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October 22, 2010 / the s.a. project

the show goes on

So many shows, some very interesting work and mostly some terrible curation

Curation is where the great endeavor by the 39k gallery’s group show Overflow failed, the delightful kitschy Lakh War Sadkay at Alhamra became fragmented and Ayesha Jatoi‘s absolutely enchanting Mirror Mirror at Rohtas2 lost some of its charm for me.

photo credit: stolen from Facebook. it is for public use you know.

At 39K what was exciting about the show was that all the artists were students, mostly 2nd year painting students at the National College of Arts Lahore (NCA) and that there was a positive energy about the work that reflected an outlook of experimentation. For this I give the gallery its due credit. But it must learn from its experiences and improve many aspects of its showcasing if it must come in the league of other galleries. There was very little attention given to lighting, placement of artworks, the spaces that they required and environment concerns – case in point, especially, being the sound piece that just could not be heard, and hence enjoyed, properly because of the echo and background noise that dwarfed the video/audio piece. These essential points can make or break the experience of interacting with an artwork. For me the lack of attention to this part of the show was a cause of major disappointment.

At Alhamra, the concerns were nothing new. There had been no input on the placement of the works of the 5 artists and many of the pieces were just badly lit or swinging haphazardly in the blow of the air-conditioner. The work, which was fun, energetic and cheeky needed to be presented in a similar way, which reflected the young spirit of the art and artists. However, upon enquiring, I found out that the artists had many logistical issues with the gallery and that they had been looking for guidance on curating their show but had not been able to get any. It is a solid argument in once case: that artists aren’t necessarily curators, as everyone likes to believe here. But it is an equally weak argument in the other case, which is that these artists – 4 out 5 which are in the MA (Hons) Visual Arts program at NCA and the one a teacher at the same institute – should be at a level where they are more exposed to these issues, have developed a certain level of sensibility in this area and should have figured out a way to tackle the problem. Only when the artists themselves start paying attention to what happens to their work after they are done working on it, is when others will start paying the same amount of respect.

Interestingly, the audience at both 39k and Al-Hamra was very different from the usual ‘gallery crowd’ and I feel that it is essential to bring more people into galleries and expose them to new work so that there may be a more open and less constipated dialogue. Unlike that which is commonly found in newspapers with heavy words and zero content.

At Rohtas2, it was a pleasant shock to walk into an empty room with a text based piece running along the length of the walls in a simple story. Together the 6 or so lines wove a narrative that was strong and compelled the viewer to dig deeper to understand what the artist was hinting at. The meticulously written ‘information’ piece before the gallery door was an obvious indication at the direction of thought Ayesha wanted us to take on miniature painting. However, it was a battle against me and the 4 cameramen and various photographers who kept jumping in front of me or blocking my vision or trying to take a jang akhbaar photo of me next to the work. Personally it killed the experience for me, and for many others who mentioned the same to me later. If the space had been planned perhaps in a way that required people to be given their legroom it would have made a difference. As it is, when the work is extremely simple and requires more from the viewer, then the exhibition space should be conducive towards this introversive activity.

These are very personal opinions. Others might think differently. But then I’m a serious tea drinker. And tea drinkers usually have strong opinions.

Oh and can someone please shoot down all these media pests at art shows.




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