12 January—11 April 2024

Sukaina Kubba


Now the House is Empty

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 House is Empty is the second edition in the yearlong series; the title is borrowed from a chapter by the same name in La Jalousie (1957) by Alain Robbe-Grillet.

Accompanying the work is a poem written by Daisy Lafarge.

“Now the house is empty; the luxuries are folded; the seats are draped. Thirty-score ghosts fastened to a yellow-glue carpet over a slanted floor. The bolts are rusty, the bricks have iron and the exits smell of moths. “What would you like to eat?” “Mustard, ketchup, and emerald greens.”
Sukaina Kubba
Sure the sexagenarians  
fantasise. Something in the wheat  
that made you think submissive.  
One night he was compelled to jump  
from tufted rug to matrimonial bed – in case  
of protruding hands, or vapours in the en-suite.  
Remembering: a ball of socks, distasteful  
thoughts, the alignment of his  
mandibles. The wife, other herbs, a blinkered 
faithful ray. She was diligent, lying supine  
above a chaste slice of bed. She danced red 
in the convexities of his eyelids.  
In the adjacent room, Viennese. It was misleading 
for potential beaux. What to do? Evenings  
dug up and pieced together. Easy to imagine oneself 
plucked for internet marketing. Secretly  
conservative, fondness for woodcuts, corduroy.    
She rose late in the little mirror, a slice from hip  
to ribcage. Wiped the dust from her navel. Daubed  
her sendaline slip. Pressing his nose to the window, 
he loved her instantly. His eyes were smaller than average 
and blessed with extraordinary aperture. He, in a velvet-lined  
cupboard, kept hourglasses polished immaculately.  
She was the present and future: sunken middle, sponge  
cooled, wind chilling through her aerated centre. 
His blush resembled a candycane, a cross section of oak.  
He didn’t know how to reach his fantasies. 
 Blunted male, he twitched the jalousie.  
She saw the window glint. 
Shyly, she was ready.  
Door frames, flower beds, gutter pipes.  
Daisy Lafarge


Sukaina Kubba is an Iraqi-born Toronto-based artist who explores narratives of cultural and material assimilation and appropriation. Kubba's work has been included in recent exhibitions at the plumb, Toronto (2023); The Next Contemporary, Toronto (2023); Art Gallery of Ontario (2019); Aga Khan Museum, Toronto (2017); Centre for Contemporary Art, Glasgow (2016); and Glasgow International (2016, 2014). She recently completed residencies at the International Studio and Curatorial Program, New York; and La Wayaka Current, Atacama Desert, Chilé. Upcoming exhibitions include GTA24 at MOCA, Toronto; and a solo exhibition at Dundee Contemporary Arts, Scotland. Kubba is a sessional lecturer in Visual Studies at the University of Toronto, and previously served as curator and lecturer at Glasgow School of Art (2013–2018).

Kubba would like to extend sincere thanks to Luther Davis and John Bartolo at Powerhouse Arts Printshop (Brooklyn NY) for printmaking and production assistance and to Yasaman Kamaliasl for technical assistance on Now the House is Empty (2024).

Daisy Lafarge is a writer based in Glasgow, UK. She is the author of the novel Paul (Riverhead 2022; Granta 2021), which won a Betty Trask Award and was a New York Times Editor’s Choice. Her poetry collection Life Without Air (Granta 2020), was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize and awarded Scottish Poetry Book of the Year. Lovebug, a short book on the poetics of infection, was published by Peninsula Press in 2023.

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.