Project Title: IMAG[IN]ING CITIES – Karachi
Collaborators: Amin Gulgee (co-curator) and Lionel Manga (resident artist)
Date: February 2011
Location: Karachi | Pakistan
IMAG[IN]ING CITIES manifests as a major, multi-tiered exhibition including:
- Six large-scale video installations
- Ten flat-screen docking stations, each showing multiple works
- Three sound installations
- Multiple still photo installations, presented (depending on the space) as projected installations and/or framed works.
It is accompanied by a catalogue authored by the SPARCK team.
IMAG[IN]ING CITIES is one of three SPARCK projects that focus on South/South conversations: exchanges by and among artists about the urban condition worldwide as seen from the South. The first of these conversations brought Congolese artist Bill KouÈlany and Cameroonian artist Goddy Leye to Guangzhou, China for a one-month residency that gave rise to a work titled Chocolate Banana: a moving installation in the form of an experimental video shown in the back of taxicabs worldwide. IMAG[IN]ING CITIES is SPARCK’s second South/South conversation. The third conversation will bring South African video artist and writer Stacy Hardy to Dubai in May 2011, where she will be given carte blanche to develop a project that will be unveiled in 2012.
SPARCK’s South/South conversations are a part of its larger Photographic Journeys project and IMAG[IN]ING CITIES is closely linked to another SPARCK project: IN/FLUX, a three-volume DVD collection of experimental and art films from the African World. IN/FLUX is a collaboration between SPARCK and cutting-edge film production company Lowave (Paris, France).
IMAG[IN]ING CITIES does not seek to explicate. It is not a show about individual cities or citiness, an exploration of given urban themes, histories or problematics. It is, rather, a reflection – a pearl-string of questions, queries, interrogations and musings about the contemporary urban condition. It does not purport to offer answers, nor even clues. (Im)possible directions, paths, suggested itineraries, improbable juxtapositions, labyrinthine travels, starts, stops, hop-skipjumps, walks (aimless and not), footfalls: first and foremost, IMAG[IN]ING CITIES is an exercise in (re)mapping. It asks that, collectively, we re-think the everyday moments and movements of our lives as city-dwellers worldwide – as citizens in the purest sense of the term – and, to do so, it asks questions.
Karachi is the first stop on a multi-city tour of IMAG[IN]ING CITIES. This has informed the nature of the works selected. The conversations engaged in here are meant to travel, morph, expand and, most importantly, birth new and innovative exchanges.
The artists included in IMAG[IN]ING CITIES are:
Auto da Fe (Douala) Bani Abidi (Karachi I New Delhi) Abbas Agha (Karachi) Roohi Ahmed (Karachi) Madiha Aijaz (Karachi) Aasim Akhtar (Islamabad) Wajid Ali (Lahore) Samy Baloji (Lubumbashi) Bebson de la Rue (Kinshasa) Neil Beloufa (Algiers I Paris) Dicoco Boketshu (Kinshasa) Dineo Bopape (Johannesburg) DoktorosÈ (St Denis) Malam Essoua (Douala I St Denis) Ahmed El Shaer (Cairo) Ismail Farouk (Johannesburg) Shazieh Gorji (Islamabad) Khaled Hafez (Cairo) Eléonore Hellio (Paris I Kinshasa) Christian Hanussek and Salifou Lindou (Berlin I Douala) Sheherbano Hussain (Karachi) Stacy Hardy (Cape Town) Tapu Javeri (Karachi) Louis Kakudji (Paris I Lubumbashi I Brooklyn) Durriya Kazi (Karachi) Aryan Kaganof (Cape Town) Kiripi Katembo (Kinshasa) Shamyl Khuhro (Karachi) Goddy Leye (Douala) Jean-Christophe Lanquetin (Paris I Kinshasa) Saqib Malik (Karachi) Lionel Manga (Douala) Angeline Malik (Karachi) Heddy Maalem (Paris I Algiers) Androa Mindrekolo (Kinshasa) Nástio Mosquito (Luanda) Mowoso (Kinshasa) Cédrick Nzolo (Kinshasa) Emeka Ogboh (Lagos) Danish Raza (Karachi) Julia Raynham (Cape Town) Lala Rukh (Lahore) Izdeyar Sethna (Karachi) Babar Sheikh (Karachi) Adeela Suleman (Karachi) Abdullah M.I. Syed (Karachi) TsubaKa23 (Pan-Afropolis) Sumaira Tazeen (Karachi) Hervé Yamguen (Douala) Hervé Youmbi (Douala) Hasan Zaidi (Karachi) Maheen Zia (Karachi)
Like all of SPARCK’s Photographic Journeys projects, IMAG[IN]ING CITIES involves an artist residency project. Cameroonian writer Lionel Manga was SPARCK artist in residency during the Karachi iteration of the project. The Karachi manifestation included a sound installation by Manga, based on a text he created while in Pakistan, titled “EXIT Goddy”. The title of Manga text refers to close SPARCK collaborator Goddy Leye, who passed away one day before the opening of IMAG[IN]ING CITIES Karachi.
IMAG[IN]ING CITIES is dedicated to Goddy Leye, friend, mentor and trusted guide (1964-2011).
Goddy Leye’s installation “The Beautiful Beast” was a centre piece on the show. Projected onto a bed of sesame, a man writhes on the ground against a pixellated field. We know nothing about him, save that he seems in pain. Or might he be grinning? The image is violently disturbing. Overhead, coming in waves, is a soundscape: Fritz Lang’s 1931 masterpiece, “M”. A Hitlerian voice battles with another, a voice of reason and demand: demand that the man on the ground be treated with care or perhaps, simply, with basic human sympathy. We will never know which voice wins out.
Framing Leye’s work, on each of two walls, a body of projected works:
- The first of 10 chapters in a video installation by Congolese collective Mowoso, entitled “Ground Overground Underground – Dreamtime #1”;
- A looped video installation titled “Any Famous Last Words?” by Pakistani artist Danish Raza;
- An installation of stills and moving images by Cameroonian artists Hervé Yamguen and Malam Essoua.
The show took place indoors and out. As visitors entered the Amin Gulgee Gallery compound, they were met by Lionel Manga’s stunning “EXIT Goddy” sound piece, a work in three languages: English, Ewondo and French.
Click here to read a French version of Lionel Manga’s words in honor of Goddy Leye.
At the gallery’s threshold, viewers were led inside by a projection flooding from above: a video installation in two parts by Pakistani artist Wajid Ali. In the first part, shown in the early hours of the happening, a bicycle wheel turned and turned, advancing into a highway of neon blue. As the evening’s event wound to a close, the wheel morphed into a play of shadows. In alternating rhythms, the outlines of bodies and vehicles, bicycles and pushcarts were seen rushing and then ambling by as the city drifted into night.
Immediately to the right, as they entered, visitors found the room dedicated to Goddy Leye’s “Beautiful Beast” and on the left they encountered the main gallery space, a massive room with soaring ceiling.
In the main gallery space Amin Gulgee had – in just one day – created a playful cube-like sculpture/ installation that housed two of the show’s soundpieces – works by Emeka Ogboh (Nigeria) and Lala Rukh (Pakistan) – as well as a video piece by Durriya Kazi (Pakistan).
In the main gallery as well, large still photographs appeared alongside multiple projections – digital photographs and moving images, some shown directly on the gallery walls, others on flat screen monitors. In these projections, multiple cities appeared, some readily identifiable (Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s largest urban centre; Douala, the economic capital of Cameroon), others mysteriously un-named avatars of a global age. Multiple media were involved: experimental and art video, music video, digital and argentic photography looped, morphed and converted. Cityscapes and citydwellers came in and out of focus, shown from great distances and in intimate close-ups. Over twenty artists and collectives were represented.
The entrance to the Amin Gulgee Gallery opens onto a steel staircase that rises to a mezzanine area that had been painted deep red for the occasion. Here, visitors encountered four series of videos shown on flat screens. The works presented formed four interconnected clusters centred on themes vital to the life and becoming of cities worldwide at the edge of the 21st century. The linkage between one screen and theme and the next was underscored by a rhythmic heartbeat: a looped video by Pakistani artist Roohi Ahmed that jumped, impromptu, from screen to screen.
As a first of its kind in Pakistan, IMAG[IN]ING CITIES attracted over 600 visitors over two days, artists, art aficionados, writers, students collectors and curators – and an astonishing number of TV and print media journalists.
Take a tour – Watch this short video (Courtesy of the Amin Gulgee Gallery)
IMAG[IN]ING CITIES in the Media
IMAG[IN]ING CITIES received great attention in the local media. Here are links to some of the coverage:
For an article in the magazine Newsline, click here.
For further press coverage, see the following:
The show even made the “society pages” in the Express Tribune:
It also featured on xpozemonthly.com:
And made the cover of the latest issue of Nukta Art, one of Pakistan’s leading Contemporary Art magazines, which also includes a 6-page feature on SPARCK’s first South-South Dialogue between Africa and Pakistan.
SPARK Lecture at IVS
When we met Taimur Ahmed of the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture (IVS), he immediately extended an invitation for SPARCK to give a 2-hour lecture about “contemporary African Art”, the IMAG[IN]ING CITIES show and the SPARCK programme itself. Many of the students came to the opening.