Karachi’s art scene is still developing and evolving, several contemporary art galleries can be found here that are doing their best to preserve the art of celebrated Pakistani masters, as well as support the artists of the new generation. One of them being ‘AAN Art & Space Museum’ of AAN Foundation. The foundation provides support to a wide range of art forms and encourages discourse on visual arts in particular. This includes offering platforms and support for exhibitions, private as well as public art projects, publications and art related initiatives. From a geographic perspective, the foundation is focussed on enabling and encouraging the arts in Pakistan as well as considering the broader Asian region including Asia Pacific and South Asia.
From excavation to healing and protesting, the exhibition ‘Notes From a Familiar Place’ had much to offer about how people connect with their physical surroundings. Fazal Rizvi, the curator, should be commended for being able to translate such a divergent use of materials and artworks into a physical space. The exhibit at Aan showcases works by five young women: Bushra Anis, Fiza Baloch, Manahil Khurram, Samra Mansoor, and Zahabia Khozema. This week You! takes a look at the recently held art exhibition featuring different artists at the AAN Art Space & Museum in Karachi…
A representation of grief
Samra Mansoor’s works delicately revolves around the mortal dispositions of existing while acknowledging the violent structures that lead to the loss of human lives. Her delicate paper sculptures of birds serve as metaphors for bodies dispossessed. Her installation ‘Memories of Neither’, where she arranged collected soil on the tiles of the gallery (meant to be walked on and scattered) aptly illustrates the act of erasure as a consequence of human intervention. Her work is laced with nuance and a quiet disposition that leaves room for introspection. Samra has used mounds of sand from the shore to draw parallels with the ceremonial use of sand in burials, where it symbolised the act of pushing away - depicting the ever pending ceremony of her missing father that never took place. By employing paper-craft, she visually translated her feelings of loss, where you could see an innocent bird lying dead and petals becoming darker with grief. The mediums she had used, including the watercolours, could be seen as an act of unburdening, as she relied on creative expression to lighten her grief.
The theatrics of a home
Bushra Anis navigates through the quirkiness of her home with endearing witticism. She documents the flaws within her home as images with sticky notes pasted atop, alongside audio narrations. Through her documentation the objects morph into caricatures, which assume a life of their own as they push out of their sockets, some mischievously chipping away (to one day leave a gaping hole in the wall), and a rain of rubble. She uses humour to relay these anecdotes, but between the cracks and crevices lies the quiet hesitation of living with her mother and sisters alone. Bushra cavorts with the theatrics of her home in jest, and a guileless sensitivity, as she tries fixing the flaws within her home. What stood out for me the most was the last picture in Bushra’s work, where you could see the shoes of a labourer against a raw backdrop.
Being an all-women household, with the entire series focused on make-do repairs, the shoes parked outside would indicate why a male worker’s visit cannot be deemed pragmatic in such a setting even though her other work had a more humorous edge to it. Observations of her home, stationed to walk you through each space, as she revealed the parts of her home that needed professional help. Here one would come across quintessential images such as an old kitchen cupboard that has a packet of brown sugar pasted onto the place where the handle goes to give an illusion of perfection. Upon scanning the QR code placed next to it, you are taken to an audio of her talking about how the kitchen cabinet never has proper handles, and they have to rely on spoons to access cupboards. With company around, it becomes uncomfortable for the family to be walking around with spoons trying to open kitchen cupboards.
The woes of a navigating woman
Zahabia Khozema’s investigations of the self are in conjunction with the city which she mediates through a fictitious organisation Anjuman e Inthihai Pareshaan Auratain (Organisation for the Extremely Concerned Women), which addresses the flaws of the public transportation system in Karachi and its discrepancies towards women. Her practice is informed by visual devices of activism, thus presents as an effective means of communication. Khozema is aware of her position as an artist as she navigates through the public space, she is wary of bringing in a camera to document her journey, leading to a more nuanced presentation of her concerns. As a viewer, you can see the bold lines spewed across the wall as bars, zebra crossing, or as a lack of direction.
The video that she had made was a little depressing, to say the least, as she shared her vows of being a woman and navigating a city such as Karachi. The exhibit starting from the banner at the entrance, with the name of the organisation written on it, could be seen as a way to express the daily encounters and experiences of women forced to live in a patriarchal society.
This exhibition with the five young artists, attempts to register and document their associations and negotiations with space and place. It was a treat to visit the exhibition and look at art displayed in such a unique form through the lens of the different artists and their view of the world.