Terracotta Hearts & a Plastic Eden: Lahore’s First-ever Biennale

Part ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ and part a deluge of contemporary artwork, Lahore’s first-ever Biennale was truly a one-of-a-kind experience. After reading and viewing on social media about the Karachi Biennale, I was quite curious to see what this mix of artists had to offer in Lahore and let me tell you – they did not disappoint!

 

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Library at Bagh-e-Jinnah

 

A friend and I were only able to make it on the very last day, so we covered the installations at Bagh-e-Jinnah ( also known as Lawrence Gardens) and the former Lahore Lit Fest stronghold, Al -Hamra Cultural Complex – both conveniently located on The Mall.

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Lover's Temple Ruins

 

Let it be noted, I risked my life to see Ali Kazim’s Lover’s Temple Ruins public art installation. How’s that for commitment to ‘The Arts”?!  It was upon seeing Kazim’s unusual take on ‘Lover’s Garden’ on Instagram that it was decided to make Lawrence Gardens the first stop.  The risking my life part? It’s coming. A very helpful Lahore Biennale volunteer pointed in the general direction of a tree-covered hill and said that more artwork lies up there. Padding along in my comfy slippers with a thick sole, it was a surprise to find a steep trail comprising of random slate slabs, crumbling red dirt and a few roots branching along the path. With much trepidation, but with an even stronger resolve and a patient fellow-hiker,  we made our way up the hill and eventually to Kazim’s artwork.  On a serious note, future Lahore Biennale events should be curated with accessibility in mind. It does not make sense that any patron of the arts miss out on experiencing an exhibit just because wheelchair ramps, side railings or proper steps are unavailable.  What kind of public art installation is exclusionary?

It strikes you – as if one has been suddenly transported to a remote excavation site. Signs of an older civilization all but gone for some stubborn terracotta hearts. It felt as if one is a giant peering down on a collapsing foundation- moments before all is lost to the ravages of time.

 

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Warda Shabbir’s work at the Lahore Biennale

 

 

A riot of colors enclosed in a life-size version of child’s diorama, Warda Shabbir’s installation instantly engages the viewer and transports them to her version of the Garden of Eden.  Aside from being quite ‘Instagrammable’, Shabbir’s skill at turning ordinary plastic plants and flowers into a breathtaking 3-D mural is noteworthy.

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A close-up of Warda Shabbir’s work at the Lahore Biennale

 

Noor Ali Chagani’s artwork depicts the impact of societal expectations on Pakistani men. I felt that Chagani’s ‘brick wall’ speaks of the hope that perhaps one day more men will feel comfortable sharing their softer sides.

 

I adored, ADORED, Salman Toor’s ARE YOU HERE? installation at the Al-Hamra Arts Center.

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Shezad Dawood’s Neutral Density

 

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pixel-by-pixel- the psychology behind the Prisma phenomenon

Simple question coming up – Why Prisma?  Here are some captions from the official Prisma Google App Playstore Page:

Turn every photo into art!‘ ‘Every photo becomes art’  This line is the most disturbing: ‘Prisma transforms your photos into artworks using the styles of famous artists: Munk, Picasso as well as world famous ornaments and patterns. A unique combination of neural networks and artificial intelligence helps you turn memorable moments into timeless art.’

OH!  So all that has been standing between me and recognition of my artistic genius is a photo-editing app?  There is not a *teensy* bit of reason to expect that creativity, training in the various trades/genres and sheer talent may be the barrier from me becoming the next Rembrandt.  All that is required is an Application. If you have yet to recognize my stance on the latest whirlwind tech phenomenon, I don’t Prisma.

However, it is worth digging deeper into what makes Prisma so attractive to tons of people across the globe. 

What could possibly be attractive about a machine imaging process that converts a real instance into a thermal image or a blurred out robot-like attempt at monochromatic watercolor painting?

Is it because we are innately and infinitely curious about how computers  (inanimate machines of our making) view us?  Are we so alone that any shred of apparent creativity or artistic output is enough to render further endearment to the technological beasts-of-burden? 

Is this the very end of the line (I doubt it) of our narcissistical tendencies – the need to view ourselves from multiple vantages and viewpoints? When will this need quench?

Prisma photos look like (I can only imagine) when a cyborg needs to be thwapped from the side of it’s ‘head’ to adjust it’s vision. Colors bleed unnaturally.

One social media commentator was quick to call a freshly Prisma’d friend ‘gorgeous’. Gorgeous now means a modified, spray-brushed Microsoft Paint version of your likeness. 

Eventually, the novelty for Prisma will, too, die off.  Terminal overthinkers and worrywarts like myself will find a fresher topic to observe.  What will remain is the discovery that modern day humans seek easy,swift detachment from their immediate surroundings. Preferably at the click of a button.

It can be that we are escaping further into wilful delusion, aided by games and pointless tasks like flinging round birds at klepto-pigs  or collecting imaginary monsters.  At least the Pokemon do not instigate full-scale coups on a Sunday morning.  Apps like Prisma and Snapchat alter your facial features but you still have a passport that is recognized and country to call home.

 

Creative Chaos: Ethnic Crafts Fair in Lahore

A quick write-up following a visit to a local crafts fair in Lahore – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly!

CW CCThe Good

  • The Season-November in Lahore is the closest we get to Autumn around here, so it was quite comfortable while browsing through the crowds for the perfect handicraft fix.  The sun is bright enough for us Lahoris to bust out the designer sunglasses, breezy enough to dust off the devastatingly beautiful (read:expensive) pashminas to wrap around our shoulders and the air crisp enough that everyone is infused with an extra dash of joie de vivre -even the traffic policeman on the drive up were less adamant on issuing tickets!   20151107_151456
  • Large variety of crafts on display – From camel-skin lamps crafted in interior Sindh to embroidered leather pouches from Balochistan, there were many types of crafts represented at the fair.

The Bad

  • The LocationThe Mall is already the busiest road in the city, the organisers’ choice of Tollinton Market led to a parking nightmare.
  • The Time of the Year – There is too much going on! What with the Faiz Ghar folks rolling out a festival on literature and music then there is the Khayal ArtsFest with more of the same – November is pretty cramped. I would have probably picked late February/ early March as an alternate time of the year to hold this fair; somehow it seems like all the fairs and fests have been crammed in ahead of the impending ‘Shaadi’ season.  Pushing your limited target audience into a state of overwhelm is not favorable! 

The Ugly (or Missed Opportunities)

  • Products Unlabeled – No Back Story, No Instructions and No Contact info if you want to get in touch with the vendor.
  • Lack of Business Cards, Labels or Social Media presence  – Vendors need to provide some way for customers or potential business partnersto get in touch after the fair is over. If nothing else,  set up a basic Facebook page with the brand name and print a set of cards with the Facebook Page link on it.
  • Prices Aren’t Written in Plain Sight or  are Hard-to-Read – I wrote about this before here.