Having made its debut in the year 2017 with the theme of ‘Witness’, the Karachi Biennale is coming back for a third time in 2022 with a tech-based theme this time round.
The Karachi Biennale Trust (KBT) was founded in the year 2016 by a group of visual art professionals and educators as a dynamic platform to promote creativity, innovation and criticality in visual arts.
The KBT is a not-for-profit organisation that has remained a citizens’ initiative supported by the corporate sector, and it works with a network of local and international cultural, educational philanthropic organisations.
The KBT in collaboration with the Consulate of Germany in Karachi held the Karachi Biennale 22 (KB22) curtain-raiser at the residence of German Consul General Holger Ziegeler on Friday night. The KB22 curtain-raiser unveiled the exciting art-tech theme of the third biennale.
The theme of the third Karachi Biennale is supposed to connect with the transformative digital revolution underway in Karachi as well as the country, and foreground the ambitious leap with the art of Pakistani and international artists working at the intersection of art and technology.
The curtain-raiser showcased four hybrid artworks that gave a glimpse of what will be showcased in
October-November 2022 at eight different venues across the city.
The KB22 will explore the vast potential of technology as an art medium, both at the cutting edge with established artists who are working with virtual reality, artificial intelligence, robotics and low-end technology like mobile phones.
“I firmly believe in cultural diplomacy,” said Ziegeler. Speaking on modern artists, he said that we live in the fourth industrial revolution. “Nothing in our lives is how it used to be a few years ago.”
He said that we have a challenge to transfer the knowledge of the past and embrace the new at the same time. As for the challenges of technological changes, he said the German artist Dennis Rudolph gives him hope.
For the resolution of challenges of technological changes, changes in society, Rudolph gives us the way to use the new means of art to transform something into meaningful, he added.
How do we bridge between technology and conventional art? Managing Trustee of Karachi Biennale Niilofur Farrukh answers this by giving the example of Jahanzeb Khawaja’s artwork placed at the event, saying that it quite effectively bridges something as classical as sitar (music) and coding.
“The aesthetics change and yet the more into the classical remain,” she said, adding that how Rudolph used the history of Germany to tie together cohesion.
The artificial intelligence, she said, is altered intelligence and reality. “What we see here is a new of way linking to the past and that’s what we are showing you next year,” she said.
The KBT was founded in 2016, and it has completed five years and hosted two biennales. Both of them, she said, were very rooted in Karachi, because that is what a Karachi Biennale is all about.
“In fact, the Karachi Biennale was born out of a crisis. The crisis when Karachi was facing extreme violence and unrest. When a group of art professionals and educationists came together, stepped forward and used art to heal people, to put it in public spaces, to also re-invoke the history, the wonderful history of this port town.”
A lot of generous people, she pointed out, come forward in the cause. “People in Karachi have always been generous. They give us the venues. In the last biennale it was the city government that stepped forward and gave us the zoo, as well as Bagh Ibne Qasim.”
Curator of the KB22 Faisal Anwar during the panel discussion at the event said that an investigation is looking into the core question of the rule of art.
“When we look at the relevance of our present times and we look at the medium and we look at our present narrative, there’s a lot of experimentation going on,” he said, adding that researchers, artists, academia need to come together to relate with a narrative that relates with contemporary art movement.
German artist Dennis Rudolph brings together tradition and innovation by mixing a classic genre such as painting with new media such as virtual and so-called augmented reality. He said that he has never been in a city with 20 million people in it.
“There’s so much diversity in this city, maybe there’s one thing that everybody shares is that everybody has a phone,” he said, adding that if his mobile application, which has all his artwork, is downloaded
by the people of this city, it will be a unique experience for him.
Patron of the KBT Rabia Javeri Agha said that in the last seven decades we have lost half of our country, fought two wars, lost 70,000 people to the war against terrorism.
“It’s been a tough journey,” she said, adding that one needs to acknowledge the role of the biennale because it is tough to keep our culture alive in these times. The role that art plays in creating, including where there is no power relations, cannot be ignored, she pointed out.
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