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April 10, 2011 / the s.a. project

Whats Fair baby?

Well then it’s time to follow up Goatballing and Dubai Return with another episode of who-cares-what-the-hell-i-did-last-month. hope you’ll like it. or don’t.

Disclaimer: If you sense a bit more than usual dose of bitter liver juice in my words it’s because my ulcer has been trying very hard to kill me and all his slimy friends. It even helped land me in the hospital with drips and needles and all that kind of sickly cool shit the night before. Mother’s been feeding me boiled food and jellies and custards so I’m not really complaining. Gives me some time to return to an awesomishly amazing book that I’m reading from His Dark Materials trilogy (Philip Pullman).


Art Dubai was exactly what it ominously promised to be. Big, glitzy, expensive and all inclusive of everything imaginable. I think that’s what Dubai is…a real proper SUPERLATIVE. Many of the things that I don’t like to be associated with art are usually the main attractions at Art Fairs. Thats because art fairs have a core agenda of making sales. In the case of Dubai, it’s the biggest, fastest, quickest, naughtiest of sales. However, as the years have progressed and art fairs have sprung all over the world like wildflowers/weeds the image has had to be changed. The fairs now want to look like they have depth and they mean something more than sales, while making sales. Sometimes its about empowering the local/regional arts and culture, sometimes its about expanding to include a wider international audience, and sometimes its about we-can-do-it-too. Who knows how genuine these intentions are but one thing is for sure, the level of awareness is increasing worldwide of the different type of arts and artists from other corners of the world than your own. However, the cost of acquiring a booth in these fairs makes it very clear that only the big fish galleries and their artists get a foot in on this stage.

Surprisingly, both the art fairs that I participated in this year (India Art Summit and Art Dubai) took in experimental and tongue-in-cheek work from me that questioned the workings of art fairs and the dynamics of consumerism. At the IAS the work was completely text based vinyl stickers pasted all across the venue in strange places (including inside bathroom stall doors!) that made people think about their presence in an art fair and the importance of art consumerism, including the hype of Big Sales. At Art Dubai my work was part of a new project section that invited newer/younger (a.k.a not artfair material artists) to talk about ‘experience economies’, and I proceeded to comment on how the face of Pakistani art is packaged according to what fits stereotypical demands of international markets. This in turn has a large impact back home and seeps through to all levels and most of all art students.

A lot of hatemailers have judged me on actually being part of something that I look at critically but I say why not! Isn’t dialogue and debate the best when you do it at a platform that allows the other a chance to respond. Dialogue and debate in the safe cushioned corners of your room with your chamchas is hardly worth being pleased about I say.

Guerrilla Girls Poster 1989

Look at the Guerrilla Girls for one. I love love love them. After years and years of working/talking/performing/acting upon the practices of museums on the under-representation of women and ethnic minorities they reached a point decades later where the same museum MOMA wanted to showcase that original protest artwork. Now that’s called coming around!

Please take a bit of time out to see this video and see how criticism is formed, used and what is meant to be achieved. Criticism can be cheeky, insolent, funny, rude, in your face, subtle and so much more.

VIDEO: The Guerrilla Girls at the Feminist Future Symposium, MoMA

The Feminist Future: Theory and Practice in the Visual Arts

Friday, January 26, 2007; Panel: Activism/Race/Geopolitics; Guerrilla Girls Frida Kahlo and Kathe Kollwitz, two founding members of the feminist activist group

This video just gets more and more hilarious as you go on! Especially worth watching is when somewhere after the 15 min mark the G-girls explain why they chose to start displaying at museums, fairs and biennials across the world. This is the first time I’m seeing this video too and it’s absolutely fabulous. I don’t have to explain crap all to people what I do…because these girls say it best. Why not use the platforms to make your message louder!


On a tragic note, I received a text message in the morning informing me of the sudden and unexpected death of a talented young artist Usman Ghouri. I did not know him personally but I knew of him. I know many of my friends from Karachi and other parts of Sindh, who were very close to him, are deeply saddened for this loss. My condolences to Usman’s family and friends. R.I.P – Usman Ghouri – Artist, Teacher, Friend, Father.

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