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Bodies Beyond Borders

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For Zein Qussus '14 art is a universal language
Bodies Beyond Borders

An architect by training, Zein Qussus '14 found her artistic voice during her time at King’s. The encouragement of her teachers opened the doors for artistic exploration and her experiences living and learning with students from around the world influenced the central theme of her art today — global citizenship. One of five Guiding Principles at King’s Academy, global citizenship became more than just a value but a lived reality for Qussus.

Over the last seven years, Qussus has moved across continents: from Jordan to Canada and most recently to Italy. Each move forced her to reconsider a certainty often taken for granted — the meaning of home. “Jordan is a home, but I've also made many homes along the way… being a global citizen is understanding that earth is your home.”

Learning to inhabit a world fractured by arbitrary divisions and political decisions inspired Qussus’ first solo exhibition, Bodies Beyond Borders. The exhibition was, in her own words, a visual love letter to all the places that shaped her and an exploration of her journey as an Arab female who belongs neither to the East nor to the West. Some places invited her to experience them intimately, such as Montreal, while others, like Jerusalem, she could only explore virtually due to political restrictions.

Visitors to the exhibition experienced Qussus’ artistic and personal evolution via a 25-minute video compilation of her digital art and photography. The artwork laid bare Qussus’ literal and metaphorical insides. Images of x-rays, her silhouette outlined in chalk on brick walls and a video of Qussus tracing her body on cardboard displayed her physical body in all its forms as it inhabited different locations. Colored contour lines that resembled topography maps, she explains, illustrated the emotions elicited by each city she visited — whether physically or virtually.

Bodies Beyond Borders

Held last November at Casa Clizia, a community art space on the outskirts of Milan, the exhibition was attended mostly by locals, many of whom had never met someone from Jordan, much less traveled to the Middle East. Reflecting on how visitors could relate to the experiences of a person they had never met and places they had never been to, Qussus says “there is an essence that we all share with each other. That’s what I'm looking for, to connect with humans on that level.”

According to Qussus, language, borders and identity may change but the power of art lies in its ability to transcend these limitations. Unlike traditional languages, which not everyone can understand, “art is a universal language…a vehicle of expression that allows us all to communicate,” she concludes.