a mustachioed man plays a windpipe of sorts in the tunnel at Spadina Station. You are wearing that same yellow silk-rayon jacket over a black mesh top over a white turtleneck with a blue logo of sorts, and I move closer to you to accommodate a quieter couple. Now the mustachioed man plays Risk in Iran? In Tunisia? Now a spitting wind whisks some nations away at a whim and rusts the green shapes that dot the façade. Now your horoscope tells me: 'that love is the best natural painkiller available'”
Sukaina Kubba
Now the Voice of the Second

Asks me appearing
That there were no grace (comfort)
Or miracle
Her housebody
Afraids her
Alone her
She loves the hole freely
And cleaves to
O but please
Sometimes the lady
Has dry hands
Picks a centipede
Off the wall
The freak has arrived
To repair reality
His silence composed of
Commas cucked unto
All he says
The commotion committee
Asleep in parallel grammars
Here begins 
The insatiable
Project of solitude
Now the voice of the first:
The Orphean dream
A writer without work
Just lacerating fictions
Blowing in the wind
Now the voice of the second:
A poem without a poet,
An undecorated necessity
The soul chimes
Out of metaphor
Plunges into velveteen
On the veranda, wind, or that convalescing rosacea
Known as love
Obeys horoscopes
Skies unprotected by rhetoric do not speak
So we do
Winds like Medusan fellatio
Whip his back
Minutes wrap him in fresh dust
O to be close again
O to be devoured
Unraveled from the champagne flout
A letter in an empty house
Mustached under a glass
Peel off the edges around this life

Love doesn’t tired of us
Let’s have a drink

Let this poet lie to you
Just for tonight

The night is already dark
Crickets’ racket
Engulf the garden
The veranda
All around the house
Through an upstairs window, open,
A silhouette
With the graininess of withheld movement
Now seated,
Fumbling with something below
The sill,
But for the subtle curve of the back
Leans away,
His shoulder hurting
He remembers a reconstruction of a corpse
At the British museum
Its teeth rotting from a hard diet,
Parry fractures across the forearms
“An active life”
Then he recalls his tiredness,
His thirst
Suddenly the need to be satiated,
Then his insatiability
When he looks back up
Like both guided and cast off
The taste of papaya in his mouth


The figure in the window is gone
The blind is drawn
That’s not the end
What she did in his absence
How she stirred and slept 
How he retrieved these words
And their . . .
From her lips

Maybe what he was wearing
Nylon mesh
Or the lilies 
If it’s come to this
Then you’re paying attention
The details 
The workday is over
The hands still show the creases where it’s been folded.
Ami Xherro


Sukaina Kubba is an Iraqi-born Toronto-based artist who explores narratives of cultural and material assimilation and appropriation. Kubba will present her first institutional solo exhibition in the United Kingdom at Dundee Contemporary Arts, Scotland in April 2024. Her work is included in the triennial exhibition Greater Toronto Art, MOCA Toronto (2024); and in exhibitions at the plumb, Toronto (2023); The Next Contemporary, Toronto (2023); Aga Khan Museum, Toronto (2017); Centre for Contemporary Art, Glasgow (2016); and Glasgow International (2016, 2014). Kubba recently completed residencies at the International Studio and Curatorial Program, New York; and La Wayaka Current, Atacama Desert, Chile. She is a sessional lecturer in Visual Studies at the University of Toronto, and previously served as curator and lecturer at The Glasgow School of Art (2013–2018).

Kubba would like to extend sincere thanks to Nellie Davis, Luther Davis, Chris Kinsler and John Bartolo at Powerhouse Arts Printshop (Brooklyn, NY) for printmaking and production assistance; to Jason Spargo of Sue Spargo (Uniontown, OH) for hand-dyed velvet; Yasaman Kamaliasl for technical assistance on Now the Voice of The Second (2024); and to Levon Kafafian for introducing her to velvet devoré last summer.

Ami Xherro is a poet. Her work draws out the incomprehensible from the ordinary, playing with logics and feelings of association. She is the author of Drank, Recruited (Guernica Editions, 2023), which was longlisted for the Pat Lowther Award, and The Unfinished Flame (Swimmers Group, 2017). She has contributed writing to publications including The Brooklyn Review, Ugly Duckling Presse, The Capilano Review, The Ex-Puritan, and Metatron. She is a co-founder of the Toronto Experimental Translation Collective (TETC) and co-edits Barricade: A Journal of Antifascism & Translation.

About the Series

SPACE invites one artist to produce a yearlong series of images for a public-facing billboard located on the east façade of Mercer Union.