Discussions on art held at Alhamra

March 30, 2018

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LAHORE: Sessions under Art Speak & Academic Forum as part of the Lahore Biennial took place at the Alhamra Arts Council’s Hall 3 on Thursday.

In the first session, titled ‘Urbanites: Art and Public space in Pakistan’, a discussion was held on various aspects of ‘public art’ in a city, where art plays a role in engaging the local community, and acts as a bridge.

A collaboration between the Goethe-Institut Pakistan, the Lahore Biennial Foundation, Vasl Artists’ Collective, and other partners sought to enable a broader audience to engage with contemporary art and to link the emerging artist-curator generation in Pakistan with the scenes in Germany within the context of an upcoming biennial in Pakistan.

A key element in this programme was the two artist residencies in Karachi and Lahore from October to December 2016.

Germany based artists Hony Ryani and Miro Craemer were invited. Miro with a background in fashion and social design, and Hony with her background of performative strategies working with a nomadic social practice, were both quickly interested in local society and culture.

Miro who was present at the discussion said Vasl facilitated him with his ‘Cord of Desires’ project in Karachi – a social sculpture dealing with the victims of the Baldia Town factory fire – the worst in the world’s history.

Miro said his work eventually began to change the death toll and numbers to names and faces. He said he visited the victim’s families and that for the first time as a fashion designer he felt guilty among a lot of other things.

“It was because of negligence that those workers died in that fire,” he said. “This experience changed my artistic and personal life. It made me feel more emotionally connected and I shared with others too,” he explained.

Hony focused on ‘Walking in Lahore’ which comprised several research facets such as collective walking performances, and a 1,000-plus feet long Footpath intervention, where passersby were engaged in casual conversations.

The third key project of Urbanites focused on investigative and constructive research of urban informal design practices.

Sara-Duana Meyer who curated the design showed how the public could make use of a playful installation at a place like Pakistan Chowk – one of the busy downtown areas.

Finally sociologist Nida Kirmani spoke about the importance of these art projects because of the way they interacted with the public rather than excluding it.

A session was also held on Art Writing in Urdu where the panelists including Quddus Mirza, Nazish Ataullah and Rida Zaneb spoke about the challenges faced when using Urdu to write about art and how important was the language itself.

Published in Dawn, March 30th, 2018