EXHIBITION: ORDER AND CHAOS

Published May 13, 2018
Apathetic it was, Haider Ali
Apathetic it was, Haider Ali

In a two-person show titled Prologue/Epilogue held at Sanat Initiative, Adeel uz Zafar brings together artists who — as he mentions in his curatorial note — have grown up in middle-class families in Karachi. What we get becomes a story of the city that is both personal and objective, introspection and political commentary. It provides a view into the intricate complexities of experiencing urbanity through its political rivalries, ethnic tensions, sectarian violence, infrastructural disintegration as well as the overbearing population explosion.

Haider Ali’s work offers a more direct view of the city’s burgeoning issues of population growth, which seep into its various structures and disrupt its very fabric. As a result, the city is in constant transformation that creates uncontrolled growth and disintegration. Ali draws on his own day-to-day interactions with the city in painstakingly detailed drawings representing the mayhem we have all felt while navigating the city. ‘Apathetic it was…’ brings across the claustrophobia of endless vehicles that almost become a texture, an indistinguishable static that eventually collapses and crumples within the constricting frame. It is a subtle allegory for a city being crushed under its own weight.

‘Discoided Dystrophy’ is another apt encapsulation of the city. A kinetic piece with accompanying sounds of hectic traffic, it reminds one of the maelstrom of society and the slow but sure devolution of the city, evoking the sense of murky water draining away in a whirlpool. While the image is an incomprehensible jumble, the slow deliberate spiral movement creates an ordered chaos that disarms the obvious degeneration, making it even more threatening.

Two artists tell a story of a city that comes across as both introspection and political commentary

Noman Siddiqui’s approach is more oblique, with brightly coloured objects bordering on the carnivalesque masking commentaries on power structures and depicting cruel ironies. The politics of the oppressor and the oppressed reveal deeper truths about the human condition through images of shiny balloons and lollipops that speak of deceptions and false promises as instruments to appease a gullible nation.

Barri Nazuk Surat-i-Haal Hai, Noman Siddiqui
Barri Nazuk Surat-i-Haal Hai, Noman Siddiqui

‘Mujhe Kyun Phulaya?’ uses its title as a play on the famous line “Mujhe kyun nikala?” uttered by the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Siddiqui aptly uses the metaphor of the dog, applied to both parties, yet in different forms of derogation; one of a vicious creature, and one of a submissive, mindless slave. The bright pink bubble of rosy dreams that he blows sits tense and fragile, while we, the public, remain blindfolded and oblivious.

Similarly, ‘Kursi, Phasra aur Awam’ uses the same tools to represent both leader and subject, placed on opposite ends, facing each other in quiet conflict. The piece not only comments on the forceful occupation of corruptive power and the glut and greed of the ruling class, but also poses the apathetic and passive drawing-room politics of a desensitised nation as a complicit element in their own oppression. It is, then, perhaps appropriate how the shiny surface of each piece allows the audience to see themselves within its layered depths.

Discoided Dystrophy, Haider Ali
Discoided Dystrophy, Haider Ali

In a way, each artist acts as a prologue and an epilogue to this ongoing narrative of the city, and one is left hoping for at least a moderately happy ending.

“Prologue/Epilogue” was on display at the Sanat Initiative from April10 till April 19

Published in Dawn, EOS, May 13th, 2018

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