Sunday, June 14, 2009

Transart Submission: 15th June 2009

Artists statement, June 2009

The finished project consists of a number of interrelated works, spanning a variety of media produced throughout the year. There are thirty seven large, monochrome metal framed digital prints of images derived from the Record Room, shoots I undertook in Karachi’s vehicle record archives over the last year. One large digital print “The Garden of Babel” which references scientific accession labels for plants from horticultural gardens in Austria and Pakistan. A large scale rectangular stack of 180 steel cubes, each 14” x 14” x 28” in matt lacquered passivated mild steel (11’6”h x 14’ x 9’4” rectangle) a mutable installation/intervention at 11’6” high. This refers to both the Kaaba, modernist sculpture and early nuclear technologies. Over this past year I have produced a series of works in Lahore, Pakistan, that explore the interlinking of the autobiographical with the public. This takes the form of aspects of my personal history woven into outward issues, such as that of post-coloniality in the “Garden of Babel”, or nuclear power and nuclearization, weaponisation in “12.2.42”. The latter work was also conceived to be used for public interventions in the city of Lahore and surrounding countryside. The prevailing security situation in Pakistan made this impossible. Instead the work was brought into my home, where it displaced the living spaces of the house. This became a broader metaphor for invasion and imposition, right into the home itself. This imposition in question may be read as the fall-out of technologies, be they nuclear poisons or otherwise, or even the mental poison of the always present threat of nuclear war, in this, the worlds number one hotspot for a potential nuclear conflict. The imposition on the living space of my home may also be considered as ideological, and it is no accident that the structures produced are essentially Kaaba like. Pakistan is currently in a state of low intensity civil war, it’s nuclear assets are the whole worlds concern which we hear of daily in the international media. This war is a supposedly religious war, certainly ideological and I find myself particularly visible in the midst of a divided nation that is not my original home. Yet in Pakistan there is no public awareness, debate, protest or education on the complex issues of nuclearization. Karachi is in the process of ordering four more domestic nuclear power stations this year. This period globally has been dubbed “the beginning of the second nuclear age”. The other thread of my work has been the more intimate and directly autobiographical in the form of video.

Research Synopsis 2009

I have read widely in the diverse genre of autobiography, it's associated theory and criticism. I have also read a selection of autobiographical works from St Augustine's "Confessions" to Damien Hirst's "On my way to Work". I have considered the autobiographical in art history and contemporary art practice. I have retrospectively considered some of my own work over the past thirty years in the light of an autobiographical reading. In conclusion I have proposed that all creative work is essentially autobiographical in nature.

Draft Proposals for 2009-2010:
Research Proposal 1.

As "A survey of autobiographical tendencies in contemporary art practice in Pakistan" I would be researching attitudes to the autobiographical in contemporary Pakistani art, across the board from contemporary miniature to teaching approaches in various art schools in the country and video and installation based practices. Thorough interviews and photographs, possibly video documentation too. Perhaps producing some Podcasts in the process. I have worked on art and autobiography in my research of the past 12 months. (History, interviews, conclusions. Post-coloniality, censorship, narrative, contemporary miniature, feminist and gay perspectives, gender specificity. The role of galleries, institutions and collectors in shaping art criterion. Art education and the international audience.)

Studio Practice: The Autobiographical and the public.

In relation to the above enquiry and as an extension of my practice in 2008-2009 I would continue to make autobiographical work. I see the task in hand now to be a full integration of my life, as outsider and "other" in Pakistan with broader societal and global concerns. The thread of this may be taken up from the "Domestic Displacements" work I undertook in Lahore in May and June of 2009.

Draft Proposals for 2009-2010:
Research-Proposal 2.

Alternatively under the banner of "A Taxonomy of Eden" I will be researching gardens and parks in contemporary Pakistan. This will include varying attitudes to the idea of nature, wilderness and the paradise garden. Also the legacy of aging colonial park spaces. Interviewing a cross section of contemporary society from career gardeners in Lahore's parks, agricultural workers, religious scholars (and lay practitioners from various religions and sects) the educated and the less educated in the city and countryside of Lahore and Karachi (possibly further afield also). From nursery owners, the head of the Punjab Horticultural Authority to jobbing residential gardeners in the Defence housing authorities of Karachi and Lahore. This will also follow the format of recordings, translations, transcriptions and analysis. Also photography and some video. I work as a freelance horticultural consultant in Pakistan and have done so for the past 21 years. My clients currently include Agha Khan Cultural Services Pakistan, with whom I am working on several projects, including the uplift of the North Circular Park belt around Lahore's old city. (Sacred Texts. Garden Design. Garden History. Landscape. Popular Culture. Decorated Transport. Trees on the edge between nature and culture. Motifs. Carpets. Ageing colonial public parks in Lahore. The culture of the Mali.)

Studio Practice: A Taxonomy of Eden.
Building upon "The Garden of Babel" 2009 as a format I would initially work towards examining various sacred texts in translation. Those of the Abrahamic religions including Judaism, Christianity and Islam and possibly others in the broad grouping in relation to notions of the garden of Eden. In this respect I would be particularly focusing on plants mentioned there. Using this with allied horticultural enquiry, and in consultati0n with various scholars I would build a taxonomy of Eden. The works may be grided digital prints of botanical and zoological accession labels, as are to be found in Zoos and botanical gardens. I would have to create reasonable approximations of specifically mentioned plants of Eden, I would aim for around 180-300 plants per work. I would then make the labels in etched plastic laminates, as authentic labels. Photograph them in particular settings, as I have learnt from the making of "The Garden of Babel". These would then be composed as grids and printed as large C-prints. How the work may play out in other forms such as texts, woven carpets or illuminated manuscripts or their digital equivalents would remain to be seen.