ISLAMABAD: Guy Debord in Society of the Spectacle wrote: “In societies where modern conditions of production prevail, all life presents as an immense accumulation of spectacles. All that was once directly lived has become mere representation.”
The latest exhibition to open at Satrang Gallery on Thursday night borrows its title from Debord’s 1967 text and is a collection of collaborative work by artists Rabbya Naseer and Hurmatul Ain.
True to the title, the show brings together multimedia pieces depicting society’s preoccupation with outward appearances and hollow spectacles. Objects associated with weddings, the greatest of all spectacles in Pakistani society, featured in many of the pieces.
A set of hand-traced drawings, digitally coloured and printed, depict items such as a catering truck, a set of rental chairs and a traditionalshamyanaor wedding tent.
Artist Rabbya Naseer said these components are what is required to put together an event such as wedding. “Nothing is about the wedding itself. It’s all spectacle.”
The tinselleddupattarepresentative of a bridal trousseau featured in many of the works, including a large print titled ‘First Simile of the Colour White’ where it is photographed while being dyed in a gradient of colour from white to blood red.
This work relates to the video titled ‘White as Snow’, in which seemingly chaste women are mindlessly chanting hollow sounding statements about themselves. Like most other pieces in the show, it is a commentary on outward social and gendered spectacles with the colour red representative of marriage and white symbolising chastity and purity.
Visitors appeared to be intrigued by a performance art piece featuring young women dressed in all white silently standing in a row, with pink tinselleddupattasdraped over their shoulders. The words ‘This is an art exhibit you fool’ embroidered on to theduppattasin gold thread drew chuckles from those who managed to read the inscription in Arabic text.
This ironic wit running through the work is perhaps what Hurmatul Ain is alluding to when she calls it ‘non-serious art’. She describes this body of work as a “tongue-in-cheek, satirical commentary on the culture of conformism” that we are all a part of.
“Rabbya and I think of art as play and often jump across mediums,” she said.
The duo has been creating collaborative work since their days as students at the National College of Arts in Lahore and the show marks the 10 year anniversary of their collaboration. Tracking their artistic journey over these years, the show features work created by the duo ten years ago along with more recent pieces.
The two have been creating performance art for the last decade and in the exhibition mark what they describe as a ‘mundane reconstruction’ of their work, where they return to more formal mediums yet retaining some performative gestures.
“We are exploring the evolution of our practice through the show by juxtaposing new and old work. We have discovered that there are streams of thoughts that have continued but there is also work which is branching out in other ways,” Hurmat said.
The show drew a large gathering of dignitaries, art-lovers and students and was inaugurated by the Turkish Ambassador Mustafa Yurdakul. Embassy of Japan Charge d’ Affaires Yusuke Shindo and Australian Ambassador Margaret Adamson also spoke at the opening.
Published in Dawn, October 26th, 2018
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