The Vengeful Genie: a Report from the Inaugural Lahore Biennale – 复仇神怪:来自拉合尔双年展的报告

City Report - 07 Apr 2018

The Vengeful Genie: a Report from the Inaugural Lahore Biennale

Grouping 50-plus artists from across the subcontinent and beyond, LB01 brought to light the charged links between art and politics

By Emilia Terracciano

An old Lahori saying goes: Jine Lahore nahin dekhya auk jamia ee nahin (One who has not seen Lahore cannot be said to have been born). Young Lahori volunteers repeatedly invoked the proverb whilst guiding visitors across the clusters of bazaars, neighbourhoods, twisting lanes, and dark gullies in and around the Pakistani city during the opening days of the Lahore Biennale (LB01).

Few cities in the subcontinent have enjoyed a more chequered history than Lahore; ruled over the centuries by Hindu kings, Mughal emperors, Sikh monarchs and British sovereigns, this gorgeous but politically volatile city offers a richly-textured and cosmopolitan history of its past, one that the curators of the first edition of the Lahore Biennale astutely and sensitively mined.

Following artist Rashid Rana’s dramatic announcement in August 2017 that he was stepping down as artistic director of the first edition, LB01 was radically restructured. Its executive director, Qudsia Rahim, appointed new partners and members to its advisory committee. These included the New North and South network steered by a cluster of UK institutions, Karachi-born scholar and artist Iftikhar Dadi and Lahore-based artist Ayesha Jatoi, amongst others. The transnational character of the team was reflected in the sensitive curation of artists and scholars from across South Asia, Britain and the US. Scheduled to run from 18 – 31 March, only 4 months after Karachi’s own Biennale – the first in Pakistan – the LB01 initiative has placed Lahore in the international limelight and in a choreographed dialogue with other countries in the subcontinent, particularly neighbouring India.

Alia Syed, Film still Priya 2011, Photography Usman Saqib Zuberi

The Vengeful Genie: a Report from the Inaugural Lahore Biennale - 复仇神怪:来自拉合尔双年展的报告

Alia Syed, Priya, 2011, film still. Courtesy: Lahore Biennale; photograph: Usman Saqib Zuberi

It’s difficult to overestimate the challenges that come with putting together works strewn across various sites by some 50-plus artists from the subcontinent and beyond, in a country afflicted by ongoing terrorist threats, scarce public infrastructure, dismaying government bureaucracy, shipping and inflexible visa restrictions, especially for South Asian citizens. Yet the curatorial efforts brought sophisticated constellations and compelling juxtapositions together. The proposed sites offered independently curated exhibitions, the telling of past and present stories: from the revisiting of Mughal history to fraught colonial encounters and contemporary forms of civilian strife and military violence across the subcontinent – in the aftermath of what has been referred to as ‘the long partition’. Although there is shared consensus that the violence unleashed by Partition festers the subcontinent like an open wound, the conditions of this haunting historical burden are contentious and hard to fathom.

Spectral aftermaths of 1947 were teased out at the Mubarak Haveli site in the show ‘Call to Action’ curated by Lahori, Colombo-based Mariah Lookman. Works evoking dispersed geographies and the scattering of livelihoods were on display in the soothing, white-washed Haveli mansion of a Shia community (a minority repeatedly targeted by Deobandi and Wahhabis in Pakistan). Inspired by a sketch penned by writer Saadat Hassan Manto on the nature of mindless violence during and after Partition, artists questioned temporal and spatial thresholds linked to the nation state through the use of minimal vocabularies.

Exquisite shimmering lines on carbon paper by late Lahori artist and activist Lala Rukh, in her series Mirror Image (2011), exemplified the power of the abstract idiom – opening up powerful hermeneutic possibilities. Rhythmical, Rukh’s minimal demarcations were further probed in her River in an Ocean (1992), a delicate, mixed media series that brought together experiments conducted both in the darkroom and the drawing room. Also at Mubarak Haveli were the enigmatic, small-cast bronzes of artist Zahoor Ul Akhlaq, an artist affiliated with US postwar abstractionists Ad Reinhardt and Barnett Newman. Vaguely reminiscent of the octagonal basis used as the ancient architectural models of Lahori homes, these shiny, tactile objects lured visitors closer to the vitrines. Similarly hermetic was Ul Akhlaq’s Still Still Life, II, an acrylic work that belies the meticulous deconstruction of the miniature grid.

Hamra Abbas, The Black Square,After Malevich 2018 at Summer Palace, Lahore Fort. Photography Usman Saqib Zuberi

The Vengeful Genie: a Report from the Inaugural Lahore Biennale - 复仇神怪:来自拉合尔双年展的报告

Hamra Abbas, Black Square 1 and 2, 2018, installation view. Courtesy: Lahore Biennale; photograph: Usman Saqib Zuberi

More playful, at times iconoclastic in their recovery of vernacular histories, were works on display at the Summer Palace, located in the basement of the Shish Mahal of the Lahore Fort. Built during the 17th century by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb as a seasonal retreat for the royal family, the fort embodies a syncretic architectural style blending Islamic and Hindu motifs. Such histories are teased out by a number of works that ponder the tangled and often shattered genealogies of Lahore’s cosmopolitan pasts.

Snaking across the dark passageway and into the room, the colourful neon installation Roz O Shab (2018) by artists Iftikhar Dadi and Elizabeth Dadi, offered a playful homage to the poet Allama Iqbal – revered in Persian and Urdu literature circles. The blue entangled neon-river entwined with red, accompanied the eye through the labyrinthine maze. Hallucinatory, the installation recalled the maze-like architecture of the Mughal palace, and evoked Iqbal's reflections on the inevitable passage of time.

Similarly, Hamra Abbas’s The Black Square, After Malevich (2017), a luminous series of large metal Plexiglas screens, questioned the totalizing legacies of European avant-garde gestures in relation to the systematic eradication of religious iconographies carried out by the Pakistani state in the service of nationalist ideologies. Dismantling forms of chromophobia tied to shared enactments of puritanical radicalism – Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square (1915) showed polychrome compositions under x-ray – Abbas subjects the colour of the Kaaba to radical deconstruction. The huge cube that sits at the heart of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is freed from the weight of worship to reveal the multiple delicate hues of cyan, magenta and yellow that comprise it.

Rehana Mangi, Paerda at Summer Palace. Photography Atif Saeed

The Vengeful Genie: a Report from the Inaugural Lahore Biennale - 复仇神怪:来自拉合尔双年展的报告

Rehana Mangi, Paerda, installation view. Courtesy: Lahore Biennale; photograph: Atif Saeed

More serenely austere were Rehana Mangi’s filigree curtains (Untitled, 2013), painstakingly threaded on charsuti cloth with human hair. Mangi evoked sacred and profane worlds through the rebel quietude of cross-stitching – a form of craft Mangi was taught as a child.

Untitled, minimal but no less contemplative, were Waqas Khan’s minute calligraphic doodles on paper at the Lahore Museum. Known in the UK for his large, labour-intensive drawings inspired by Sufi meditative practices (displayed at Manchester Art Gallery last year), Khan produced smaller fragmentary iterations for the Museum. Finely traced on paper, Khan’s works referenced the sacred hypnotic verses – Kufic, shikasta and naskh scripts – of the ancient Koran manuscripts on display. The tiny swooping strokes kept the eye perennially moving across the page.

Waqas Khan,Text in Continuum

The Vengeful Genie: a Report from the Inaugural Lahore Biennale - 复仇神怪:来自拉合尔双年展的报告

Waqas Khan, Text in Continuum, 2018, installation view. Courtesy: the artist and Lahore Biennale

Also in dialogue with its surrounding architecture was Bani Abidi’s more mournful sound piece Memorial to Lost Worlds (2016)a work about the forgotten lives of one million Indian soldiers who served in the Great War (1914–18). Performed in Punjabi, under the onyx gaze of the Museum’s own larger-than life Queen Victoria, the song relays the censored letters written by the soldiers and Punjabi folksongs sung by women at the time.

At Lawrence Garden, Bagh-e-Jinnah – Lahore’s botanical centre – featured a number of in situ installations including Meehreen Murtaza’s ‘… how will you conduct yourself in the company of trees’ (2018) – a project informed by recent botanical discoveries in plant behaviour. In this environmental work, Murtaza converted the electro-magnetic waves emitted by a 60-year old banyan into sound to reflect upon anthropocentric definitions of sentience, intelligence and memory.

Naeem Mohaiemen, Two Meetings and a Funeral, 2017 at Alhamra Art Centre. Photography Usman Saqib Zuberi

The Vengeful Genie: a Report from the Inaugural Lahore Biennale - 复仇神怪:来自拉合尔双年展的报告

Naeem Mohaiemen, Two Meetings and a Funeral, 2017, installation view. Courtesy: Lahore Biennale; photograph: Usman Saqib Zuberi

Gesturing towards the more contemporary vestiges of colonialism were two video projections at Alhambra centre by artists Naeem Mohaiemen and Hira Nabi. Commissioned and premiered at last year’s documenta 14 in Kassel, Mohamien’s docu-fiction Two Meetings and a Funeral (2017) is a funeral service to the Third World – ‘a project’ as historian Vijay Prashad put it, rather than a specific geographical space. Weaving past and present, the three-channel digital installation relayed the very real protests against neoliberalism that shaped world decolonization movements in the wake of the 1955 Bandung conference and their fateful – but not inevitable – aftermath.

But it is Nabi’s docu-fiction All That Perishes on the Edge of Land (2018) that brought such struggles back to the fore. Through the imagined and mellifluous voice of a feminized battered ship, Nabi recounts the daily struggles faced by migrant indentured labourers at the ghostly ship-breaking yards of Gadani, Baluchistan. Once scrapped, the ship will continue to live, we are told, like a vengeful genie, as released asbestos in the lungs of her executioners. It is a powerful commentary on the ocean as a key space of globalization and of the precarious lives defined by shifting economic parameters – one that deftly connects deindustrialization of the North and environmental degradation to the harsh realities experienced by labourers in the Global South.

Such evocative and potentially explosive projects traced the charged connections between art and politics from across the Subcontinent. Bringing to light with urgency and sophistication the intimate and anxious links existing between volatility and creativity in Pakistan today, the first edition of LB01 was a most vital and memorable contribution.

Iftikhar Dadi and Elizabeth Dadi, Roz o Shab, 2018, neon mixed media, installation view. Courtesy: Lahore Biennale; photograph: Usman Saqib Zuberi 

Emilia Terracciano

Emilia Terracciano is a writer based in London and Oxford. Her research interests lie in modern visual art and photographic practices with a focus on the Global South. Her book Art and Emergency: Modernism in Twentieth-Century India was published by I.B. Tauris in November 2017.

Lahore Biennial
New North and South
Emilia Terracciano
Lala Rukh
Iftikhar Dadi
Elizabeth Dadi
Hamra Abbas
Waqas Khan
Naeem Mohaiemen

城市报告- 07 APR 2018复仇神怪:来自拉合尔双年展编组50的报告加上来自次大陆和其他地区的艺术家,LB01揭示了艺术与政治之间的联系。米拉蒂拉西亚诺一个老拉霍里说:Jin拉合尔NaHin Dekua Auk JAMIAE-NaHin(一个没有见过拉合尔的人不能说是出生的)。在拉合尔双年展开幕式(LB01)开幕的日子里,年轻的拉霍里志愿者反复援引这个谚语,同时引导游客穿过巴扎、街坊、蜿蜒的小巷和在巴基斯坦城市周围的黑暗沟壑群。在次大陆中,很少有城市比拉合尔享有更为曲折的历史;几个世纪以来,印度教国王、莫卧儿皇帝、锡克君主和英国君主统治着这个美丽而政治动荡的城市,它提供了丰富多彩的历史和世界性的历史。拉合尔双年展第一版的支持者敏锐而敏感地开采了。继艺术家Rashid Rana在2017年8月的戏剧性宣布后,他辞去了第一版的艺术总监,LB01被彻底重组。其执行董事Qudsia Rahim任命了新的合作伙伴和成员加入咨询委员会。这些包括新的南北网络由一群英国机构,卡拉奇出生的学者和艺术家Iftikhar Dadi和拉合尔的艺术家Ayesha Jatoi,其中之一。团队的跨国特征反映在来自南亚、英国和美国的艺术家和学者的敏感策展上。计划从18到3月31日,仅在卡拉奇自己的双年展后4个月——巴基斯坦第一次双年展——LB01倡议将拉合尔置于国际聚光灯下,并与次大陆,特别是邻国印度的其他国家进行了编排对话。Alia Syed,电影仍然普里亚2011,摄影Usman Saqb ZuBii The Vengeful Genie: a Report from the Inaugural Lahore Biennale - 复仇神怪:来自拉合尔双年展的报告赛义德,普里亚,2011,电影仍然。礼貌:拉合尔双年展;照片:Usman Saqib Zuberi,很难高估50个以上的艺术家在次大陆和其他地区散布的作品所带来的挑战。稀缺的公共基础设施,破坏政府官僚机构,航运和灵活的签证限制,尤其是南亚公民。然而,策展的努力带来了复杂的星座和引人注目的并列。提议的地点提供了独立的展览,讲述过去和现在的故事:从莫卧儿历史的重演到整个殖民地遭遇的平民冲突和当代形式的平民冲突和军事暴力。我们称之为“长分区”。虽然大家一致认为,由分区释放的暴力破坏了次大陆,就像一个开放的伤口,这种令人难忘的历史负担的条件是有争议的,很难揣测。1947的光谱余波在Mubarak Haveli的现场被取笑,这是由科伦坡Mariah Lookman Mariah Lookman导演的《行动呼吁》。作品唤起了分散的地理空间,生计的散布在一个什叶派社区的舒缓、洁白的赫韦利宅邸中展出(一个少数民族被迪班迪和巴基斯坦瓦哈比人反复攻击)。受作家Saadat Hassan Manto笔下的一幅草图的启发,艺术家们在划分期间和之后的无意识暴力的本质上,通过使用最小词汇来质疑与民族国家联系的时间和空间阈值。晚拉霍里艺术家和活动家Lala Rukh在碳纸上精致的闪闪发光的线条,在她的系列镜像(2011)中,例证了抽象成语的力量——打开强大的解释学可能性。韵律,Rukh的最小划界,进一步在她的河在海洋(1992),一个微妙的,混合媒体系列,汇集了在暗室和客厅进行实验。此外,Mubarak Haveli是神秘的,小铸造青铜器艺术家Zahoor Ul Akhlaq,一个艺术家与美国战后抽象主义者广告莱因哈特和Barnett Newman。朦胧地想起了作为古建筑的拉霍里住宅的八角形基础,这些闪闪发光的触觉物体吸引游客更接近玻璃。同样,密闭是UL AkHaLq的静物,II,一个丙烯酸工作,掩盖了精细的解构微型网格。Hamra Abbas,黑广场,后马利维奇2018在颐和园,拉合尔堡。摄影Usman Saqb ZuBii WPA6022602IMG哈姆拉阿巴斯,黑色广场1和2, 2018,安装视图。礼貌:拉合尔双年展;照片:Usman Saqib Zuberi更好玩,有时在他们的白话历史恢复偶像,是在颐和园展出,位于拉合尔堡的希什马哈尔地下室的作品。该城堡建于十七世纪,由Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb作为皇室的季节性撤退,体现了融合伊斯兰教和印度教图案的融合建筑风格。这样的历史被许多作品所打动,这些作品沉思着拉合尔世界主义的纠结和破碎的谱系。在艺术家们Iftikhar Dadi和Elizabeth Dadi的彩色霓虹灯安装(Roz O Shab)(2018)中,穿过黑暗的通道进入房间,为诗人Allama Iqbal提供了一种充满敬意的敬意——在波斯和乌尔都语文学界受到崇敬。蓝色纠缠的霓虹河与红色缠绕在一起,伴随着眼睛穿过迷宫迷宫。幻觉中,这一装置唤起了莫卧儿宫殿迷宫般的建筑,并唤起了伊克巴尔对不可避免的时间流逝的思考。同样,Hamra Abbas的《黑色广场》,在Malevich(2017),一系列发光的大金属有机玻璃屏幕之后,质疑了欧洲前卫手势的总体遗产,与巴基斯坦国家在系统性根除宗教肖像画有关。民族主义意识形态的服务。消除与清教徒激进主义共享的色彩恐惧症的形式——Kazimir Malevich的黑色方块(1915)在X光下显示了多色成分——Abbas将Kaaba的颜色视为激进的解构。坐落在沙特阿拉伯麦加大清真寺中心的巨大立方体从崇拜的重量中解放出来,揭示了青色、洋红和黄色构成的多重微妙色彩。Rehana Mangi,颐和园在颐和园。摄影:赛义德WPAP6023 602IMG RHANA Mangi,PaelDa,安装视图。礼貌:拉合尔双年展;照片:Atif Saeed更宁静,朴实的是Rehana Mangi的丝质窗帘(无标题,2013),辛辛苦苦地拧在毛发布上。曼尼通过十字绣的反叛安静唤起神圣和亵渎的世界——蛮吉从小就被教导的一种技艺。Waqas Khan在拉合尔博物馆的纸上写着几分钟的书法涂鸦。在英国,他因苏菲派沉思实践(去年在曼彻斯特美术馆展出)启发了大量的、劳动密集的绘画作品,可汗为博物馆制作了较少的零碎迭代。细描在纸上,可汗的作品引用了古代可兰经手稿中的神圣催眠诗——Kufic、Skkasa和Naskh脚本。微微的一击使眼睛不断地在页面上移动。Waqas Khan,连续文本The Vengeful Genie: a Report from the Inaugural Lahore Biennale - 复仇神怪:来自拉合尔双年展的报告 Waqas Khan,连续文本,2018,安装视图。礼貌:艺术家和拉合尔双年展也与它周围的建筑对话是Bani Abidi更哀伤的声音片悼念失落的世界(2016)-一个关于一百万名印度士兵在大战争(1914 - 18)服役被遗忘的生活的工作。在旁遮普的表演中,在博物馆里比维多利亚女王更大的玛瑙的凝视下,这首歌传递了由士兵们写的截断信件和当时由妇女唱的旁遮普民歌。在劳伦斯花园,BAGH-E-JiNa-拉合尔植物中心-有许多现场安装,包括Meehreen Murtaza的“……你将如何在树上进行自己的行为”(2018)——一个由植物行为的最近植物学发现告知的项目。在这项环境工作中,Murtaza将一个60岁的榕树发出的电磁波转换成声音,以反映人类中心的感觉、智力和记忆的定义。Naeem Mohaiemen,两个会议和一个葬礼,2017在阿尔哈拉艺术中心。摄影Usman Saqb ZuBii The Vengeful Genie: a Report from the Inaugural Lahore Biennale - 复仇神怪:来自拉合尔双年展的报告 NaEEM莫海门,两次会议和一个葬礼,2017,安装视图。礼貌:拉合尔双年展;照片:Usman Saqib Zuberi对当代殖民主义的痕迹,是艺术家Naeem Mohaiemen和Hira Nabi在阿尔罕布拉中心的两个视频预测。去年在卡塞尔市的纪录片《14》的委托和首映,Mohamien的两部小说和葬礼(2017)是一个葬礼服务给第三世界——一个历史学家Vijay Prashad所说的“一个项目”,而不是一个特定的地理空间。过去三次的数字化安装,在1955届万隆会议之后,对新自由主义运动进行了非常真实的抗议,形成了世界非殖民化运动,其致命的但并非不可避免的后果。但Nabi的纪实小说在《土地的边缘》(2018)中的灭亡使这场斗争重新回到了前面。通过一个女性的想象和悦耳的声音


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