I heart art: Pagan ritual opens Band Baja Baraat show

40 artists worked in pairs for exhibition that runs at IVSAA three days.

Tehmina Qureshi April 12, 2012

KARACHI: The cage is ringed with fire and lit with stringed ‘bars’ of fairy lights. At the centre is a ‘couple’, Amin Gulgee and Saba Iqbal who break eggs, the symbol of fertility, into each other’s palms before emptying their ‘meat’ into a bowl. Blood curdling screams from a ghostly Greek chorus gone wrong ricochet off the walls.

This performance art titled “love marriage” fascinated and repulsed its audience who turned up at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture for a show called Band Baja Baraat (BBB) that opened Wednesday night. BBB is a three-day exhibition to celebrate all that is good in life.

If Gulgee and Iqbal wanted to conjure the Chthonian or Dionysian in us, they succeeded. Their performance appeared to tap into the pagan forces that have been ignored. Iqbal’s golden corset (covering her heart) studded with nails implied that she would kill anyone who came to embrace her. Love is a double-edged sword. Nature (read mother, life-giving) will destroy you. Gulgee’s golden helmet perhaps protects the head, intellect, masculinity. And yet, their ghostly white faces and ruby red lips rendered them alike, androgynous almost. We hide behind masks and perhaps this is all an act.

Not one to miss on a pagan moment, Mohsin Sayeed sat beside Gulgee looking intently into his eyes. Gulgee stared back, and lifted one slimy finger to streak a mark across Sayeed’s forehead. In response, Sayeed circled his finger around the golden helmet.

Aside from this performance, plenty of art went up in the space as a result of the collaboration of 40 artists who worked in pairs.

Munawar Ali Syed’s “Life is Like a Bouncing Ball: So Maar Taali” invited interaction as it had to be smacked with both hands to light up. “People have been telling me that married people strike harder than those who are not,” Syed joked, as he told one of his friends to hit the ball harder. As BBB sought to challenge the way the country’s dismal conditions had seeped into Pakistani artwork, another of Syed’s pieces was a sculpture with Adeel uz Zafar made of a bowl filled with cotton candy. In “Love Art Eat Heart” by Sumaira Tazeen and Abdullah Syed, people were served heart-shaped barfi on a paper plate.

Art critic Marjorie Husain moved about the gallery. Her favourite seemed to be “Manzar” by Adeela Suleman and Asma Mundrawala. “I love the balance of colours,” said Husain. “I want to walk right into it.”

Umar Sayeed liked “Lawn Ad: Hide the Booze” by Komail Aijazuddin in which a worried woman sits on a sofa, her dupatta sprawled on its arm, as she reaches out for a bottle of wine.

Amid all this was “Zubaida”, a gramophone that played old songs like Jai Jai Shiv Shankar and Mera Piya Ghar Aya.

“Collaborative work is usually harder because the artists can’t see eye to eye,” remarked visitor Raheela Abro, a student of visual studies at Karachi University. “A title like Band Baja Baraat arouses curiosity. The exhibition also does just that, it celebrates the good in life instead of the depressing things we see in the media every day.”

Published in The Express Tribune, April 12th, 2012.


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