If it disturbs you,it’s art.
I simply love this phrase and very recently I experienced it to the fullest when the city of lights was lit up with the magic of art at the first Karachi Biennale 2017, Pakistan’s largest international contemporary art event which consisted of exhibitions,performances,videos,dialogues and educational activities displayed at 12 different venues by 140 artists from Pakistan and across the globe.
The main venue of KB17 was the 160 year old, NJV School building which is located on main MA Jinnah Road, in the heart of Karachi’s historic Saddar district.
Walking between the forgotten walls of NJV school I realized how wonderful it was to see art alive amid the dilapidated buildings surrounding it. The work of pragmatic artisan ship displayed in such a beautiful manner that it took your breath away at the very first glance, Although contemporary art is difficult but to see a humongous crowd from all walks of life, getting involved with each piece, trying to understand and connect with it , it was a moment that made me realize, how art is supposed to bind us together and how it helps communicate without having to speak.
The exhibition was themed WITNESS, this country has surely witnessed a number of unpleasant encounters and indeed the artists have also witnessed an era of damaged Eros and only when you passed through the corridor’s of this enormous historical architecture where once the Sindhi provincial assembly was convened, you could see that when an artist, as a witness becomes the author of a counter narrative to resist erasure and misrepresentation a visual space of defiance is created.
In all the further venues, their lied remarkable pieces of work that embraced each individual and touched their hearts, sometimes softly as puppets, dressed up in their uniforms who stood up to greet you when you opened the doors of the classroom and sometimes, dolefully when you saw them lying on the floor like run over corpses with imprints of careless tires over them, sometimes emotionally when you saw the tombstones of the loved ones who are buried deep deep down, folded in the layers of time and sometimes astonishingly when you recognized yourselves as figures who had been punished for a lifetime with heads down looking at nothing in the world but their own feet. Amongst all this jamboree, one thing I witnessed for sure and that is The revival of art, In a city that has gone through horrific and stymied times, to see such enthusiasm among the people for art was almost like watching the sun rise after a squall or the birth of a legend amongst the deceased, For which the tremendous efforts of the KB17 team should be highly appreciated.
The Karachi Biennale lasted for two weeks and I was fortunate enough to visit almost every venue, meet the amazing artists and see most of their works, I missed the performances however but I’m sure they were as incredible as the rest of the exhibits.
From a garden full of alluring blossoms, its really hard to pick just one as your favorite but somehow I managed to select a few artworks to share in this article.
Then there was Abdullah Ahmed Khan professionally known as Sanki king’s ”Mind Palace”, his Calligraffiti on the rooftop of Jamshed Memorial hall inspired by his own writing, the delicate text swirling upon the walls and corridors of the rooftop took you into a mesmerizing world.
Ehsan Memon’s installation on the staircase of Claremont house, his incredibly realistic wasted bread created with oil on fiberglass.
An amazing concept about the latest obsession among people, identical sculptures in fiberglass standing face to face with one holding a gun and the other holding a phone, titled “Let me take a selfie” by Nausheen Saeed at the NJV school
Ali Kazim’s installation made of human hair, hairspray and invisible thread at the IVS gallery.
Adeela Suleman’s ”Praying in her Richly Decorated Room” using stretchers,embroidery on cloth,powder paint and ”Falling down” using stretcher, stainless steel, powder paint at the Art center,FOMMA DHA.
David Alesworth’s ‘Lawrence Gardens (Bagh e Jinnah)’ 2014 This piece is hand embroidered with dyed sheep’s wool and other fibres into an antique Kashan Carpet courtesy the collection of Dr Furqan Ahmed.
Witness as continuity by Mehar Afroz.
Scaffolding of Crutches an installation by Syed Safdar Ali.
Jamal Shah’s performance ‘Situation 101’ at the Frere Hall.
Amir Habib’s ‘Already eaten’ at the NJV school.
A room filled with props made of Metal, Shirts, soil,175 pounds of nails,Cestrum Nocturnumm and rust titled ‘Props from an unrealized play’ 2014-17 by Omar Wasim at Claremont house.
The Karachi Biennale 2017 was filled with some amazing works of art which I enjoyed thoroughly and I can’t wait for the next one already.