Skip to content
June 15, 2011 / the s.a. project

the artist’s comfort zone

my desk in the MA studios. broken but full of surprises - photo by usman khan

There are many things to take into consideration when an artist is flung out of his/her comfort zone. Comfort Zone is the closest word I can find right now, for the lack of another, to address a space that the artist relates to and constantly goes back to for support, inspiration and understanding. It is in no way a comfortable zone, as many artists can testify.

I find myself suddenly out of my comfort zone and am jarred to my bones and teeth. The things that inspire me, enrage me, fuel me are synonymous the world over, but it’s what’s back home in Pakistan which I understood and responded to. In Brazil, the art world is an adult world that I’m trying very hard to understand. The political graffiti on the walls contrast sharply with the expensive funded exhibits at art museums and galleries. Both have some great work and both have a lot of trash. My mind is churning out so many reactions and opinions per second that I feel I would foam any moment at the mouth. A state of Art Epilepsy. I think it’s directly proportional to me not being able to get a cup of proper chai. Figuratively speaking, that’s my old comfort zone. Now I’ve discovered gorgeous tasting/smelling Brazilian that a metaphor for a new comfort zone perhaps?

Yesterday I participated in an ONLINE DEBATE that complimented a live session arranged by CORE gallery UK and an: on art, the artist and the art market. The talk was held by Rich White and you can click here to open a text file in pdf format to read the transcript of his talk. And I recommend that you do. It’s easy, it’s casual and it addresses some of the key issues that plague artists, especially the role of money in the process of art making.

More recently, I have been looking at a lot of Performance based art. It’s still a very ‘loosely hanging’ genre in Pakistan, but that’s what excites me, and the people who are willing to jump into this arena and express themselves more openly. There aren’t any set rules and standards as yet for the Pakistani art community and that gives room to younger artists to really explore. Traditionally the arts in Pakistan are not geared towards vocalizing concerns through the artist. When I did my ‘talk’ at the Grey Noise show, it was meant to be almost performative. It scared the shit out me…and I loved it!

Tomorrow, Sarah Ahmed Mumtaz (a student at the NCA MA Visual Arts programme) is going to be performing for her term final crit. She’s been addressing how Cerebral Palsy has been fundamental in defining who she is but had been shuffling between one conservative medium to another relatively lesser one, trying to find the best channel. From printmaking and drawing she moved on to having herself photographed as a bride with her ‘defect’ on display. She stitched Tim Burton-ish pin cushion girls and she made broken chairs. It takes a very brave person to address such personal issues. And finally tomorrow she wears her special gold caliper shoes and performs. It could be good, it could be absolute crap, but it will be a big start. Oh I wish I could’ve been there.



The drummer and I went to the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro, also known as mamrio. It took us lots of wrong turns and miles and miles of walking in downtown till we walked up to the most obvious building on the main bloody road! The building is an impressive mammoth of a structure but disappointingly empty.

We saw four major exhibits, which included the world famous permanent exhibition of the Gilberto Chateaubriand Collection (also termed as one of the world’s most important collections), a multi-disciplinary show by Roberto Cabot, a photography exhibit by Daniel Blaufuks, and a large-scale sculpture exhibit by José Resende with which we weren’t able to interact at all.

However, for the size and scale of the building, I really did expect to see much more. We got a pass to the films archive section but were to bloody dead by the end to actually make it there. Apparently, it is the Museum of Modern Art in Sao Paulo that kicks some major ass. I hope I make it there soon and that it satiates my desire for the real thing.

ROBERTO CABOT‘s show The Search for the Aleph.

all images courtesy:

The artist had worked with a lot of mediums, including traditional drawing and painting, along with installations, video and audience-performance pieces. And it oddly reminded me a lot of Naqsh Raj, my colleague at the MA VA programme 2009-2010 and a fellow at the recent Vasl International workshop 2011. Both these artists have a  strange way of ‘looking‘ at things and observing them as an image is an almost obsessive part of their nature. Image into image into image, Cabot paints, draws, records, shows and dissects representation. Naqsh would’ve enjoyed the show and how it was presented and maybe it would’ve helped her address her concerns and informed her practice a great deal…or so I think!

Here are some images of the drummer and I interacting with the audience pieces:



Study for Aleph


More pictures below

Catalogue excerpt:
“The simultaneity that you mention in respect to Borges’ The Aleph recalls both Cubist painting and the surveillance cameras in parking lots. From this hetero-chronic perspective, there is not the least doubt that this could very well be a core question today, because it enables us to address an obsession that we both share, namely, modernity. This entails inventing a new way of dealing with the multiple, leaving behind both linear succession and simultaneity, either by excluding both or by including them within a broader equation.”
Nicolas Bourriaud, extract of Crossed correspondence, in catalogue of the exhibition, 2011.


Follow more random updates on my twitter account : SairaAnsariPK


Leave a Comment
  1. Amina Art Ansari / Jun 18 2011 8:35 pm

    (Posted first on facebook)

    Very nice read 🙂 Love to you all!!
    I agree everything you said about Sarah Ahmed Mumtaz!!

    Thursday at 7:10pm

  2. Sarah Ahmed Mumtaz / Jun 18 2011 8:36 pm

    (Posted first on facebook)

    thankyou soo much…i am feeling soo emotional..missed u soo much!
    Wednesday at 10:52pm

    Awwww…Amina Art Ansari that so sweet thankyou soo much!!
    Thursday at 9:55pm

  3. Saadia Hussain Omer / Jun 18 2011 8:37 pm

    (Posted first on facebook)

    well written saira. sarah i only came there to deliver my drawings and to watch your excellent performance. well done sarah.

    Friday at 8:43am


  1. the artist’s comfort zone | Tea Break

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: