Hanif Janmohamed (b. 1958)
what is this? 2024.

Installation View (rendering).
Digital prints, face-mounted on acrylic panel, vinyl and dry transfer wall applications.
Commissioned by Deloitte Greenhouse, Toronto

what is this?

This is a multi-panel art installation commissioned by The Deloitte Greenhouse in Toronto.

The Greenhouse leverages behavioural science, analytics, technology, and facilitation to offer innovative programming that helps project teams tackle complex challenges. Its immersive environments are designed to disrupt conventional thinking, spur creativity, and foster breakthrough solutions. This new artwork aims to catalyze participant engagement and reflects the Greenhouse’s ethos.

We all have two sides of ourselves –
what we are for others and what we are for ourselves.

For others, we are a person –
for ourselves, we are space for the world.


Richard Long.

The installation, part of the artist’s Brain Terrains series, explores notions of self and identity through the overlapping domains of micro (human body) and macro (planetary body). The installation consists of 10 face-mounted acrylic wall panels that invite viewers to reflect on the construct of an Interstitial Self as a composite of personal and external influences.

In merging medical and satellite imagery, the artwork highlights the interconnectedness of the human and planetary bodies, locating the Self somewhere and nowhere along a spectrum of an interior and exterior domain. The work encourages viewers to reimagine their place in the world and question their relationships with their identity and perspectives, inviting a deeper engagement with the innovative programming of the Deloitte Greenhouse Program.

Central to this artwork, and the title of the piece, is the Zen Koan “What is this?” which recursively interrupts conventional frameworks of understanding to encourage a state of mindful introspection. This echoes the Greenhouse’s goal of disrupting established patterns to foster innovative thinking. This artwork commission for Deloitte Greenhouse, Toronto, encourages questioning, reframing, and curiousity and aims to inspire program participants through a visually striking and conceptually rich installation.

Hanif Janmohamed is a visual artist whose creative practice takes form in commissions, artwork, design initiatives and public engagement experiences. His work has been exhibited at leading international cultural institutions including MOCA-LA, The AGO, Vancouver Art Gallery, The Corcoran, The Milan Triennale, Vitra, and The Design Museum, among others.

Hanif Janmohamed,
what is this?
2024
Installation view (photo)

Artwork Description.

The installation is part of the artist’s ongoing Brain Terrains series, a body of work that explores the construct of Self and Identity. The series explores this terrain through blended compositions of medical and satellite imagery – the two bodies of the human experience.

This commission for Deloitte Greenhouse is a large-scale wall installation in a space dedicated to working sessions of the Greenhouse program. The floating panels are face-mounted acrylic panels with combinations of medical imaging of the human body and satellite imaging of the planet from NASA’s Earth Observatory. These technologically mediated scans offer ways of seeing into ourselves and they are combined in the works to reveal a composite entity and the constructed, faceted and combinatory nature of human identity as a temporal cohesion of elements and experiences.

Objectives

The primary objectives of this artwork are to prime participants for reflecting on the shared global human experience, to reframe conventional relationships of Self and Other, and to reconsider personal experiences of interiority and exteriority. The installation supports Deloitte Greenhouse’s goals of fostering deeper client engagement and encouraging the disruption of previously held perspectives. By replacing an existing decorative wall feature, this new installation offers a thought-provoking visual experience to enhance participant engagement in the Greenhouse programming activities.

Key Themes

The art installation is framed within a question to invite reflection and engagement – What is This? is a Zen Koan. Koans are designed to provoke deeper thought and insight by challenging conventional thinking. Incorporating the Zen Koan What is This? creates a sandbox of curiosity and enquiry. The question invites viewers to contemplate the nature of perception and experience and encourages a state of mindful introspection. This Koan complements the artwork’s exploration of Self and Identity, inviting participants to go beyond surface appearances and reflect on the fluid, constructed nature of their own identities. This reflective process aligns with Deloitte Greenhouse’s goal of disrupting established perspectives and fostering innovative solutions.

The work engages viewers with a number of thematic explorations:

  • Identity as a Construct:
    The composite nature of personal and external influences. Identity is viewed as a dynamic process, continuously reshaped by internal and external experiences.
  • Interconnectedness:
    The visual fusion of medical and satellite imagery reflects the overlapping domains of our individual existence – the Self as a living, porous fabric.
  • Duality:
    Inner/outer, self/other, male/female, right/wrong – our fungible and mediated place within the spectrums of duality, as reflected in Richard Long’s quote on existence for others and ourselves.
  • The Hyperobject:
    Timothy Morton’s concept of hyperobjects – “massively distributed in time and space…” – helps us reframe and reimagine the human body and Earth as interconnected entities.
  • Recursion:
    The recursive patterns seen at different scales—from cellular to planetary—highlight the self-similar nature of existence – are we simply elements in a field of patterns?
  • The Temporal Nature of Self:
    The artwork explores interstitial spaces and the self as a temporal construct – a time-based and plastic assemblage.
The Panels

Hanif Janmohamed,
what is this?
2024
Installation panels (rendering)

The installation consists of 10 large-format wall panels – digital prints, face-mounted onto thick acrylic panels on a recessed subframe. The floating glass-like panels are attached through a matte wall application, with a contextual text element, to create a visually arresting and thought-provoking composite artwork. The work is displayed on a designated wall in the Toronto Greenhouse and positioned to leverage architectural sightlines. The satellite images are sourced from NASA’s Earth Observatory project and medical Imagery is sourced from the public domain.

Hanif Janmohamed,
Oh, so fracked! 2018
An early study for a multi-panel wall installation from the Brain Terrains series

About the Artist

Hanif Janmohamed is a visual artist, creative director, and designer. His award-winning works combine poetic vision and artistic practice with design thinking and an enterprise mind – ideas, projects, and ventures grow in this terrain, rich with opportunity and possibility.

Hanif’s South-Asian heritage, African roots, European education and North American life experience manifest in a pluralist worldview and eclectic creative engagement. He studied at the San Francisco Art Institute and with Jeff Wall at Simon Fraser University. He has a Master’s degree in Industrial Design, with distinction, from the Domus Academy, Milan. Hanif is based in Vancouver, Canada.

Hanif Janmohamed,
Self-Portrait with Glasses. 2014.
30″ x 30″ Mixed media shadow box.

Hanif brings a wealth of experience from successful, high-profile public engagement works at leading cultural institutions. His design work has been showcased at international venues including MOCA-LA, The Milan Triennale, The Design Museum, The Vitra Museum, The National Building Museum and The Corcoran. His visual art and public engagement initiatives have been exhibited at The Art Gallery of Ontario, The Vancouver Art Gallery, The Surrey Art Gallery and independent international galleries including Galleria Bianca Pilat, Milan, Museo Nuova Era, Bari and the TAG Gallery LA.

Works from the Brain Terrains series are held in collections at the McConnell Brain Imaging Centre, The University of British Columbia, The THNK Centre for Creative Leadership, and with private collectors. A related project, Inner-Selfies @ AGO, was funded by a major grant from the Canada Council’s Digital Strategy Fund and was exhibited at the Art Gallery of Ontario for 14 months between 2022 and 2023. The hybrid public engagement project invited gallery visitors to create ‘Inner Selfies’ in a physical maker space onsite, and virtually with a Selfie-making tool in an immersive online experience.

Hanif’s expertise in creating compelling visual imagery and his history of successful large-scale installations has uniquely positioned him to bring this vision to life for Deloitte Greenhouse, Toronto.