The exhibition currently on display at Koel gallery, titled ‘And Nothing but the Truth: Parrhesia II’, has provided 22 artists an opportunity to explore and express their truths.
The curator, Zarmeene Shah, quotes French thinker Michel Focault in her statement about the exhibition: “In parrhesia, the speaker uses his freedom and chooses frankness instead of persuasion, truth instead of falsehood or silence, the risk of death instead of life and security, criticism instead of flattery, and moral duty instead of self-interest and moral apathy.”
This is exactly what the artists seem to have done in their own ways, employing different mediums. Amin Gulgee’s bronze sculpture is abstract and crude in its form. The metallic structure reminds you of the reforming of T-1000 in Terminator III. It could be taken as a reference to the destructive machines that we are surrounded by today or the machines – the heartless humans, which we have become.
A similar concept prevailed in Roohi Ahmed’s work. While she did not compare humans to machines, she portrayed the truth in our cruel, careless tendencies in crude fashion. Her digital print, titled ‘Give and Take’, depicted two hands – one of them had a red string sown into the first layer of the skin while the other had no thread but stitching patterns were visible. Ahmed had previously focused on threads and stitches, too, referring to them as a ‘code’ of her unsaid thoughts and unknown story. By portraying this code in her artwork, she was being fearless in speaking her truth.
Salima Hashmi seemed to be speaking the truth about the violence surrounding our country. Her work, titled ‘Shaam’, is gloomy and has text in the centre reading ‘Bringing up the bodies’. What is striking about her work is the depiction of shoes – it reminds you of how shoes are left outside mosques and other places of worship. The faded images coupled with the dreary imagery of the title created an effect of its own – it was a comment on how such places have repeatedly been targeted by terrorists, which is a sad truth of the country.
Abdullah MI Syed, in his work titled ‘Qaumi Taranah Char Hisoon Main’, spoke a similar truth. It was a simple work, divided into four equal black parts. Each part had the words ‘Pak’, ‘Sar’, ‘Zameen’ and ‘Shadbad’ embroidered separately in white. The separation of these words is the artist’s truth. Particularly, the split of the word ‘sarzameen’ [motherland] into ‘sar’ and ‘zameen’ is crude and harsh. Considering the divisions – ethnic, religious and linguistic among others – looming large in the face of the country, the split of the word is quite apt, rendering it completely devoid of its initial meaning.
Meanwhile, Meher Afroz spoke a truth that was pretty distinct from the ones mentioned above. In her work titled ‘Zahir Batin’, she pointed out the discrepancies in human conduct. The way she covered her work in silver was a fitting representation of how we cover our dark sides with glamorous, shining outward appearances – we pretend to be what we are not.
The show runs till July 23.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 26th, 2015.