Amin Gulgee is an artist-curator living and working in Karachi. He received a BA in Art History and Economics from Yale University, USA in 1987 and won the Conger B. Goodyear Fine Arts Award for his senior thesis on Moghul Gardens. He works primarily in sculpture, installation and performance. He has done several exhibitions home and abroad. Amin Gulgee has worked extensively with performance, both as a practitioner and a curator.
Over the past two decades, he has conceived 35 performance works of his own, including ‘Triangle’, which he presented at the Moghul-era Lahore Fort in March, 2022. He has also curated numerous group exhibitions at his eponymous non-commercial gallery in Karachi and elsewhere and was Chief Curator of the inaugural Karachi Biennale in 2017. In 2019, he curated ‘One Night Stand/Coup d’un soir’ an exhibition of performance art featuring 32 international artists at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris, France. Among Amin Gulgee’s many public works are Steps in front of the Pakistan parliament building in Islamabad and Reaching for the Skies at the United Nations’ headquarters in New York. He has received numerous awards, including the President’s Pride of Performance, one of Pakistan’s highest civilian honours.
Recently, Amin Gulgee exhibited his creations (from 7th February to 16th February) at Canvas Gallery in Karachi. The show, called ‘Spooky Action at a Distance’, was curated by Adam Fahy-Majeed. The exhibition included iron, copper and bronze sculptures as well as experimental works in glass and silver leaf. Inspired by an imagined pre-history, seven helmets made out of copper and steel were also displayed at the show.
On the day of inauguration, the show was activated by ‘Fairytale 72’, a collaborative performance. 18 participants delved into the artist’s personal mythology through a series of rituals. It was a delight to watch an amalgam of sound and music on the first day of the show.
While commenting on Amin’s work, Adam Fahy-Majeed says, “Amin doesn’t sketch or draw his pieces in advance, he creates them organically as if the entangled photons of all previous artistic experimentation provide the underlying momentum for new inspiration. Moreover, throughout his trajectory, he has been elaborating on different entanglements within his wider web of artistic creation. Every work that he makes is in a constant state of quantum entanglement; sharing information on a level which changes the state of the next work to be produced. That has been an underlying curatorial idea in this exhibition. To emphasise the information which passes from work to work, project to project, strand to strand, thread to thread, form to form. A process of constant, quantum evolution, and revelation.”
In ‘Spooky at a Distance’, we can observe some quantum information manifesting itself in a new state, a new form of expression, in Amin’s ‘Shadow Letters’. It takes the strand of the calligraphic in his oeuvre, the specific thread of a deconstructed line from the Iqra, elaborating it in the form of engraving glass and layering it with silver leaf. It takes the quantum information from moments of algorithmic projection in his multimedia work, ‘Algorithm VII’, and petrifies them within time and space. The usage of a seemingly flat surface to establish a multi-dimensional play of light, shadow and metal, is entangled with the ‘Perforated Scroll’, which again punctuates space with an assemblage of the seven deconstructed constituents appropriated from the Iqra, in the Naskh script. This is then given further expression on the vertical plane by ‘Ascension’.
The ‘Non-binary Cube’ shares the quantum information of scale in Amin’s artistic praxis, observable in ‘The Iron Horn’. Although, it ostensibly seems not to be calligraphic, given its geometric form, it is a further addition to the thread of Square Kufic script with the invocation ‘Alhamdullilah’. It is a perfectly asymmetrical cube - in that it is totally cubic in its occupation of space, yet absolutely distinct in the view from each of its sides, due to the internal mechanics of its elaboration. In ‘Spooky at a Distance’, it acts as a strangely cardiovascular centre, pumping its energy around the exhibition.
Amin’s ‘Entangled Tower’ is a work that is neither wholly new nor old, and that exists in multiple locations at the same time, all enmeshed into a unified object. It is the quantum entanglement of two pieces, two threads - hands and self-portraiture of the face. Through their deconstruction, and subsequent re-assemblage as a singular whole, they are teleporting their most fundamental information through time and space; thus forming its present, unified state.
It is important to note that the quantum realm is underpinned by the idea of superposition; that particles exist in multiple states at once. When an experiment is performed, it is as if the particles only then select one of the states in the superposition. That is how, in Amin Gulgee’s quantum realm, this thread of the Iqra can also take an arachnidan form, as seen in ‘Spider’.
Even though it shares this aspect of quantum information with other works weaved along this thread, its Tolkeinian presence in space seems to visually share more with a new creation, ‘The Iron Horn’. This organic form lies in a liminal zone, somewhere between a cornucopia, and a fossil from some distant, prehistoric past; or perhaps a relic from an imagined world of fantasy - much like the calligraphic arachnid.
These are experiments that must be performed by Amin, for the constituent particles to select the state they will assume in the process. Therein lies an intrinsic connection between his sculpture and experiments in performance art.