Letter from the Editor-in-Chief
by Fawzia Naqvi
Welcome to the October 2018 issue of ArtNow, “Home is Where the Art Is”, shifting focus on a more functional form of art — architecture — in the wake of the recent Pakistan Pavilion at the London Design Biennale 2018 which will be covered in the issue. The Biennale is in its 2nd iteration and will take place at the Somerset House from the 4th to 23rd September, bringing together some of the most innovative designers from around the world. This year the biennale focused on the theme “Emotional States”, with over 40 countries and cities responding with engaging installations that display the presence of design in every aspect of life and the emotions that certain concepts and combination of elements can elicit in those who experience it, the subsequent social needs it can serve. Wagging Tongues Production, a UK based company working on projects in the arts, design, and performing arts, put together the Pakistan Pavilion at the Biennale titled “Aangan” (Courtyard), with a stunning installation created through textiles sourced from local artisans in Pakistan in collaboration with Kaarvan Crafts Foundation. The organization’s mission is to empower rural women through the provision of life skills that promote the economic sustainability of their households.
October is an exciting month for ArtNow, marking 7 years in publication with much to celebrate. Ever since its conception in October 2011, ArtNow has dedicated itself to promoting contemporary art from Pakistan within local and international spheres, generating critical dialogue through the insights it provides and becoming a significant part of the local and regional art discourse. ArtNow events and projects play an integral role in driving art trends and have been some of the most anticipated highlights of the national art calendar.
On this occasion ArtNow is also releasing the 3rd edition of its Art Newspaper, which brings selected works from our online magazine into print form, filling the gap in the industry of quality print publications exclusively from, about and for Pakistani art. This time the Art Newspaper will not only be available in Karachi but will also travel to Sharjah through the Sharjah Art Foundation Publishing Event, which will run parallel to the Sharjah Art book fair. The event aims to present a broad perspective on art publishing, with a focus on independent and alternative publishing practices alongside the larger, more established publishing houses. Vasl Artist’s Collective will form part of this selection of independent publishers under a curated tables section titled “Focal Point”, and will present a number of books and other publications by artists and institutions of Pakistan. The ArtNow Newspaper is proud to be part of this endeavor and have the opportunity to access a regional art audience. Vasl Artists’ Association will be setting up an archive space, a library space and a space for book sales within this event, which is set to take place in early November at the heritage building of Bait Al Shamsi, Sharjah.
The Research Unit announced early in the summer, as part of Lahore Biennale Foundation’s programmatic activities to further arts infrastructure in Pakistan, is an example of fostering research capacities at the individual, collective and institutional level. The end project which will culminate in a grants symposium scheduled for early next year, will present insights on visual culture and its social dimensions in Pakistan, and its diasporas. In the meanwhile, the external core team of jury members, comprising of experts, field leaders and institutional heads are reviewing Research Unit applicants whom they would work with alongside — in addition to offering them ongoing guidance as a mentor for their respective projects.
The deadline for the Research Unit initiative was initially set for mid-August, but was later extended to early September to accommodate the overwhelming response of proposals that poured in from Lahore, and other parts of the world. Another exciting aspect of the research opportunity was the multi-disciplinary background of the applicant pool, which included artists, historians, academics; both young and emerging with an emotional investment in furthering the arts and visual culture of Pakistan. As the deliberation process is underway, the team at Lahore Biennale Foundation is making arrangements for its next Biennale which is anticipated for February, 2020.
I would like to extend my congratulations to Shah Numair A. Abbasi for being selected as this year’s resident at the Gasworks Residency in London. This upcoming artist’s practice is an exciting look at gender politics and the ways in which it is ‘socially constructed and performed’. It would be exciting to see what will emerge from the artists current undertakings as part of this residency. Gasworks is a non-profit contemporary visual art organization working at the intersection between UK and international practices and debates. This particular residency is supported by the Rangoonwala Foundation and Charles Wallace Pakistan Trust.
I AM KARACHI is soon set to add another art event to the yearly calendar, the International Public Art Festival (IPAF), set to take place next year. The organization has put out an open call for submissions in the areas of Art, Architecture and Design, calling practitioners from all over the world to submit proposals for works for display in the public domains of Karachi. Public art has been a rarity in Pakistan and Karachi in particular, and organizations, institutions and individual artists have only recently began a fervent quest to reclaim the public space for artistic expression and public engagement. I AM KARACHI has been one of these organizations with numerous projects activating the public with creativity and the arts. IPAF is geared to be a first of its kind festival that aims to transform the public spaces of Karachi for interaction and exchange within communities. It is meant to celebrate the essence of the city through these spaces, opening them up for public enjoyment, promoting unity, tolerance and inclusivity, spreading awareness, instilling ownership. One of the biggest issues in the city which threatens every facet of society and contributes to its countless problems is the racial, religion, ethnic, social and economic divide within its diverse population and a lack of dialogue between individuals and communities. Public art, cultural spaces and events like these are the best way to close this divide and create a more aware, open and accepting society. This can be a great opportunity to bring art out to a wider audience, showcase the city, its vibrant dynamism and its cultural scene to the world and revitalize the cities unused public spaces.
It is always exciting to witness unconventional form and mediums of art practice in the Pakistani contemporary art scene, and the one day performance art show, “Mixed Tape” at Canvas Art Gallery curated by Sarah Pagganwala was one such delight. More than 25 performances took places simultaneously over the course of 3 hours, focusing on various socio-political, personal and spiritual themes through the medium of performance, providing a platform for young performance artists to present their narratives. It is uncommon for an art opening to see such traffic, with all kinds of audiences milling in to catch a glance of the happenings, highlighting the need for more such events in the art community.
Two more exciting shows taking place in Karachi are Adeela Suleman’s solo show at Canvas Gallery which opened recently, and a five person show curated by notable critic Amra Ali at the AAN Gandhara Art-Space. As always Suleman continues to push the boundaries of her practice, exploring new way to drive her narrative forward. “What May Lie Ahead” features exquisite new works by the artist, where she explores a new medium, shifting from metal to wood for her relief- carved figures, drawing parallels between the instruments of war across centuries. Her lifesize, meticulously crafted scultpures are a sight to behold and should not be missed by anyone in Karachi. “Objects We Behold” is yet to open to the public, but with 5 exciting names and a phenomenal curator, it is a promising show to anticipate. The name and the artists included suggest that we can look forward to works focused on objecthood to explore various themes.
Time to gear up for another exciting month of art activity and discourse!
Bye for NOW!