The four-day fest celebrated technology-based creativity at nine venues across the city
eta-verse is said to be the next iteration of the internet. It could be a shared virtual space for humans who can experience life in ways that are impossible to observe in the physical realm. The recently concluded Lahore Digital Festival set out to explore the commercial, theoretical and existential connotations of the meta-verse in a digital exhibition that went on for four days at nine venues in the city.
Held in collaboration with the European Union National Institutes for Culture and the embassies of Germany, Austria and France, the festival was about carefully curated spaces where the audience immersed themselves in the intersection of art and technology and everything in between. The innovative spectacle showcased over a hundred artworks by 74 artists hailing from 14 nations across the globe. The culmination of the event was a creative interchange for experimental expression to acknowledge the growing industry of digital art in Pakistan, thanks to festival director, Shoaib Iqbal.
Four main themes emerged from the collection of nine exhibitions that were based on the impacts of climate change; gender and identity; culture and heritage conservation; and computational concepts such as machine learning, artificial intelligence and futuristic landscapes.
Several artworks were contingent upon the interaction of the audience which drew parallels with the ethical pact between the maker and the viewer. The question of authorship was adroitly examined by Lahore-based designer Umair Abbasi in an interactive website that’s responsible for fabricating poetry using computational codes. The algorithm converts orated poems into beeps, dashes and dots of the Morse code. The artwork is an amalgamation of themes regarding the creation of literature in the age of advanced computing.
Anton Sahler, a German light artist, explored the themes of human connection in natural settings through images generated from physical touch. The installation comprised negative and positive terminals placed under an umbrella which served as gateways to form a bridge between two bodies. Upon contact, a presentation of light and sound was projected.
Sri Lankan sound artist, Rinoshan Susiman, probed the subject of infringement of borders and personal spaces in an interactive projection using body-detecting sensors. French artist, Justine Emard, crafted an abstract representation of an astronaut’s bio-signals from space. Cryogenic sleep could be accessed through a gaming joystick where the subconscious becomes a perceptible and visible web of motion, vibration and light.
A research project, titled Fragile Heritage Ecologies, led by Zahra Hussain, was displayed at the Lahore Museum in the form of an interactive website. It investigated the possibility of preserving and sustaining the heritage of the Himalayan region in the context of climate change.
A collaboration between Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau, representing Austria and France, respectively, explored the impacts of the environmental crisis from the perspective of bees, flies and various insects which have a vital role in the maintenance of the ecosystem.
An art graduate from Lahore, Hira Asim illustrated the interconnectedness of technology and nature taking visual inspirations from Indo-Persian miniature. For her, the two phenomena were far from separate.
Aaminah Hammad aka Poday Wali voiced her deep concern for the social and economic marginalisation of women through the elements of nature and handicrafts present in the Pakistani culture. Her artworks were an amalgamation of traditional and digital mediums.
Four main themes emerged from the collection of nine exhibitions that were based on the impacts of climate change, gender and identity, culture and heritage conservation, and computational concepts such as machine learning, artificial intelligence and futuristic landscapes.
Danish-Tamil video artist Nivetha Balasubramaniam represented the alienation of South Asian citizens of Western nations in a humorous depiction through short films she had directed and starred in.
Sofia Stærmose Hardt highlighted the importance of manual labour in the midst of generative AI systems and its urgency in automated labour which can remove the manual labour force from the industry. The work explored the themes of dismissal, impoverishment and dependence on drugs.
Video art performances by Asjad Faraz and Aroosa Rana aimed to bridge the gulf between the performer and the viewer by deploying inaudible moving images filled with symbols of the known and unknown, the real and fantastical, the subject and the spectator.
Performative art photographs by Lahore-based artist Shafia Mirza suggested using human body as a canvas for painting natural landscapes while blending techniques of makeup and acrylic pigments. Czech photographer Alzbeta Jungrova chose human bodies as the main subjects for her ephemeral images depicting destinies and human-to-human encounters.
topian settings and futuristic environments were a recurrent theme at the festival. Several artists showcased their innovative and imaginative expertise in an array of mediums such as posters, animation and virtual spaces to engage and encompass the audience.
New-media artist Ayesha Mubarak Ali investigated the technological altercations of machine learning and artificial intelligence through her work. For her, the philosophical discourse of superficiality and authenticity has transcended our comprehension of what it is to be human.
Abu Dhabi-based animator and writer Omair Faizullah constructed meta-narratives for fictional dystopias. He employed algorithmic techniques for developing artificial urban environments using generative patterns and mathematical configurations. This meta-versal transience raised questions about the relevance of our physical identity in the ever-expanding digital realm.
Stefano Fake, the creator of The Fake Factory in Italy, used interactive technologies, video projection and computer visual effects to produce a massive, 60-minute immersive installation. Audiences of various ages and academic specialties were captivated by the audiovisual and spatial experimental video. An interdisciplinary process balanced the use of space, light, visuals and soundtrack throughout the experience.
The Lahore Digital Festival was a huge success, especially for young artists and students. The artworks on display provided an inspiration for budding artists to indulge in technological and multi-disciplinary approaches besides the traditional media.
The writer is visiting faculty at BNU, Lahore