Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Elsewhere and Here, where?

In the text distributed before her last night’s workshop, Gemma Sharpe wrote:

"As artists from Pakistan gain increasing reputation across international biennale and market circuits – often with works that present variegated codes and languages that many viewers may find arduous to crack without assistance – on the global circuit an artwork’s explication becomes a priority in much of the critical material that circulates around it. Examining the continuing upsurge of interest in contemporary art from Pakistan and its changing conditions of global reception, it is difficult to seperate the intention and reception of many artworks made in this country from their globalised and also very politicised context. As critic Quddus Mirza points out, the geo-political posture of the country inflicts onto art production just as in much as its reception; in fact, public reception and artists' intentions are caught in a rather malicious circle from the start:

'There may be multiple reasons for this sudden hype around the contemporary art of Pakistan, but it is most likely based on the world's curiosity and attention to a land that has contributed substantially in shaping the twenty-first century - not with its wealth of invention or intellectualism, but through its alleged link with terrorist activities around the globe...The theme of terror has become a favourite topics for several Pakistani artists. Thus the images of violence and destruction - missiles and rifles, weapons and war - are repeatedly rendered in contemporary miniature paintings and in the contemporary art of Pakistan... It suggests the immediate availability of a subject that is pertinently and politically potent, and is most suitable for foreign consumption, since the Muslim community in general and Pakistani society in particular are perceived as the producers of fundamentalists and potential terrorists.' (Quddus Mirza, 'Exile at Home: Pakistani Art in the Global Age', Hanging Fire: Contemporary Art from Pakistan, p.68)" (Gemma Sharpe, 2010)

Though large in scale as a digital reproduction, an inconspicuous miniature painting by Wassem Ahmed provoked a series of questions. How do we access local art histories and how are we subjected to the processes of judgement and interpretation? How to stop intellectual territorialisation and start disrupting the foundations we stand on in London and Europe? Is the process of translation between here and elsewhere even necessary? If so, how can we find imaginable proposals without criticising? 

Audio recording of Gemma Sharpe's workshop (edited by Piotr Krzymowski)

Gemma Sharpe (UK), is currently living in Karachi, where she is a lecturer in Art History at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture and a coordinator for Vasl Artists' Collective - a platform for international artists' exchange and residency programmes. She has completed an MFA in Art Writing from Goldsmiths and has worked for the ICA, Afterall, Gasworks and the Triangle Network. She has published widely in Europe and South Asia and she is currently editing a book on 'Symphony of a Missing Room', a work by performance duo Lundahl and Seitl.

Cover image by Wassem Ahmed.

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