Men and dolls

December 09, 2019

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Two of the artworks on display at the exhibition.—White Star
Two of the artworks on display at the exhibition.—White Star

KARACHI: Some say, we live in a post-truth environment. This is debatable, for ultra political correctness can be interpreted in many ways, but dealing it as something ‘post’ is a trifle far-fetched. One suspects that it has something to do with the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, who allowed men and women to examine their personal lives the way it was never imagined before. An exhibition of Paul Mehdi Rizvi’s latest body of work intriguingly named When a Grown Man Plays with Dolls that can be seen at the Full Circle Gallery hints at the very same notion where truth has little association with the present or future life of an individual and more with the past.

A word of caution here: Rizvi in his statement talks about things that are not easy to understand for a common lover of art. A bit like T. S. Eliot’s The Wasteland, reading which requires an ultra literate reader to appreciate the poem’s drift, the artist’s statement turns his creative exercise into an erudite journey. “A grown man plays with dolls (an exploration of late cinematics via Frued, Piaget, Bakhtin and Benjamin) is an unfettered engagement with the preverbal and thoroughly epistemological state of being that the infant consciousness is –– it moves from naïve ludics to the cognisant, from the vicissitudes of infantile instincts to intentional deployment of scholarly (Benjaminesque) cinematic language and (Bakhtinian) dialogic imagination. Underlying all this is a connection to an important trend in late psychoanalytic theory –– the effort to access the deep-rooted joy of living inherent with consciousness.”

The names of the famous brains that have had an invaluable contribution to psychoanalysis sound like philosophical grandstanding. No, don’t be misled or confused by it. The last line in the paragraph reveals the context that Rizvi is trying to put across: “the deep-rooted joy of living inherent with consciousness.”

Men and dolls have an oxymoronic relationship. But is that true in the 21st century? It’s not oxymoronic for the artist. He relates this to important aspects of life, from primal to derivative. His erudition helps him in furthering his concepts; therefore the viewer will find veiled allusions to mythology and reality that’s grounded in instinct –– he never loses sight of instinct. The artworks ‘Demon Cats & Lion-Headed Demoness’ are an example. And Mehdi’s love of the art of filmmaking enhances his content of the show in such a way that the complex (facet of existence) becomes the truthful.

The exhibition concludes on Dec 9.

Published in Dawn, December 9th, 2019