My performance titled ” I am ….”

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Art, as we all know, is an expression and when this expression is in the form of a performance, the term used for this form of art is Art Performance.  In this form of art, an artist puts her/himself on the line to make a statement. In my case, the journey started on Friday the 13thof March 2015, when I first slipped into a skirt and did the first part of my performance.

I was wearing a shimmering skirt with a ladies shirt, hidden under the overalls. My first stop was Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture (IVSAA). I go into the washroom, shed my overalls, and out comes a guy wearing clothes which even the bold women of the region would think twice before wearing in public.  I paraded all over IVSAA, and then did the same at T2F, KOEL café, Koel Gallery, Sanat Gallery.  And Fika Café.

All these spaces were taken up by surprise, all were related to fines arts, in each of these place, I would have required a proper permission to exhibit or do an art performance or even do photography.

The performance is Titled “ I am …. “ and as most of my works it was designed and conceptualized to trigger questions. Is he a guy, or a girl, do clothes define gender? gender orientation? how it feels when men are objectified? why am I doing it? What am I gaining from it? Is it a shoot, a show, or my preference of dress up ?  and a  lot many more questions.

Besides these questions, there was a very obvious but yet overlooked layer of vandalism in the performance. I was invading a space, doing a performance, leaving its managing team and people having their lunch baffled as to what is going on and leaving without an explanation. The layer of vandalism to point to the vandalism a woman faces every day in our society, it’s different but its there and goes very much unnoticed.

For me it was a breakthrough, I came over my fear of public performance, I came out and expressed and I could see that the questions I wanted to raise were in the minds of the people but they were too shy or may be taken back to bring them up so they remained baffled.

It was then that I decided to extend this performance further. It was just me dressing up differently. Within days I had bought a few stretch ladies pants, and some shirts which won’t be strikingly feminine but tailored for ladies, It was very tricky to select what I could wear because I didn’t want to trigger any rage or anger, but just questions.  I slipped into these new clothes and walked the streets of Karachi.

A few heads were turned, I overheard comments, “ Look at his legs”, “Is he a guy ?” , “ Must be gay”. I had to be aware of my security, I had to be vigilant not to run into trouble, I had to carry a “ Normal set of overalls” A normal baggy pant and a tee shirt to cover up when I am in the “ Difficult parts of the city.

Another challenge was my being accepted, yes some of my friends started avoiding me, my own relatives started to avoid being seen in malls like this with me, a lot of artists started to laugh at me and the irony of the whole process was that I had to be tight-lipped about the fact that it’s a performance, because obviously explaining would have killed the whole purpose of it.

To step up the game another notch, as I was at the time the official photographer for Sanat Gallery, I somehow convinced the director of the gallery, Abid merchant to allow me to dress up for the show,  He was not aware of the fact that A: It’s a performance, B: part of the performance is about vandalizing too.

Starting off in March 2015 each time I was covering a show a Sanat, I would dress in a bright skirt, or a shining dress, totally of a woman who may have walked right off the fashion ramp, It would show skin, it would be pink, yellow shimmery blue. and I would wear it over my body,  own it along with the actual identity of my masculine gender, straight orientation, with an intention to vandalize every single show I was professionally covering in a Gallery which was paying for it.

The audience were all artists, I was laughed at, made fun of, was questioned was rumored to be gay, or belonging to the alternative gender and there were all sorts of gossips. My dresses were talked about and people waited for the nest show to see what next will I pull out of my sleeves. Sadly not many could understand or figure out that it was an expression and it was a work of art.

The performances continued till October 2016, which is when I realized I should stop because by now people had stopped questioning much and started to accept me in these dresses. And the whole purpose to trigger thoughts was fading away. It was time to end it and I decided to keep it unannounced.

I suddenly changed my ways of dressing, started wearing normal men’s clothes and that triggered yet another wave of questions? Why are you wearing men’s clothes? what happened to the man we knew? You look odd, thought that was your style. And a lot many comments and questions that followed.

I had decided to reveal the fact that it was a performance after almost one and a half years of ending the performance that I was in. two years because 1: I don’t like explaining my art, 2: some personal matters were keeping me mentally occupied and I couldn’t dissect and explain what I did 3: I wanted people to forget before I strike again and jog their memories.

I am very thankful To Sanat Gallery for allowing me to wear all those dresses while covering their shows, to Khalil Chishti for encouraging me on the first performance, to ZAK for his encouragement, and to everyone who helped me and supported me and allowed me to express freely. I apologize that none of my supports had any clue of the complete picture and scope of the performance.

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My performance titled ” I am ….”

Expression of an artist !

 

Art is an expression , its an artist’s thought which is put in a visual on a surface in two or three or more dimensions , as many as you can add including sound , smell feelings what ever the artist’s will to toss in . An artist’s expression is free and is for the people, specially common people who may see it by not a very trained eye, not for its artistic aspects but for the mare visual it is and may interpret it in any way s/he feels. 

I my believe and faith and practice expressions belong to people, common people, not the few elite, enlightened, brilliant few but for a larger audience, the majority of the society, not the minority, regardless of the fact that  the minority is the ruling, powerful affluent one. 

It was only recently that I casually installed one of my works at the local flea shop. My work which is priced slightly under 500USD is placed among the old thrown out junk, and discarded items hanging on one of the columns. 

Firstly i have put my work which is a digital print in a setting where its seen by the common, unexpected people, who have come to probably get some cheep bargain who would stumble upon this peace and will question . How much , why so expensive? Who is the artist ? What has been done ? 

The answers are all in a paper which is kept in the drawer and is given only on request – 

The second thing is to make people aware that digital prints are also art, its not just oil painting or sculpture . 

Thirdly to challenge the mind set that art works belongs to galleries only, it wont be respected else where, it will be an insult if you put it in any other setting besides a gallery or an exhibition space- 

My work has come out of the bubble, and its breaking the label placed on art which reads ” can be admired by an elite only”  and for this i have faced much criticism , i have been told that i am “demeaning my work” i have been told i am acting like  ” a mosquito who lives in a dirty pond ”   Well who has polluted these ponds ? Not the nature but us very humans who are now calling it dirty , and mosquitos dont live in dirty ponds , they leave their eggs there so their newly hatched babies are born to the harsh realities if the world before they can fly off to gardens and jungles to borrow a few drops of blood from other animals so as to breed and not to actually feed , Hey we have something to learn from the  mosquitos here who you just called dirty ! 

Well coming back to my work hanging there between the antiques and trash is my work, its for the common people, the people we think are verminous, the people who make the most of the population of the planet and the people who as consumers are keeping us few elites alive ! 

Expression of an artist !