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 !

Veiled snobbery

what most people confuse with sophistication here in Pakistan is actually a veiled snobbery and part of the old colonialism. Its a deep rooted behaviour they had brought with them centuries ago when they came and invaded us, which corrupting our core cultural values.

It is sad to observe when some artists, activists and even some writers, wear that distinct behavioural attitude, of being politely rude. Its like building an invisible wall around you, which keeps the common at pace while giving you the freedom and liberty to float freely in a bubble, lifting you a bit above the ground, slightly bit higher than the commons, so you remain in all your elements, while displaying love and affection to the people bellow you, as if they are an animal caged, and then loved and adored, while the iron bars are keeping them restrained in a tight sphere, of which they maybe even be aware of but its so vague they often forget and fail to even notice it.

Veiled snobbery

Yet another unheard voice .

In this day of age, when we switch on our televisions sets to hear the numerous channels blaring out the “truth” to us, we think they are our saviours, they are voicing our oppressed emotions and the concerns of the common people, speaking on behalf of those who were never herd, who were never thought to be significant. We think  we have finally found someone to hear us, to feel our pains and sufferings  but the truth is quite the opposite.
 
First thing in the morning today, as I held tight to my first cup of coffee, still struggling to fully wake up I switched on to Facebook, What met my eyes was so shocking that i was not only wide awake but also disgusted and furious, it was Huma’s email shared on Facebook by Amar Sindhu :
 

Huma’s Email:

“ Rape for Religion/ JUSTICE FOR SAHAR BATOOL.

First time I am writing in this forum to bring your attention towards a covered incident.
I am women/human rights activist

In our region it is very common news like acid throwing, domestic violence, sexual harassment and target killings etc. you all may heard many news from various different corners about child rape.

The purpose of incident I am sharing is about 6 years old Sahar ,who belongs from shia hazara community ,father was peon in army ,they reside in FC colony quetta, few day before when parents found her missing from home, soon they inform police, after investigation her dead body was dumped near a trash, and her neighbor a clergy (mullah)pesh imam of some mosque confessed that he did all with sahar due to hatred against shias , first he raped ,broke her limbs,hanged her with rope thn slaughtered.

Dead body found from a trash just a yard few feet away from mullahs house.

The apathy of civil society and human rights can also be seen in this case, maybe because the victim family is very poor and can not approach anyone or they belong from shia/hazara community.whats the sin of Sahar Batool???after rape of kafirs the clergy will be in heaven with 72 hoors ??

In this scenario the crime counts for child abuse or sectarian violence ?and its quite tragic even its not in the news

The efforts should be taken by media and judiciary group to bring the perpetrators in conviction.

(an email by Huma Fouladi) ”

 
As much as i want to believe that the media today is free and voices the concerns of the common people, in reality each day i come face to face to the reality of he commercial craving of these news channels resulting in an ever increasing insensitive quest to achieve the highest ratings in the market. They won’t refrain to shove the microphones in the half agape mouths of moaning bomb blast injured, pretending to share their pain but in reality hoping the victim soon dies so they can serve the chunk of this video as the victim’s last words as an exclusive on their particular channel. They will try their best and even advertise it shamelessly that they were the the first to break the tragic news and were also the first air gruesome videos of massive distraction to unexacting audience, wrecking the nerves of the viewer to a point that they go numb, so numb that they won’t feel or realise the bigger picture, the depth of the pain that is caused to the others, they will think its the a usual daily life routine and they will be least bothered the next time something similar happens around them.
 
But what happens to the real news which is buried under the rubble of all there sensational imagery, footages and brainless political talks ? the news which is actually effecting us, common humans, day in day out, the news which point fingers towards the crippled system of the society, the news of one minority or the other being pushed to the edge, actually over the edge every other day, the news of the numerous rapes and sexual crimes, murders, go medical neglect,  cased of brutal child abuse, they all go unreported, undeclared on a daily bases, at the most making it to the news ticker running unnoticed for a few seconds at the bottom of the scream before vanishing forever.
 
So the message to the public is clear that if such a crime is reported, neither the state will give them justice nor the ever active blaring news channels will head their pledge. After all in the end the victim is the common, the people who are the majority, who are the real people of this state, but who have little or no say in the affairs of the state, they are the ones who are unheard of, unseen and the unknown.  
Yet another unheard voice .

Blood Is Thicker Than Water

Blood is thicker than water, No wonder it refuses to flow, and clots so quickly. I like water better, i flows to take shape of any vessel, any number of times, without showing any resistance, it takes the color of its surroundings it makes the path on which it flows greener. its more beautiful, more lively, more full of energy, more full of life more pure in all its aspects, while the blood is stagnant unless its in your own body, its more still more selfish, indeed much thicker than water.

Blood Is Thicker Than Water

Thoughts

Thoughts, of barren lands, fluid landscapes, of houses void of living beings, of people empty of their souls , bodies surrounded by cold walls, of redbrick as red as blood, of metal as cold as ice.

Thoughts of caged souls peering out from behind the eyelids, shy to confront the cruel world, frightened to be killed by the devil.

Thoughts of dark days and nights, of flowers and green being rained by blood, blood which burns all fields of hope, blood that stinks, and stales the air, suffocating the ones with heart of gold .

Thoughts …..

Thoughts

The valley of poisonous mushrooms

I am boggled, I am drained , and i am tired , i am on the verge of disowning the society in which i had always been a misfit, a society to which i tried to give so much,  but my efforts kept going to a waste paper basket, or rather a garbage shredder from which even the the tiny bits of the good i did were not retrievable and than to make it worst i was taken advantage of by a number of pseudo human right activists and that number made the majority, a dominating majority so strong that nothing good bypassed their vicious circles , they filtered everything milked it, juiced it, and only but filled their pit less pockets.

Than came the world of art, I thought this was a world of pure expressions, where people with greater visions will be expressing their concerns, where artists will be dipping their canvases to open to the larger truth but i was soon introduced to the grim reality. The expressions of the majority of the main stream, leading local artists were only but busy cashing into the sensations of today’s international popular believes. Their works are void of any emotional connection with their soul, they are utterly a product, produced to a formula, not to raise an issue or voice a concern, but only to serve the hunger for the sensation the world has to attract the buyers and cash into the exaggeration of a very shallow vision.

I found it suffocating to realist how the majority of the local art dealers and gallerist were making and breaking artists, manipulating and controlling the local art scene. Any one who would appose these lobbies and the bigwigs of this art world would never get a show in any leading gallery of the city, you rub them the wrong way and you as an artist are doomed, of-course unless you are rich and wouldn’t care if the local galleries allow you to show with them or not and you take your work abroad and make a mark internationally.

but then I see, although very few but honest artists, I realize  there will be a time when people will see how shallow and superficial the works produced from this region are , how in the name of “contemporary” was used to manipulated the international market. A work of art is like a book it reveals its secrets in layers with time, it will spell out every single truth, and when that happen the bubble will burst and we will are see a spectacular blue sky and bright sunshine which will wither to death this valley of poisonous mushrooms, the destroying angels of today art world and all the fool’s funnels among the social activists.

The valley of poisonous mushrooms