VITRINE: Heart-shaped Box

“Go on, take everything, take everything, I want you to…” —lyrics from “Violet,” which appeared on Hole’s iconic 1994 album Live Through This

Zinnia Naqvi's "Heart-shaped Box" (2016).

Zinnia Naqvi’s “Heart-shaped Box,” still from video (2016).

Zinnia Naqvi
10 January–11 March 2017

Heart-shaped Box (2016) features home video footage of the artist taken in 1995, at the age of 3, just four years after her family had immigrated to Canada. As they settled into their daily lives in their new home, grunge music was at the height of its popularity. Naqvi’s sisters were particularly taken by bands such as Nirvana, Live and Hole and in this home movie, Naqvi’s sisters teach their youngest sister to sing the lyrics to some of the era’s biggest hits.

Grunge music emerged in the American-northwest, in the post-punk era of the mid-1980s. It was primarily popularized by lower-middle class white Americans, who felt that they were on the margins of society. The lyrics in grunge music were typically angst-filled, and often addressed themes such as social alienation, apathy, confinement and a desire for freedom [1].

Despite the anti-establishment sentiment of the artists who were making the music, grunge began to see mainstream recognition in the ’90s. Many of the genre’s artists were uncomfortable with their success and the resulting attention it brought [2]. The musicians struggled with the idea that in order to continue to produce music, they needed to succeed commercially—this produced a tension between the felt sense of alienation in the audience and the broad cultural appeal of the artists’ messages. As the popularity of grunge increased, the fanbase expanded to the very people that artists such as Kurt Cobain were criticizing in their lyrics.

Naqvi’s Heart-shaped Box provides a different take on this narrative. Here, the music resonates with newly immigrated Pakistani teenage girls. Naqvi’s sisters were on the outside of a new society aiming to fit in. This video is an example American popular culture influencing a generation of people for whom their product was unintended yet with whom it resonated honestly.

[1] “Grunge.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, accessed 12 December 2016,
[2] Michael Azerrad, Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana (Doubleday, 1994), 254.


Opening Reception
Friday, 13 January 2017, 5–7 PM
Artist in attendance


Zinnia Naqvi is a visual artist based in Toronto and Montréal. Her work is based in documentary practices and uses a combination of photography, video, archival footage and installation. Naqvi’s practice often questions the relationship between authenticity and narrative, while dealing with larger thmes of post-colonialism, cultural translation, language and gender. Naqvi received a BFA with Honours in Photography from Ryerson University and is currently an MFA Candidate in Studio Arts from Concordia University. Her work has shown in Toronto at the Ryerson Image Centre, Gallery 44, the Koffler Gallery and Regent Park Film Festival. Her work has been shown internationally at Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Buenos Aires, Oberhausen International Short Film Festival, Uppsala International Short Film Festival and the International Institute of Contemporary Art and Theory in Mangalia, Romania.