Ephemeral permanence

February 12, 2023

Hum was a rare exhibition in which all of the works on display were innately digital

Ephemeral  permanence


on-fungible tokens represent a new kind of visual culture. It’s a new form of enquiry, a provenance that poses questions to challenge the status quo and critically reflect on current trends in utopias and dystopias to reinvent, support and educate. The evolution of Web 3.0 is teaching us how to be better connected virtually than ever before and make collaborative decisions about new undertakings and endeavours. The digital creative space is seeing a renaissance of sorts.

Hum, a part of the Future Fest at Expo Centre Lahore, from January 6 to 8, was a rare exhibition in which all of the works on display were innately digital. These were shown on various screens, some as straight as wall hangings, others juxtaposed in various ways and dimensions. The unique show was conceived and curated by Zain Naqvi, an enthusiastic digital nomad. Naqvi’s ambition is to enquire, endorse and encourage value-building for Web 3.0, NFTs and AI-generated art in Pakistan through his start-up, Alter. The show featured the work of 14 digital artists from across the globe.

Rayan Elnayal’s work was an exploration of futuristic aesthetics with Arabic typography. She had used three dimensional rendering tools in her latest works, Magic Realism, African Futurism, and Science Fiction.

Brice Duncan’s limited edition digital creations showcased a capacity to construct fantastical impressions. The mostly abstract displays, sometimes made sense and sometimes simply created a rhythm. Duncan’s atypical aesthetic investigations simultaneously synch and obliterate layers of colours, ineligible pieces of text and electrifying daubs.

Inspired by nostalgia and innocent awe, Amrit Pal Singh’s portraits depicted toys as artefacts from another remarkable era. The artworks honoured people like Gandhi, Bhagat Singh, Charlie Chaplin and Malala Yusufzai. Sindh digitally sculpts faces of actual and fictitious characters. He is apparently inspired by a game played and enjoyed by children with minimalist colour palettes and a polished appearance. The project aimed at recapturing that sensation one gets when everyone at school and beyond pushes one to do better.

Mustaali Raj, an engineer turned designer whose focus lies at the intersection of interdisciplinarity, sees himself as a circle, living in a square and drawing triangles. Raj’s work represented the spirit of protection, revealing the defenders of the oppressed. At first sight, the rotating figures looked like a Lego construction. The animated pieces were inspired by five South East Asian subspecies of tigers.

Then came @infiniteya, who like Banksy, hasn’t been doxed in the NFT/ Web 3.0 space so far. @infiniteya is interested in using artificial intelligence to build new realities — believing in the part game, part muse aesthetics. @infiniteya invents places where the veil between dreams, art and reality is a fragile one. The works on display from the collection Imaginaria, a mysterious realm in vast dimensions, wsa filled with creators, performers and creatures —showing a quick-churning world of arcades at amusement and theme parks.

The show was conceived and curated by Zain Naqvi, an enthusiastic digital nomad. Naqvi’s ambition is to enquire, endorse and encourage value-building for Web 3.0, NFTs and AI-generated art in Pakistan through his start-up, Alter.

Maryam Kamran, through her Persian paintings, had tried to make a bridge between the past and the present. Her works were a homage to the brave women of Iran fighting against oppression. Mehmet Attila O zdemir’s @atillagaliba animations on screens perched on the floor, titled Pacifist and Survive, depicted a crocodile, a chicken and a rabbit made with rugged metals on an index-rotary table used in metalwork with neon rings and spots. This seemed like a critique of war, capitalism and political unrest, in which animals suffer greatly alongside human beings.

Orkhan Mammadov had concentrated on re-interpreting the history of the East using through artificially intelligent art. The onlooker might contemplate the origins of Persian miniature paintings showing a king’s court, war fields and Central Asian architecture. Idil Dursun’s work was full of spectacles of the tediously created cyberpunk/ dystopian environment concepts, building a universe as a vision of the future. A still image in Dursan’s work titled Golden Gate: Arcadia reminded the onlooker of an acclaimed bridge, amongst the world’s most iconic, with its tremendous towers, sweeping cables and great span — a sensory beauty and an engineering wonder. The world-building approach allowed one to experience an architectural marvel of multiple perspectives. In the video Above and Beyond, another interesting visual storey evolved, exploring the shadow side of reality — not necessarily cynical or misanthropic.

Clouds were a central theme in Mathew Wilson’s whimsically awestruck dreamscapes. One was reminded of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s wrapping of prominent landmarks and landscape elements in fabric. Looking at the open sheets in Wilson’s work was like seeing an attempt to cover the wispy clouds.

Lil Mahnaji’s work challenged the norms of role-play. It showed a hijabi roof topper, a young woman unafraid to pursue her goals and learn about activism through photography and digital art. Her photomontages challenged viewers to reconsider their perceptions of reality and what was possible.

Saks Afridi’s artificially intelligent woven heart series — wrapped in traditional intertwined carpets from South and Central Asia, showed a knitted bridge between the past and the future. Afridi had perhaps prompted Dall-e and Mid-journey to bring chipsets, motherboards, electric wires, bone china, copper/ brass utensils, metal exhausts and fabric conduits to weave his hearts. The positioning of the screens on the floor prompted the viewer to see the work as sculptures. A heart weaves what the heart receives, Afridi said self-assuredly.

The writer is an art/ design critic. He heads the  Department of Visual Communication Design at Mariam Dawood School of Visual Arts and Design, Beaconhouse National University, Lahore

Ephemeral permanence