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June 5, 2011 / the s.a. project

when in Rio…

Wave UFO" 1999/2003 - Mariko Mori

I write this post from a million gazillion miles away from home. At this very moment I’m sitting on a white sofa-cum-bed with an empty cup (that had terrible cappuccino in it half an hour ago) lying by my side. I’m in a quaint little apartment in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in the world famous area of Copacabana. Yet at this very moment I’m missing Lahore, Pakistan terribly and what I need most is my cup of chai. Real chai. I’ve travelled a little bit across the world and never have I EVER found a decent cup of tea anywhere except in Pakistan. It’s bloody true. And anyone who has been reading this blog knows I’m fueled by my cuppa. Yet I have much to tell and talk about…so here goes.

Yesterday the drummer and I traversed through the downtown area of Rio looking for art museums and were treated to some very exciting local and international art. Our first stop was at the gorgeous Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, a huge neoclassical building that was originally a trading and banking centre but was transformed into a cultural centre in 1989. It has 3 theaters, 4 exhibition rooms, a library, cinema, and a video room. Right now there are three main shows on which are absolutely delicious.


is an exhibition of contemporary Japanese artist Mariko Mori‘s titled Oneness. Mariko Moro has shown extensively internationally and is well known but it is no surprise that I knew nothing about her. My knowledge, like that of many other art students and artists back home, is limited to what we have access to. We can’t all always buy latest art magazines and journals and rely on borrowed copies. Anyway, the work was very strange and…stimulating (for the lack of a better word). What is with the Japanese and their obsession with futuristic existence, plastic colours, disturbed sexuality? and what is it that makes us hooked on to it even when it disturbs the fuck out of us!!

The work was technically engineered and new mediums like technogel were used which invited viewers to touch and interact with works that responded. I found myself sitting with 6 complete strangers in front of 6 technogel aliens, who responded when touched. I could feel the heart beat of one blue gel creature under my palm and the light from its eyes fall on my face. Very weird. When all 6 aliens were being touched together and the collective energy combined, the circle of aliens lit up.

Room after room of videos and photographs or such sensorial experiences awaited me and haunting music played in the background. I don’t think I liked everything. But it was the experience of the entire exhibition that lingered on in my head and in my hands that had participated in a planned ritual.

Please check out these images of what I experienced. (they open in new windows so don’t worry you wont lose this page!)


While I was still deep in thought about Oneness, I moved into another exhibition hallway showing FOTO RIO, a contemporary photography exhibition of artists representing themselves in self-portraiture. I nearly bloody jumped out of my skin when I realised I would be seeing the works of Cindy Sherman and Gilbert & George amongst other great. OH MY GOD.

Cindy Sherman

The Red Sculpture - Gilbert & George

The exhibition was HOT hot hot and played around with the term self-portraiture AND photography. There were 2 videos of photo stills also, one which was based on a photo-story kind of layout. The work was also, as expected from self-portraiture, very raw and revealing and delving deep into the themes of body image, sexual identity, interior/exterior and role-playing. I enjoyed the technical side of the works too and learnt quite a bit about different kinds of printing and the decisions that the artists had taken regarding framing and display.


Like Mariko Mori, I had no idea who Laurie Anderson was but I enjoyed some of her work immensely from the show I in U. The first work was a large slate-grey roundtable on which people had to sit and place their elbows on vibrating nodes and cup their hands on their ears – the result: music played through the vibrations inside your ears. The rest of the show revolved around story telling, sound, photographs, drawings, eery video performances and self working gadgets that did various things. yeah…I don’t sound half as sophisticated as the show was! Also, her talking pillows reminded me of a show I had attended more than 2 years ago. It was Shalalae Jamil at Grey Noise in January 2009. Another show that used lots of mediums for a narrative style exhibit.

Laurie Anderson

Shalalae Jamil

Now that reminds me of another thing….The one thing that happened a lot at NCA was that teachers or fellow students made connections of each others’ work with other artists’, but in a very negative way. Implying it was copied. Making INSPIRATION a dirty word and I think it’s a bad baad way to think.

The drummer and I chewed on some homemade sandwiches, after the exhibition, and discussed how our limited exposure (as artists of all genres in Pakistan) has in turn limited our development. He commented on music, I on art. We as students and professionals refuse to talk and read and learn and accept that inspiration is natural. Much of the work I saw yesterday reminded me of countless things that I have seen back home. That’s because we as people have collective experiences and respond in more similar ways than we like to imagine. And I found myself thinking often, how much a particular artist/colleague/friend would have loved/enjoyed/hated the particular piece I was looking at.

And I also realized, with a little bit of self-belief and a WHOLE lot of risk and balls, our artists can show at anywhere in the world and not have to worry about fitting labels: Pakistani, women, muslims, victims. We could have all these too if we wished it to be part of our work. But we can learn to be individuals without labels also. Ass kicking individuals.

baki batien later. I’m tired. and homesick. But totally looking forward to a deliciously carnivorous meal later tonight!


Leave a Comment
  1. Nashmia Haroon / Jun 5 2011 11:50 am

    I agree totally with your view on taking inspiration from those before us.we may pretend to grow but in fact react other wise.the show looks like great fun.looking forward to more stories and links!!llove the photo from Shalale`s show!;)

    • ali khan / Jun 5 2011 2:32 pm

      Well, it is functional and distractional when you dont know what is potential and for that you must to tensional. Therefore you should be transactional.

      • the s.a. project / Jun 5 2011 7:05 pm

        dear ali, what in the bright blue world and purple hell beyond do you mean?!

  2. Feica / Jun 6 2011 2:46 pm

    Its good to find an art enthusiast from Pakistan, roaming and reporting from the world. Keep it up!

  3. Mehreen / Oct 12 2011 6:07 am

    I am a crazy stalker fan of Moriko Mori!!! (well as much of it as I can manage over the internet). And I have no idea how I missed this post! So I’m a couple of months late ;p
    BUT I AM SO JEALOUS you experienced the loony voodoo vibe of Moriko!!!

    I wish I had known earlier. I would have begged you to steal something.anything.of hers.for me =)

    • the s.a. project / Oct 12 2011 7:10 pm

      I’m such a jahil and I didn’t know about it! But it didn’t take long to discover how awesome she is!
      I was so confused by the show. Some parts I loved and some parts…well I didn’t even know what to think. But it did leave a lasting impression on me. The alien interaction thing was very cool. And some of her videos were so…. disturbing!

      i guess it was her background in the fashion world and incorporating that in the work kind of became strange for me. The weird non-pulpy stuff was UBER cool though.

      Next time I see her work I will steal the big spaceship for you, ok?

  4. emp3z / Apr 13 2018 9:33 pm

    Thanks for this post, I am a big big fan of this website would like to go on updated.


  1. when in Rio… | Tea Break

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