Metropolis - Artists in Residence: Visualising Karachi through the eyes of others

Four artists from outside Karachi depict their perception of the city in group show at Habib University

This group show at Habib University describes a reaction and close observation of the city from an outsider’s viewpoint, depicting a variety ranging from buildings and sounds to ugliness and open air. The show features works of four artists who participated in the four-week residency programme at the varsity. PHOTOS: AYSHA SALEEM/EXPRESS


If you had taken a stroll through Habib University's exhibition hall, you would have  glimpsed into Karachi from the eyes of artists who are not from the city. 

'Metropolis — Artists in residence' was a four-week-long pilot project of HU in which four artists, who do not live in Karachi, were invited to participate. The works of these four artists were put on display at HU on September 17, defining the different aspects of the city from the artists' eye. The exhibition on Saturday.

The group show described a reaction and close observation of the city from an outsider's viewpoint, depicting a variety ranging from buildings and sounds to ugliness and open air.

Upon entering the exhibition hall, the most interactive piece that caught your attention was the skyline prepared by two British sound artists, Fari Bradley and Chris Weaver. They both portrayed the city through the sound of car horns, chirping birds and wind. They made a series of work that reflected the complex sides of the city and the hidden layers of social relations. They depicted the electricity wires that look ugly on Karachi's streets as musical scores in their work.

Another artist from Lahore, Mina Arham, used rapidograph pen on tracing films to depict the city and its incompleteness. She focused on how the city has a lot of under-construction work going on, which is sometimes never completed. Doing the same with her work, which is folded and put on display as test tubes placed in a tray, she portrayed this lack of finesse.

"None of the folded pieces are completed and just have a building or an incomplete scene in it," Arham explains to The Express Tribune. The magnifying glass laid beside the rolled tracing films so that viewers may see a larger view of the buildings that have been miniaturised, she added.

The fourth artist in the residency project, Abeerah Zahid from Islamabad, mostly kept HU as her basic frame of work and captured the moments and scenes that she saw from her window during her four-week-long stay at the residency. Planes taking off from the airport, clothes hanging out of balconies and heightened water tanks were her subjects. She also tried to depict the city by reducing it to small structures. "The reason why I used construction caps and heavy material on it is to show how everyone in the city carries load on their head unknowingly," explained Zahid,  while talking about the sculptures she created.

Karachi is a busy city and, according to her observation, there is nothing still in the city - everything is moving and building. According to her, Karachiites carry a certain burden in terms of large buildings on their heads. "The sky has gone missing and has been covered by buildings all over the city," she added.

"No other form of collective life asks for more reflection than the urban — and yet no other form congests the powers of reflection more than the metropolis," said HU school of arts, humanities and social sciences dean and director Dr Nauman Naqvi. "Exposing themselves to one of the mega-metropolises of our times, the artists in residence at Habib University have, in the space of their brief sojourn, produced powerfully reflective work that breaks the city's congestion in illuminating fragments of sculpture, sketch and sound."

Published in The Express Tribune, September 20th, 2015.


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