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March 27, 2011 / the s.a. project

Dubai Return

Wow! My last post was on the 9th of March. What a long hiatus…but justly so, since I’m still recovering from that ‘Dubai Return‘ feeling that just isn’t easy to shake off. On the morning of the 10th of March, I made my way to the airport and was robbed en route by people pretending to be intelligence officers. In retrospect, they probably really were intelligence officer collecting extra pocket money. GREAT! Just what I needed to reinforce my views about the law and order situation (this not being my first, or less dangerous, encounter with the great law enforcers that run the country.)

And then, from the moment I landed in Dubai till I stepped back home, it was endless hours and days of work, planning, hardware/goat balls shopping (more on that later), installing, networking, and drinking gallons of tea/coffee all over Dubai. It was exhausting to the say the least, and this too after I weaseled my way out of most of the after parties and agent meetings and ‘important’ lunches dinners planned. Umer Butt (GreyNoise) should have just shot me but he didn’t. But he deserves a medal for putting up with me and the various public/personal crises that follow me everywhere I go.

But what a whirlwind these 10 days were. From the jamjar show ‘HEAR ME ROAR’ to the Art Dubai 2011 week, I met some of the most extraordinary people. The most exciting part of it was the fact that some of the most ‘powerful’ people I met were young people aged between 30-40. Goodness gracious me (translate into favourite punjabi cussword), I have to be honest, I was green with envy on many occasions. These were young people like you and me who were no doubt smart and hardworking. But what made their lives and careers different were the opportunities they were offered and the incentives they took. Don’t get me wrong. The art world is just as cut-throat all over, but those with merit and a nice big helping of  butt-kicking abilities really do make their way forward. They are Driven.

Back home, one rule stands unbroken, undivided: Kursi Nahi Chorni.

Why is it that there are rarely any young people in important executive positions in the Arts in Pakistan? Curatorial experimenters, Publishing geniuses, open-minded Grants/Awards Planners, etc etc. It would be too far critical to just point out that new-comers are not encouraged in such positions or given any sort of pat on the back. I think it’s also a LOT to do with the fact that us young people have become accustomed to ‘climbing the ladder for eons psyche’ before making it to any important position. Climb the ladder all you want, if you’re learning or educating yourself. But not being ambitious or driven like a maniac is just not good enough.

We have become lazy. We make work only for shows. And we only write when an essay is due for the Fulbright Scholarship.

If there’s one thing we must all encourage its Risk. The Exhilaration of Risk. To do new things, to break rules, and to enjoy learning. And to make/create/replicate for the sheer passion of it. This rule does not apply to advertisers and graphic designers who are on a warpath to eliminate their teachers and permanently handicap their students! They need Prozac.

And then we must follow it by promoting fresh young talent which is not afraid of risk taking.

More on the Dubai escapades in the next posts.

You can look forward to: the ‘goat balls’ incident, more on Art Dubai, mushroom shows around Dubai, my favourite abraaj awardee 2011, a chat with Virginia Whiles, how to get expensive books for free, gorgeous NARA drawings that I could’ve stolen, any many other experiences.

Or you could be annoyed by me and spam my blog with hatemail. i love you too.

March 9, 2011 / the s.a. project

when shows can be licked

In the last week or so I’ve attended some great shows that I will be discussing in detail further on in other posts. But if you’re reading this…If anyone read this at all that is!…I would like you to get up from that chair and move out towards 3 galleries in the city that have on display some FANTASTIC work. It definitely helped me get out of my own studio and back into a gallery space where I licked some truly delicious work.

  • Grey Noise – Fahd Burki, Murad Khan Mumtaz and Alyssa Pheobus
  • Al-Hamra Arts Council – Lali Khalid and Timothy Cleary
  • Rohtas 2 – Nashmia Haroon



GREY NOISE gallery

website – facebook page

26 A, KB Colony, Street 4, Airport Road, Lahore- Cantt., 5481, Lahore, Pakistan

The centre cannot hold

Sunday, February 27 at 5:00pm – March 27 at 8:00pm. Gallery timing: by appointment

A project by Fahd BurkiMurad Khan Mumtaz and Alyssa Pheobus

The centre cannot hold is a line from William Butler Yeats’ foreboding poem, “The Second Coming,” in which signs of the end proliferate while a great, destructive force stalks the earth. Through new works addressed to the schizophrenic conditions of life in the end times, Burki, Mumtaz and Pheobus consider the age of acceleration in light of the traditional paradigm constellating death, rebirth and acceptance.

The minute I walked into the show I knew I was in for a treat. I was biased of course (for my very critical readers, it’s ok to admit biases on my blog because i say so!) because I have been a devout worshiper of Fahd’s work for quite a while now. Lately, I had come to discover both Alyssa’s and Murad’s work at the MA discussions at NCA and had greatly enjoyed it. It’s safe to say that Alyssa is one of my new favourites!

Mostly monochromatic, the drawings, sculptures and paintings had a strange linear, rigid quality that seemed almost to speak a coded language. The artists had interpreted death/the end in their own personal ways, but what I liked most was that unlike other thematic shows, this one didn’t pretend to act as ‘themed show’. The curatorial note was loosely structured to fit in the concepts of the 3 artists but left enough room for further interpretation. Just the way I like to look at art.

Fahd had displayed two sculptures and a drawing (it’s in watercolour but I like to call it a drawing). From what I know, this is the first time Fahd has moved into the 3D, and it’s like the creatures in his drawings have literally walked out of the paper and into the studio. The large ‘thing’ (image on top of post) in the centre of the space was a dark big beautiful alien being. To some it was reminiscent of a casket. To others, a more mechanical object. For me it was Fahd’s creature coming out into the world.

Alyssa Pheobus - Māyā

Alyssa had displayed two absolutely phenomenal pencil drawings on paper and a miniature that she had made in a training workshop. The drawings were painstakingly done, almost print like in quality, and deeply unnerving. Alyssa said that many people found them as ‘architectural’ in quality. I guess that could be true. They reminded me very obviously of puzzles, mazes and labyrinths. (Fun fact by Alyssa: the latter 2 are different. A maze has several paths and might have more than one ‘center’, while a labyrinth has only one path and center) It was these drawings that made me want to touch them…and yes…lick them. They looked delicious.

Murad had displayed paintings in watercolour on paper that were broadly addressed as miniatures by the


Murad Khan Mumtaz - PROPHECY

viewers because of his training and background as a miniature artist and also because the visual looked like a miniature. Incidentally, his imagery has also been affected by his various moves around the world and watching several cultures fading fast. The core, though, developed in the argument back home at NCA and Pakistan that I keep talking about. The epic battle between the scions of the miniature world and the various arguments and definitions now scarring the practice permanently.


In a ‘talk with the artists’ session held several days later, Murad and Alyssa discussed how the concept had meant different things to them and perhaps the one thing that reflected in their work was the element of time. They spoke for Fahd, since he decided to play absentee, and said that his work contained an element of timelessness featuring objects like obelisks. Alyssa’s own work was directly affected by her leaving America and moving to Pakistan – in a sense discarding one side of her life and starting afresh on another. Murad’s concerns have been the changing face of culture and the losing of one’s heritage.


See more pictures at the Grey Noise fb album. Photographs courtesy Grey Noise




Lali Khalid

I also attended a show that is really worth looking into. Lali was a senior of mine at NCA in the BFA programme and Tim was my tutor at the MA programme for the last 6 months of his stay in Pakistan. Absolutely gorgeous work by both, with Lali displaying her photographs and Tim his lick-able-delicious paintings. More Details below.



website – facebook page

Gallery 3 & 4 – The Mall, Lahore

The Number and The Place 2011” by Lali Khalid


With you (What We Take) by Timothy Cleary,

are two solo shows opening at Alhamra Arts Council.

Tuesday, March 8 · 5:00pm –  March 17 at 8:00pm. Gallery timing: 9 am – 6 pm except Sundays

Tim Cleary


And finally, I’m really looking forward to the show that’s opening tomorrow. Times of Dissent is a documentary photography exhibition by a very talented and ballsy kind of woman, Nashmia Haroon, who has been doing photography for over a decade now. The work at the exhibition will follow her documentation of protests and sites of turmoil 2009 onwards. Make sure you attend her show.

I will be doing a feature on her work for the blog soon enough. So tune in…if there’s anyone there.

ROHTAS 2 gallery


156-G, Model Town, Lahore, Pakistan

Times of Dissent

Wednesday, March 9 · 5:00pm –  March 16 at 8:00pm. Gallery Timings: 11 am – 7 pm except Sundays

Nashmia Haroon

March 3, 2011 / the s.a. project

s.a goes ‘barmy’ publicly!

Saira Ansari - Art Dubai MARKER project


The image on the left is the first preview into the work that I’ve created for MARKER at the Art Dubai – showing 16-19 March, 2011.

According to the website: “Art Dubai launches MARKER, a new platform for experimental art spaces from Asia and the Middle East to showcase projects by emerging artists at the fair in 2011.

Art Dubai has commissioned curator Nav Haq to invite and develop projects with experimental commercial and non-commercial art spaces from across Asia and the Middle East, most of whom are new to exhibiting within an art fair. These five dynamic concept stands, dotted through the gallery halls, will showcase work by emerging artists and will be reflexive of the fair as a phenomenon that exemplifies today’s experiential turn in the art milieu. The art fair is an example of the experience economy par excellence, embodying the realms of escapism, entertainment, education and aesthetics.”

Mehreen Murtaza and I are being represented at MARKER by Grey Noise.



So if you’re not being lazy today and would like to hear some more of my nonsense, why don’t you make your way towards the Art Dubai Journal site and have a look at the journal. Nothing special really…EXCEPT THE FACT THAT I’M IN IT!

Interview with Saira Ansari, Grey Noise Gallery and Ghada Al Dabbagh

Relax. It’s only me trying to take over the world and prove I’m solely interested in airing my views to as many people as can be faced to listen. same old same old!

Read more to find about the image/work in this post and also to get a glimpse into what I’m taking to the jamjar gallery show Hear Me Roar.


On a terribly tragic note, I’d like to use this space to protest the  gruesome murder of Federal Minister for Minority affairs Shahbaz Bhatti ; my views are synonymous with countless other sane  Pakistani’s who the international media doesn’t seem to notice when they cover ‘popular opinion’. We represent this country too and we are trying our best to fight this senseless extremism and self-destruction. I share my deepest regrets with my friends, who belong to religious and ethnic minorities, at yet another setback in this battle.
February 26, 2011 / the s.a. project

Of moving 1 step ahead and 50 backwards

Today was a strange day.

The extremely interesting bit about it was attending the Female Bloggers meet that was arranged by Mobilink. While I’m usually wary of telecom sponsored events, I made an exception this time especially because I wanted to see who these women from Lahore were that were active bloggers. Aside from a couple of female writers that I do follow, I really didn’t expect to see a lot of girls, mainly because I don’t know of many. But as I got to the meet I discovered that about 40 legit bloggers had registered and turned up! What an absolutely delightful surprise. More power to women in the digital space.

The not-so-good part was spamming all my friends on my facebook lift to ‘like my status’ for an in-house contest to win a phone! It’s something I don’t approve of but found myself falling into for the lure of winning. A lot of people ‘voted’ but I still lost. I’ve never really won anything anyway. But what hit the spamming part home was a friend’s comment :…One day when I am a very ameer aurat, I will buy you a fancy phone of your choice. Without any spamming and all sorts of people liking your status. Your blog rocks and you need no phone to tell you that...”

wow. Big ego boost always trumps fancy contest phones! Thanks Hareem for reminding me that.

However, at the end of the day, I’m glad I went anyway. The internet has been the new horizon for quite a while and our people need to catch on. Especially the women. There are plenty of fantastic Pakistani bloggers out there but just not enough. There are 3000% more porn watchers. In fact Pakistan tops the list of porn-watching audience in the world (according to Google trends. Try it. it’s shocking). Isn’t it time we were known for something better?!

Speaking of which:

Today I also read some very bad news. In fact Terrible Terrible news for artists in Pakistan. The government is bringing in measures that will greatly hamper the movement of artists and students from Pakistan in the international arena. Not only will this bring in unnecessary delays, financial expenditures and other inconveniences, it is also in direct violation of the 13th amendment of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights! This follows soon after I posted news of the Effing NCA hullabaloo.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said “Under the new mechanism, which will be introduced within a few days, there will be a proper check on foreign scholarships offered to Pakistani students, while Pakistani artistes visiting other countries will also have to seek a no-objection certificate (NoC) from the Interior Ministry.

This stupid sham of a democratic government is no better than a police state setup. And of course, while they are ‘helpless’ in the face of the terrorism they export all year round, it is the artists and students that they need to keep a check on. Only a miracle can save this country which is being dragged back towards the dark ages. No thanks to the psuedo-liberal government our image in front of the world is bleak.

Please read more about it here in Pakistan Today and here in Dawn and take some action.

Blog it, tweet it, facebook it. Make some noise. Write to newspapers. And make sure you write to Rehman Malik and express your objection. Start by addressing him on twitter at @SenRehmanMalik. Because if you don’t do it now, it will be too late too soon.

February 24, 2011 / the s.a. project


Nothing really ever happens here regarding healthy art competitions and collaborations on a big scale. Unless it’s sponsored by environmentally destructive and unethical oil companies or other such cut-throat ventures. So here’s some friendly itty bitty leftist excitement across the old not-so-friendly neighbours. (however you don’t have to think left to qualify, I’m sure)

Calling all artists.You all know that countless people across Pakistan, India and the world are celebrating Faiz‘s 100th birthday. So then, why don’t you have a look at the Nukta Art Call details listed below, roll up your sleeves, drink a jugful of some red leftist, and jump into this fantastic sounding competition. It might not give you the liberty to do all that you’d like to do, but it’s a competition for the masses with the lure of the great Faiz. Here’s wishing Faiz a happy birthday (…and also praying that water and destruction lands on your art piece you suckers, while mine makes it to the million dollar prize. or something to that effect.)

Do it do it do it. Don’t be lazy.


Faiz Art Prize, 2011: NuktaArt Magazine’s Open Call for Artists’ Entries


As part of the legendary poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s centenary celebrations in 2011, being held around the globe, NuktaArt magazine is pleased to announce the Faiz Art Prize, 2011. This coveted prize is organized by NuktaArt magazine under the umbrella of the Progressive Writers’ Association, in collaboration with the Geo Television network and its Aman ki Aasha project (Pak-Indo peace project).


This project aims to bring the collective expression of about 2000 artists in an exhibition at a public venue in Karachi. “Artists’ Messages to Faiz” will provide a visual and creative dimension to the poetry of Faiz, as artists from both Pakistan and India come together, the great poet’s message of peace for the world will be carried forth. Entries will be auctioned on the exhibition day, for which a high media profile will be arranged through Geo TV, partner of the project. All remaining entries will also be sold, and the funds collected from the sales of all the Pakistani as well as Indian artists’ works will be used towards rehabilitating a Potters’ village in southern Punjab, in which the traditional potters have lost their homes and belongings.  Geo TV will provide coverage of the reconstruction process and highlight the potters’ craft of this area.

Who can apply?

Practicing artists in South Asia can apply, and also those of the same origins worldwide.

Art students from the two countries are also eligible to participate. There is a limitation of one postcard per person.

Guidelines for artwork

Artists will be able to collect postcards (A4 size) especially designed for this Prize by the NuktaArt magazine. Artists are asked to work with the title “Aap ka Paighaam, Faiz kay Naam.”

The postcard is designed so that ¾ space is allocated to the image and the rest can be used for a text message. However, this is a rough guideline, and artists should feel free to use the space according to their artistic sensibilities, to invert or redistribute the text/image ratio. Due to the nature of the Prize whose primary context is borne from texts, artists are asked to write a message for Faiz. The interpretation can be just words or any other relationship the artists would like to address.  The jury will be asked to give priority to art work that is innovative and out of the box in its approach.

Only the postcards that are distributed by the organizers of this project will be considered for the Prize, exhibition, catalogue and publicity. Any other works will be unacceptable. The organizers do not take responsibility for entries that are not accepted due to wear and tear during transportation from the artists to the organizers, or for returning entries back to the artist or institution.

Deadline for entry

All artwork must reach the assigned delivery points in your area no later then:  Tuesday 6th June 2011

(No entries will be accepted after this date.)

Venues for entry pick and drop

Karachi: VM Art Gallery, Rangoonwala Centre, Dhoraji Colony / Chawkandi Art, Schon Circle, Clifton.

Lahore: BNU University / NCA, Mall Road / Rohtas 2 Gallery / Al-Hamra Art Gallery

Rawalpindi / Islamabad: National Art Gallery / KhaasArt / NCA Rawalpindi Campus

Peshawar: Chairperson, Dept of Fine Arts, University of Peshawar, Peshawar

Quetta: Chairperson, Dept of Fine Arts, University of Balochistan, Quetta

All other entries to be sent directly to: NuktaArt (c/o Rumana Husain) 76/2, 12th Street, off Khayaban-e-Badar, Phase 6, DHA, Karachi – 75500. Phone: (92-21) 35843257, 35843462

All packages to be marked FAIZ ART PRIZE

(postage charges to be prepaid by the artist)

Prize Categories

Practicing artists: The three outstanding entries by practicing artists, selected by a team of jurors, will be presented with the Faiz Art Prize, 2011.  This is an exceptional prize in terms of its value because it is the original art work of a well known artist of Pakistan. The identity of the artist will be revealed at the time of the prize.

Art college students: One most outstanding entry will receive a sum of Rs 50,000 and four other entries by art college students, from South Asia, will receive prizes of Pak Rs. 25,000 each.

All entries that are received on time and exhibited will be documented in a catalogue.

Download the Entry Form (PDF, 36 KB)


February 21, 2011 / the s.a. project

Three days. Three funerals.

This was written the night before last. It’s got nothing to do with art but it’s got everything to do with who I am. Read it or click the little white cross at the top right corner of this window.

Sometimes, when I spend a lot of time near concrete, I tend to forget about real things that I can’t control. Then I attend 3 funerals in 3 days and talk about god and death and life and destiny. I don’t think I believe in most of it. I don’t think I disbelieve in it either. But it brings me a lot of relief… exactly the kind of relief these words are concocted to bring. I say it aloud more for my own sanity than the grieved ones.

Day before yesterday I sat in a room full of strangers, who were there for a 33 year old boy who passed away in his sleep. Every time I looked at his body a shudder went down my entire body. He’s just a little bit older than me. Just a little bit healthier. Just a little bit more ok. But just a little bit less alive. He’s dead. Fin.

Today, on Day 3, I held my friend close while we drove through mad Lahore traffic, so that we could quickly get her home to where her father had passed away. Just like that. Sitting on the sofa, his heart shut down.

These are the things that make us. There is nothing more definite than life or death. Everything else is so trivial. Yet we consume our lives with our own little nuisances. We think we are important. We think we are loved. Or hated. Or beautiful. Or fat. Or underpaid.

We become consumed with our own self-obsessions.

But I think we are just little blots. And someone somewhere sits and laughs at us.

February 21, 2011 / the s.a. project

Effing NCA Hullabaloo

(ignore last post botch up. wordpress phone apps are a ‘female-dog’!)

Can the government calm the fuck down and let us artists be?

This just sounds terrible. It’s a news article that I just discovered via FB on ownership crisis, federal vs. provincial status, and principal phadda surrounding NCA. It was published on February 16, 2010.

Read the bit about principal appointment procedure and recommendations and whimper in your cotton underpants.

this is crap!


Courtesy Daily Times

NCA struggling for survival under politicians’ reign

* Politicians and bureaucrats vie for influence in college

By Afnan Khan

LAHORE: The National College of Arts (NCA) has been struggling for survival ever since its control had been given to the politicians by the Musharraf government instead of letting the Higher Education Commission (HEC) handle the college like other institutions, say sources in the Federal Education Ministry.

The first art college of the country has suffered another blow with the dissolution of the Federal Education Ministry, and as a race has been initiated between the federal and local politicians and bureaucrats regarding the college’s ownership.

The college used to be the biggest haven for arts in the country under the University Grants Commission, but the former federal education minister, Zubaida Jalal, ordered the education department to directly take over the institution instead of handing it over to the HEC. The college started getting funds from the education ministry instead of the Commission, which remained insufficient to match the pace of development according to modern grounds and public interest in the institution.

According to ministry sources, the outgoing federal minister for education has nominated two people for the post of the college’s principal, namely Jamal Shah and Maliha Agha by not only bypassing the standard procedure but also rejecting the applications of those who had previously applied for the job in January, which include four senior faculty members of the NCA, namely Qudoos Mirza, Zafar Iqbal, Maqsood Pasha and Murtaza Jafry.

The sources added that the standard procedure for appointing a principal for the college involves announcement of the post, seeking applications in the mainstream media, and considering the applications of those who had already applied for the post.

The minister not only cancelled the previous interviews and applications but also announced the names of the other two candidates without holding any interviews in presence of academicians, people from the establishment division and the finance department.

The sources said that the minister also declared the federal secretary education as a member of NCA’s board of governors (BoG) in his personal capacity despite the fact that the secretary education was already a declared member of the board. This move enables the secretary to cast two votes if it comes to the crunch to decide the fate of this college through the BoG.
Meanwhile, the NCA faculty members say that the college has suffered an enormous blow due to the discrimination by the politicians. They added that the college faced the biggest problem in building new faculties due to a lack of budget along with other developmental projects. The college administration was allocated only Rs 116 million in the last year’s budget against a requirement of Rs 224 million.

Senior academicians: The senior academicians believe that NCA should be made a centre of excellence under the federal government instead of handing it over to the Punjab government.

They also said that the students were given an opportunity to join this historic alma mater from far flung areas of the country including FATA, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit-Baltistan, interior Sindh, Balochistan and many other places. All these people will be deprived of admission in this institution on equal terms if it becomes a provincial institution.


February 18, 2011 / the s.a. project

Flesh for art

Amongst the things that have kept me busy post-MA are packing and shifting house, giving away my family of 1 dog and 4 cats, cartoning and labeling everything I don’t need for now and kind of preparing myself for the Big Move to Brazil.

Some kind of Bizarre that is. So the husband and I make our way to a country I left more than 26yrs ago. It’s almost like a cycle of sorts but I’m not sure of what ‘sorts’. It’s exciting and it’s equally terrifying. My parents both say they loved that country. The same parents who’s 21 year old divorce I readily exploited in the India Art Summit Art Project that I did this January. Woot.

IAS 2011 Art Projects – OUT LOUD THOUGHTS – Saira Ansari

Photographs courtesy Umer Butt @ Grey Noise. Click here to view more pictures from the IAS 2011 in the Grey Noise facebook album

But I have been really busy otherwise too. Right after the IAS chaos was over, for which I did NOT make it to Delhi due to the fabulous diplomatic relations between Pakistan and India, I got cracking on two new shows. One for the jamjar gallery in Dubai and the other an experimental art project for the new MARKER section at the Art Dubai 2011 curated by Nav Haq. Both are up in  March.

This is very strange and very new for me. And extremely intimidating. I think way too much. About people and artists and markets and buying and selling and pricing. the usual. International markets scare me. Not my work. Just me. I like the fact that I’m being selected for my quirky work. And I liked the work I sent to India. Non-commercial and weird. But what happens next? My work mostly thrives on all kind of things that I feel obsessively about. I don’t like talking about it, and the MA programme made me talk about it for 2 years (!!) which changed the whole dynamics of the way I thought and worked. Now I’m on my own again. More informed but definitely freer to chose my way. And naive as it sounds, I find it unbelievably impossible to price my work. I’ve sold work many times before and much as I needed the cash I was more happy to find people who actually liked my work as much as I did! I’ve been beating about the bush on this one for weeks and at the end I’ll let Umer Butt and Atteqa Ali have their way with me in the 2 shows.

The themes are exciting, albeit commercial ones. I’m making nasty scribbly drawings of the nasty scribbly things that define me. Because if I sell, I’ll sell it my way. Ugh. Me me me. Bite a zombie, woman, and bloody fucking get over it.


The shows are:


New Art from Pakistan, Bangladesh & Iran

At the jamjar gallery,

St. 17a, behind Dubai Garden Centre, Shk. Zayed Rd.,

12 March – 30 April 2011
Curated by Dr. Atteqa Ali

Younger than 30, the seven artists in “Hear Me Roar” are a fresh generation of practitioners who holler to be heard. They are energized new female voices from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Iran that offer playful and quirky, yet potent images of life in these nations – from ordinary rituals to extraordinary circumstances, from personal aspirations to collective desires. The seven women disturb not only our perceptions, but also our expectations. Their imagery screams out novel perspectives on women, how they are expected to act, and the ways in which they really behave; yet silence and stillness define these works.
Artists: Saira Ansari, Nida Bangash, Ala Dehghan, Rabbya Naseer, Ayesha Sultana, Newsha Tavakolian and Hurmat ul-Ain.



2011 is the inaugural year for MARKER at Art Dubai. Art Dubai has commissioned curator Nav Haq to invite and develop projects with experimental commercial and non-commercial art spaces from across Asia and the Middle East, most of whom are new to exhibiting within an art fair. These five dynamic concept stands, dotted through the gallery halls, will showcase work by emerging artists and will be reflexive of the fair as a phenomenon that exemplifies today’s experiential turn in the art milieu. The art fair is an example of the experience economy par excellence, embodying the realms of escapism, entertainment, education and aesthetics.

MARKER 2011 will be negotiated as a particular kind of convergence – an energetic space of transfer for people, brands, art, money and ideas.

The initiatives invited to take part are:

Alexandria Contemporary Arts Forum (ACAF), Alexandria
Grey Noise, Lahore
Liu Ding’s Store, Beijing
Makan, Amman
Ruangrupa, Jakarta


February 9, 2011 / the s.a. project

I’m so jealous I could bite your Knuckle

The Future Was Our First Love [And It Will Be Our Last], Collected Memorabilia, 2010 – Mehreen Murtaza


Yes that’s the kind of work I’m featuring today. It made me turn green with envy and then it made me want to bite Mehreen’s knuckles. Or ankles. Whatever hurts more.

Here’s a dialogue which pretends to be nothing like an interview, and it neither informs, educates nor inspires. It’s basically us talking our nerdy stuff mixed with art stuff and we welcome you to come eavesdrop. Along with it I’m posting some images of her work that was shown for the Gasworks Open Studio December 2010, London, UK after her residency in the summer. (courtesy the artist and Grey Noise)

It would be interesting to know what you think of the work. I’m not kidding. (please check out yummy web links at the end of the post)

so I present to you a long nerdy interview that has….


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who may wish to answer on any day of the week as she pleases. because I’m easy to please-y!


Quick Bio. As short as possible. In 1 word or 2 please state name, age, upbringing, school, college, degree, bad relationships and pets. Stick to letters. Or numbers. Or don’t say anything. Or do.

MEHREEN MURTAZA · BORN IN RIYADH, KSA, 1986 · Lives and works in Lahore · 2008 Honors in BFA, Beaconhouse National University, Lahore · Too many to bother recounting · Pet-less (although I wish otherwise)

Why do you do what you do? This time, talk proper jargon.

I am a 5 to 9 psychonaut. Um. No, not really.

However, I do secretly own a commemorative plate display that hails me as the hereditary grand falconer of a harmonious karmic resolution to career choices from the age of 5. I’ve been doing what I do for a long time, except for the bit about how science fiction expanded my choice of reasoning and started seeping into my art-making process.

I try to constantly negotiate with my surroundings. Everything is subject to fluctuating sets of conditions and I try to wrestle and deal with these conditions. It just so happens my fixations are circumscribed by a certain set of skills and tools I enjoy using.

I am still proposing a model—a way of seeing and engaging and a way of evaluating our surroundings as a human construction. My work is not meant to give a complete truth. It is in fact, questioning Truth. Definitely asking rather than answering. Ultimately I don’t believe that a complete truth exists. For me it’s interesting when ideas are being provoked and questions being proposed. I love objects. I love images and digging through the many associated notions that have been preserved in our minds eye and allowed to seep into our cultural DNA.

Did I successfully manage to dodge the original question, heh?

Which artists do you enjoy looking at, and wish you could stalk – locally and internationally?

Olafur Eliasson. Troika. Kollectiv. Terry Gilliam. Cory Arcangel. Børre Sæthre. Ilya Kabakov. Gareth Pugh. Bill Hicks. Nine Inch Nails. Alejandro Jodorowsky. Mark Wallinger. David Alesworth. Imran Ahmad Khan (sculptor). Wes Anderson. These. Are. A. Few. Of. My. Favourite. Current. Favourite. Obsessions.

Which science fiction authors or manuals do you read?

J.G. Ballard. Mark Von Schlegell. John Whyndam. Philip K. Dick. William Gibson. Daniel Clowes. Kurt Vonnegut. Ibn-al-Arabi. Norman M. Klein.

Is it possible that Douglas Adams could know something we didn’t?

Bloody psychonaut. Bet he and Aleister Crowley were ex-best friends in school. Click here to Read more…

February 2, 2011 / the s.a. project

Three Blind Mice | PaperCuts

I recently wrote an article for an online literary magazine, PaperCuts, that delved briefly into the works of three young Pakistani artists. It wasn’t a review or a critique, but more so a general discussion of their work and an understanding of their work process and development. The three artists are Tehreem Jafri, Imran Channa and Naqsh Raj.

The article ‘Three Blind Mice’ has been featured as the cover story of the magazine on their Winter 2011 issue!

It was an interesting challenge because much of my MA thesis work involved dissecting art reviews/critiques published in newspapers and nitpicking on elements of mystification, ludicrousness, and/or standard jargon. How was I to write my own piece when I had all these things swimming in my brain? I therefore present here my article and theoretically speaking lay myself on the chopping board for you…


by Saira Ansari

Every year hundreds of students graduate from art schools in Pakistan with degrees in fine arts facing a critical decision the minute they step out of school: will they earn from their art professionally or will they pursue other complementary, but commercially viable, professions?

The art world of Pakistan is a rapidly growing entity and the demands of its influential denizens – the galleries, collectors, critics and curators – have a direct impact on the institutions that are educating and training the next batch of artists. The pressure to deliver, therefore, is understandably colossal. Fresh graduates step outside of their institutes with varying levels of degree honours and attitudes to match. What most of them are not armed with is the knowledge to survive in the brutal world of the art market.

For this article I interviewed three recent art graduates from across the country, who have excelled in the field of visual arts. Specifically, I have looked at how these three – Tehreem Jafri, Naqsh Raj and Imran Channa – developed their style and practice in art school and what their plans are for the future.  Of particular note is the fact that these three artists belong to comparatively smaller cities –Taxila, Quetta and Shikarpur – respectively, and not Lahore or Karachi, two art centres that are the predominant focus of art reviews. All three have, at one point or another, received instruction at either of the two campuses of the National College of Arts (NCA).

You can continue reading the rest of the article ‘Three Blind Mice’ over here...(click click)


The online magazine is called PaperCuts. According to their website description, Papercuts is the bi-annual literary magazine of Desi Writers Lounge – an online workshop for writers of South Asian origin and writing on South Asia. Both DWL and PaperCuts are run entirely on a voluntary basis.

I had the great opportunity of working with Afia Aslam who is the Editor of PaperCuts. Volume 7 of this e-zine was like her baby as it involved a whole lot of image revamping as well as bringing in guest writers…like me! According to their website: The theme for this issue is ‘Outside: Looking In’. As the title indicates, it is meant to inspire introspection, except in this case we did not just ask our writers to look inside themselves, but to reflect on their society as if they were outsiders. In doing so, they were compelled to examine (directly and obliquely) what it means to be ‘desi’ and what qualifies one to be a functioning member of a ‘desi society’. Often, this led them to look at groups that exist at the periphery of the popular imagination in their home countries, be it glue-sniffing adolescents (Omer Wahaj, Stuck), homosexuals (Aparna Sanyal, Tedhi Lakeer), perpetrators of religious violence (Asnia Asim, Love Synthesized) or revolutionaries (Moazam Rauf, Drink a Few Verses Today).

I would recommend that you take out a wee bit of your time and visit this very interesting destination online. You can find PAPERCUTS here:




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