KARACHI: Revere him or repudiate his ideas, it has to be said that no other thinker or philosopher has generated more debate on the machinations of power in the latter half of the 20th century than Michel Foucault.
An exhibition of Saud Baloch’s latest body of work titled Under the Dust curated by Madeline Amelia Clements that opened at the Sanat Art Gallery on Tuesday is a stark reminder of the French philosopher’s thoughts on the nature of truth in relation to power.
Foucault’s assertion that truth is produced only by virtue of multiple forms of constraint, inducing regular effects of power seems to be at play here. Saud’s artworks are intense, to say the least, and leave a deep impression on the viewer. Why? Because the moment you enter the gallery, the life-size fiberglass pieces hold your attention. The artist’s literal use of personification, because of the fervidness has gone into creating the exhibits, makes symbolism a hard-hitting, uncomplicated vehicle for conveying the message.
While the ‘Life Masks’ series (archival ink on paper) is strong enough, both content and technique-wise, to make the viewer ponder over the artist’s drift, it is ‘Tamasha’ (fiberglass and wood) which first simplifies the complexity of the context. The submissive posture of the character with no arms draws a painful image, reflecting a position of powerlessness.
‘Life Masks IV’ reinforces the situation with a little variation. Even in its isolated, tattered form, the mask cannot function on its own volition. The strings attached can be of a personal nature or belong to one of the above-mentioned forms of constraint.
‘Golden Age’ (fiberglass) depicts, so to speak, a body in limbo. The viewer does not need to see the face of the body to know what it is trying to express — the posture says it all.
The exhibition, whose title is inspired by a Habib Jalib poem Tah-i-Khaak, will run till Aug 26.
Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2016