Dreamscape: Life is but a dream

Published December 28, 2014
Photos by the writer
Photos by the writer

Lahore is the city of poets, Islamabad of diplomats and Karachi is the city of people. A gritty metropolis of raw, untamable and always unapologetic energy during rough times, Karachi is reminiscent of the famed Gotham of Batman comics, but at all times, she is truly her own city and remains unparalleled. Her resilience, creativity and edginess are best experienced through art, performance, literature, youth and fashion; seeds that when buried only grow stronger.

Dreamscape, a performance art and installation show at the Amin Gulgee Gallery reinforced Karachi had bite while many other cities just barked. Curated by Zarmeené Shah and Amin Gulgee, the show brought together almost 50 visual, performance and theatre artists, fashion designers and musicians.

Inspired by Yoko Ono’s words, “A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.” Dreamscape was for two hours a living, breathing embodiment of different perspectives on what a dream is. Although the installations were up for three days, for just two hours, they were energized by performance art that featured singing and dancing in a rain shower (Pomme Gohar’s Rain Shower), a poker faced cadaver cutting cake (Sara Pagganwala’s Caked), a walking whisperer (Syed Ammad Tahir’s Sleeptalking), a phoenix-like Sufi transformation (Salvation by Vajdaan Shah), a short reel on dreaming (Danish Raza’s Dream Machine) and much more!

Curated over a period of seven months, Dreamscape featured an invite-only roster of 35 talented Karachi artists and performers, as well as more than a dozen artists from other places who contributed dreamscape objects.


Amin Gulgee and Zarmeené Shah’s Dreamscape brought together almost 50 visual, performance and theatre artists, fashion designers and musicians and was their ode to Karachi


Artists were not paid for their contribution nor were items for sale. Dreamscape was purely a labour a love and passion for all involved.

Photos by the writer
Photos by the writer

“Zarminee and I brought performers and artists together to create a collective dream that people walk into and experience for two hours,” stated Gulgee. “I do these shows for the sake of creating non-commercial art in the city. The whole idea is just to make it happen — Artistic energy… something interesting. It’s an experiment and learning curve. I learn through these projects.”

From the minute you arrived at Dreamscape, it was like walking into a dream. At the entrance, Sadaf Malaterre hosted an Alice in Wonderland style tea party, and behind her Summayya Jillani painted people into canvasses. When you entered the main foyer, Joshinder Chagger did an ‘Autumn Leaves’ Butoh dance (“An escape into a surreal, slow world, where the Autumn leaves dance in the sea”), Fatima Sabeekah created a magic potion, while Noor Yousuf installed caged birds for Caged Songs.

Photos by the writer
Photos by the writer

In the itinerant, Momin Zafar mocked people’s movements in his Carte Blanche performance, while Meher Afroz with Yasir Hussain sprayed those around them with perfume in a performance titled Khushbhu.

TBP (Zeerak Ahmed, Abdullah Tariq Khan and Danial Hyatt) performed Seeking Security in Chaos with each member of the trio having “a different medium and point of entry, and yet all intersecting with one another and culminating into a larger whole, as a visual-sensory experience that holds on to the unresolved space between two points.”

“We wanted Dreamscape to be an organic process, a cross pollution of energy, artists meeting each other regularly over six-seven months,” said Gulgee, “Shared ideas fuel creative energy. We wanted these artists to influence each other yet have individual work so we picked individuals we knew would come with different and strong perspectives, people with ideas and the ability to execute them. A lot of the artists didn’t know each other and in the process of Dreamscape got to know each other. When you select people you know this person will come up with their own idea and be unique and individual. Of course, guidance was there through our curation.”

“Performance art is still in its earliest stages in Pakistan, so this is almost a historical show in that progress,” added Zarmeené Shah, who has done her Masters in Critical & Curatorial Studies from Columbia University, New York. “A huge number of people have come out to see it which was the whole point. We wanted awareness to what we were doing. It was great for us that so many people got to see the show.”

“Dreamscape is unique because it was a moment in time,” she said, “The alchemy of the performance art with the installations made the evening a performance. It was not theatre but performance art and could be political, disturbing, but at its heart ethereal.”

In other words, you had to be there to experience it. It was just for one moment in time. Now, it is no more.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, December 28th, 2014

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