Instep Today

Karachi Biennale [2019] gears up to return after two years

By Maheen Sabeeh
Sat, 10, 19

The largest contemporary art event, following the theme, ‘Ecology’ will feature 98 artists from 16 countries including Pakistan. Instep reports…

Having made its debut in 2017 - highlighting ‘Witness’ as a theme - Karachi Biennale is coming back in 2019 with the theme, ‘Ecology’.

This and more was revealed at a press conference, held at the press club in Karachi earlier this week. Conceived by Karachi Biennale Trust, the second edition - under the theme ‘Flight Interrupted: Eco-Leaks from the invasion desk’ will showcase multidisciplinary works and is set to begin from October 26 (today). It will go on till November 12, 2019.

The exhibits from the upcoming public art event will feature works from 98 artists from 16 countries including Pakistan across seven venues with diverse multi-disciplinary participants.

In a bid to highlight the importance of the theme ‘ecology’ and the city’s relationship with nature, the Karachi Biennale has been dubbed the ‘Green Biennale’ by those behind it to ensure the urgency behind the theme within the context of Karachi.

With Nilofur Farrukh, Managing Trustee, KBT and Muhammad Zeeshan, curator of KB19 present at the press conference, among others, a great deal was made clear about why this particular art event, free and open to the public, holds indelible importance.

Noted Muhammad Zeeshan, the curator for KB19: “I have also invited architects and gardeners and engineers and sound technicians, theatre performers, and story tellers to participate. KB19 will not just be received by artists but by everyone, thus my vision has been to include people from varying disciplines and from the public, so that their different voices and messages will help our universal message spread faster and more effectively.”

Speaking to Instep posthaste, Nilofer Farrukh, Managing Trustee, KBT noted, “We selected ‘Ecology’ as the theme for KB19 because of our own experience of environmental issues in Karachi. The climate change, which has brought about temperature hikes as well as the drought and excessive urbanization,” adding, “But then these issues are not just particular to us. People all over the world have been experiencing them. And that is why we’ve invited almost a 100 artists to respond to this theme and bring stories from their own countries to share with us.”

KB19 is sustained by countless public and private partnerships. “The Mayor and the City Government has made available the Karachi Zoo, Frere Hall and Bagh Ibne Qasim as venues for exhibitions. Alliance Francaise de Karachi, British Council, Goethe Institut, the Consulate of Italy and ProHelvetia Swiss Arts Council have been instrumental in the participation of artists from their countries,” it was revealed.

Furthermore, thanks to individual and foundations, et al, five Karachi Biennale prizes will be awarded to those with remarkable works (including three that are being introduced this year). They include the established KB19 Mahvesh and Jahangir Siddiqui Foundation Juried Art Prize and the Shahneela and Farhan Faruqui KB19 Popular Choice Art Prize.

The new prizes - announced this year – are the KB19 Peek Freans Emerging Artist Prize, KB19 Langdon-Malik Foundation Performance Art Prize and KB19 H.M. Habib Lifetime Achievement Award.

As for programming, after an invitation-only opening ceremony on October 26, the event will be free and open to the public. It will also include keynote talks, special programming and guided tours. Among them will be Public Talk on Art and Emotional Wellbeing by speaker Ange Weinrabe; Two- day workshop by GEMAH on Art and Emotional Well-being at NJV School, MA Jinnah Road; Interactive session for children with ‘Sensory Installations’ created by students of Karachi School of Art, IVSA and VS Dept at KU; KB19 Climate Action Meet; Karachi Zoo (Ladies Day) and Interactive Poetry Reading Session. Theme: Environmental issues, in collaboration with Spoken Stage. All events will be open to the pubic except in case of a public holiday with KB19 closing on November 12 by noon.

Some events, particularly for children, will require registration. Meanwhile the seven KB19 locations are Bagh Ibne Qasim, IVS Gallery, Mahvash and Jehangir Siddiqui Gallery at Alliance Francaise de Karachi, Gallery Sadequain, Frere Hall, NED University, Karachi Zoo and VM Art Gallery.

Muhammad Zeeshan, while talking to Instep noted, “When I found out about Karachi Biennale, what I did was - Karachi or any city for that matter - when it develops, I not only began discussing with artists but planners, socialists, gardeners, people who go to parks – I started meeting people this way; in art what happens is how to get the general public involved so I thought that instead of inviting the everyday public, why don’t I take the art to them.

“That’s why the venues we’ve chosen are public spaces and I wondered that if I take it to the public, what should I speak about? Ecology is something that affects all of us at some level and no matter what part of the world, it is related and for all of us, the sun is the sun, the dirt is the dirt and water is water. I thought I should take this message to the public.”