Microtonal, an interactive data-driven sound sculpture, made from over 200 borindos | Karachi Biennale Trust | Fahim Siddiqi/White Star
Microtonal, an interactive data-driven sound sculpture, made from over 200 borindos | Karachi Biennale Trust | Fahim Siddiqi/White Star

Even in two weeks, it’s difficult to fully explore, fully immerse oneself in and fully experience the technological wonder of the third Karachi Biennale. With over 26 projects and installations by over 45 artists hailing from 13 countries, the Biennale is a massive undertaking.

What is especially a treat for the public is the opportunity to visit the historical Hamid Market, a century-old unique building, a part of the city’s history from before Independence. Other than Hamid Market, the venues at which the Biennale is being held include the NJV High School, the Jamshed Memorial Hall, IBA (city campus), NED University (city campus), the VM Art Gallery, the Sambara Art Gallery, the Alliance Francaise and the Indus Valley School for Art and Architecture Gallery.

Local and international artists wowed the public by merging art and technology in installations across the city for the third Karachi Biennale

Under the theme of ‘Collective Imagination: Now and the Next’, both local and foreign artists explored the convergence of art and technology. Here’s the lowdown on some of the exhibits and installations in the city.

One of the installations that stands out was by Austrian artist Herwig Scherabon, who displayed a diptych video at the Alliance Francaise Karachi’s art gallery. Titled Remembering You The City of Lights, his video beautifully documented the ruins of Bhambore in Sindh and the landfill at Jam Chakro on the outskirts of Karachi. He played up the ambience of the video by painting a vivid picture through sound, introducing a soundtrack containing the noise of the traffic and other city sounds, creating a stark contrast and a visual and sensory experience for the audience.

A culturally important project was by the studio Invisible Flock. They collaborated with Faqeer Zulfiqar, one of the last borindo players remaining in the country, and his comrade, Allah Jurrio, a 90-year-old potter from Badin, one of the last craftsmen who still knows how to make this dying instrument.

The borindo is a cylindrical, terracotta instrument that traditionally has eight differently sized holes to produce the melody. The top-most hole produces a note while the bottom hole sustains the tonic note.

With Invisible Flock, Faqeer Zulfiqar and Allah Jurrio produced Microtonal, an interactive data-driven sound sculpture, made from over 200 borindos. The project was produced in Badin, Sindh.

Artist Yasir Darya’s installation Air Rider was focused on providing awareness about pollution in Karachi. His installation allows the public to experience live data on air pollution displayed via motorcycles at strategic routes throughout the city. His work was more interactive, allowing the audience to become a part of the ‘art’ through their natural curiosity.

Air Rider provides awareness about pollution in Karachi | Fahim Siddiqi/White Star
Air Rider provides awareness about pollution in Karachi | Fahim Siddiqi/White Star

Swiss artist Marc Lee’s technological art installation, titled Echolocation, situated at the IVSAA, showed social media in real time as the public made its way across a map he created. Echolocation is essentially a news aggregator, informing us, yet watching us all the time. And it could very well be a comment on our times.

We also stepped into the future, such as in works by UK-based artist Shezad Dawood, in his virtual reality installation titled The Terrarium. Taking us 300 years into the future, The Terrarium is also at the Alliance Francaise Karachi.

Considering how the city is in a constant state of rush, moving from one end to the other requires endless navigation and patience and, considering the immense scale of the project, two weeks is not enough for one person or the public to experience the astounding installations at the third Karachi Biennale.

Here’s hoping the efforts made by the board of the Karachi Biennale Trust culminate in a contemporary art museum where these pieces can find a more permanent place.

The third Karachi Biennale opened on October 31 and installations will continue to remain open to the public till today, November 13, 2022

Published in Dawn, EOS, November 13th, 2022

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