Do You Know Why the Waves Break?

May 5

 —  May 25

Image Description: Alyssa Alikpala, slowly unfolding (until empty), digital video, wheatpaste, petals on stone and petals in water carried away by the current, 2022. 1 MIN 48 SEC (Video still courtesy of the artist) 

Location: Bachir/Yerek Presentation Space, Suite 452 (4th floor), 401 Richmond St West, Toronto

Gallery Hours: Tuesday - Saturday, 12PM - 6PM



COVID-19 Policy:

Images Festival is committed to providing an accessible festival and continues to work to reduce barriers to participation at our events. This year, we are implementing a COVID-19 policy to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission for all, and to prioritize the participation of people who are disability-identified, immunocompromised, or part of an otherwise vulnerable group.


The following guidelines will be in place:


Masking: Masking is required when visiting the exhibition.

Self-Assessment: We ask that staff and participants screen themselves for COVID-19 before visiting the exhibition.




It is easy to fall into the vocabulary of magic when writing about the work of Myriam Rey, Laïla Mestari, and Alyssa Alikpala. Standing among them in Do You Know Why the Waves Break? it seems they have almost conjured themselves into being for this exact time and place.  


Ironically, the first exhibition produced in-house by Images Festival in two years, taking place during the 2022 Slow Edition, came together at a record pace—in the span of only two weeks. Following one meal shared between near strangers and two emotion-filled phone calls, the exhibition was born. 


Consisting of two digital videos and one video installation, Do You Know Why the Waves Break? considers water as a site to contemplate the body and one’s positionality, as well as a mode of connection to spirit and distant ancestors. 


Reflecting on conversations with her sister and father in the trilingual video Oh My Water, Myriam speaks of her body as a place where disparate cultures convene, and as a host for ancestral knowledge. In one telling, her father asks, “Do you know how the waves break?” He then answers: “They travel uninterrupted, at their full height, over the deep sea. When they reach the shore… they become too high for the shallow sea. They hit the sea bed, it unbalances them, makes them collapse, that’s how they break. And the next one rise[s] again.” Brimming with metaphor, Myriam shares her late-father’s story of the sea meeting itself, breaking and starting again, both fractured and whole but ever ongoing. Where her father tells us how, this exhibition responds by asking: Why? 


The title of Laïla’s contribution, Chanson pour Amina, translates from French to English as A Song for Amina. Dedicated to Amina, Laïla’s grandmother, the video seeks to reconcile idealized images with their immediate counterparts: an image from a glossy magazine depicting a stunning waterfall rushing through a rock face is placed in a quiet stream in rural Québec. Laïla holds the image in place with slimy, algae-covered stones; a spider takes refuge on one of them, and wild rose petals float through the frame as a haunting voice sings a song encouraging healing and forgiveness to, or maybe for, distant ancestors. 


Alyssa’s art practice consists of meditative responses to her immediate surroundings, in real time. These responses create gentle interruptions and disruptions for passersby. slowly unfolding (until empty) documents one such interruption at West Beach in Toronto, and brings it to 401 Richmond. Using carnations, the traditional flower of Mother’s Day, Alyssa joins Myriam and Laïla in contemplating her lineage—a family separated by seas—and other potential kin. In the gallery, Alyssa offers a place for refuge, contemplation, and the possibility of slowing down with hopes that the gift she left behind will be noticed.

Laïla, Alyssa, and Myriam address the water itself as a facilitator, one that helps to forge memory’s tenuous links between now and then. Each of the artists questions what it means to be faced with oneself in and among the conditions of today, as a woman who is descended from an elsewhere. Taking Myriam’s father’s metaphor one step further, they ask: Do you know why the waves break?


— Jaclyn Quaresma

  • Alyssa Alikpala is a Filipinx interdisciplinary artist, designer, and researcher.  Born in Vancouver and currently living in Toronto, Alyssa works across sound, sculpture, installation, and ephemeral forms exploring the sensorial body and its relation to material and environment, focusing on the physical process both as a way of generating insight and as a meditative practice. Her current body of work includes impromptu interventions, inviting slowness and sensitivity. The works have become a vessel for healing and acceptance. 

  • Born in Casablanca, Morocco, Laïla Mestari lives and works in Chicago and Montreal. Driven by a continuous dialogue between the visual and performing arts, her autobiographical practice touches on themes such as diasporic identity, ecofeminism and transcorporeality. Resulting from collage and assemblage, her work takes the form of photographs, textile works, installations, video-performances and drawings that highlight the surreal overlap of life and fiction, of the intimate and the political, the primitive and the digital, the banal and the marvelous.

  • Myriam Rey is a French-Syrian visual artist based in London. She is interested in using cinematic ‘dispositifs’ to experiment with new possibilities of embodied female subjectivities to tackle themes close to her heart: memory, uprooted experiences and hybrid identity. She began making films while studying Anthropology at University College London and won the Inspiration Award at the 2015 AHRC film festival for her debut short, This Island’s Mine. In 2019, her short film Only My Voice, funded by Creative England & BFI Network, won Best Short Doc at Nova Frontier FF in New York.

Images Festival

309-401 Richmond St West
Toronto ON 
M5V 3A8 Canada

Telephone +1 416 971 8405
Office Hours •  Tuesday–Friday • 10AM–6PM
Closed Mondays from May–January


  • Canada Council for the Arts
  • Government of Canada
  • Ontario Arts Council
  • Telefilm Canada
  • Toronto Arts Council
  • Vtape
  • York University School of the Arts, Media, Performance and Design
  • 0_TD
  • Digital Arts Ressource Centre
  • The Japan Foundation
  • The Fabulous Festival of Fringe Film
  • CalArts
  • Art Museum

Images Festival would like to acknowledge

The land on which we gather and organize is the territory of the Anishinaabe, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee, the Huron-Wendat, and the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. Today, the meeting place of Toronto is home to many Indigenous peoples.

A territorial acknowledgement can demonstrate a coming to awareness, and provoke thought and reflection, all of which are essential in beginning to establish reciprocal relations. This acknowledgement should not function as closure, resignation, or acceptance of the structural conditions of settler colonialism that remain in effect today. The Images Festival will continue to ask what it means for us to keep open a spirit of sustained inquiry into the complexities of our context.