Category Archives: Diatribes

Loadshedding

Today I stopped pretending I was in idyllic serenity. This is a funny kind of hell. The heat makes it worse. This funny kind of hell burns me up and burns me down. My feet are burning in my silver shoes.

This loadshedding situation is never going to stop, is it? I cannot believe there was a time when I hoped that it might someday. I have this sinking feeling that perhaps the people who are supposed to fix problems are not really capable of fixing anything. Infact, they might not be the least interested in fixing anything either. So I grit my teeth and suffer the heat and the lack of electricity.

How am I supposed to work in this madness? Sometimes, all I want to do is find a cooler place to crawl into and sleep – and dream. Dreams are better than this. In my dreams, I draw all the time. In my dreams, it isn’t so hot. I’ve heard great art comes from great suffering but seriously, I need to stop suffering to make something. The sweat in my eyes makes it a little difficult to even stare at blank paper.

Soon the batteries will run out and I’ll have nothing to do but stare at the walls and sweat. I know I sound like a ridiculous brat complaining about loadshedding when there are people out there with less. Even so, I am sorry but I am suffering. And I cannot help but whine. Even if it does make me sound like a twat.

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Gonzo

“last man standing after an all night drinking marathon” Bill Cardoso, 1970

Hunter S. Thompson’s disparaging innuendoes have me all hot and bothered. Sometimes, you gotta live it to love it. Last man standing, yes? Here we go again. Coherence be damned.

After a half-night of incoherent, inarticulate boozing and a morning of colorful dreams accompanied with a massive headache, I can’t help thinking of Thompson and his suicide. Considering that my evening began with talk of a friend’s suicide, it makes sense. Was I resentful? Did I feel anger? I think I was broken a little. My friend lived the myth, right to the very end. I wish you love.

Visual artists of Pakistan, where are we headed? One of us gave in and ended his life. One can attribute personal disorders to such behavior and shove it under the carpet. I refuse to let it go. We are all responsible. I claim responsibility. I claim friendship and love. I claim empathy. It has been 2 years. I don’t think I can ever forget.

The myth (the goddamned myth) comes and bites us in the ass, yes? Am I fighting the myth or living it? How can I dissect something without objectivity? How can I be objective when I am so deeply immersed? Oh the burden of pop culture. It weighs me down.

Sometimes, nothing can be done. However, I get this nagging feeling that saying that, or thinking it even, is the easy way out. Perhaps I am too emotionally invested? Maybe I need to quit blaming myself and everyone else. But that again, is only natural. Maybe in a few years, I will come to terms with the entire business and have something more intelligent to say about it. Though, I doubt if one can ever be intelligent about the loss of a friend.

Meanwhile, I keep watching them as they live out their fiction and I live mine. Fiction is often the best fact – just like Thompson said. Just like he said.

Condemned to Please, Please

The painter is condemned to please*. The practice of art is cruel. And therefore the artist is terribly romantic and inscrutable; obscure and deliciously mysterious. Art practice becomes even more obscure and informed by glorious muses and the void beyond reason (and so on). This is what they gave us with their history books and their slides. This is what they gave us with their documentaries and biographies. This is what they gave us at art school.

The institution of art school is a strange notion in itself. But I find myself more interested in what it has done to me – and perhaps what I’m doing for it now. I have never really stopped what they started. I am rolling along, absurdly, caught up in my own miseries and the romance of art-induced angst. Do I believe in the myth of the artist? Do I believe in the myth of art-making?

The romance of a torturous, tragic existence is very powerful. Some get so caught up in it, they never leave. Ofcourse, some disregard it completely, but it’s always lurking in the dark corners. While performing the painter, I find myself a little ridiculous. Then I get drawn into the old self and the other rhetoric. And so, I am a romantic soul again. It is a nice self-contained cycle of pleasure and pain.

I am condemned. To please. To give pleasure. Inadvertently, I am condemned to torture. If one is to believe this mythical position, then one must believe in one’s greatness in the larger scheme of things. This causes (in my opinion) a kind of psychological conflict. In this world, there seems to be no time for sentimental introspection. It defeats the purpose of practical techniques and form. In this world, there also seems to be all the time for sentimental introspection. Content must be loaded with profound meaning. In performing the painter (or the artist), one is fucked, really.

The tortured soul of this mythical artist must then be put on display. It must be curated to appear in all its glorious intensity. It must be seen, viewed and taken apart with words and more pictures. It must represent and reflect and “change” something. It must be loaded with meaning, content and comments. The intimidating walls of the gallery consume this tortured, pleasing entity. Or, it is displayed in public to be seen as some kind of effrontry or a tribute to humility. It must define space and time. It must be courageous or cowardly or merely introspective. It is given names like political, psychotic, personal, sentimental, gay, sexual, sexless, present, absent…In this crowd of words and meaning, the myth of the artist and the personal mythology of the artist become one and the same. Or maybe it’s just me. The myth of the artist wears you down something awful.

Inspiration: Arousal of the mind to special unusual activity or creativity.

My Personal Mythology: Desire

When you’ve got paper, you can draw faces. When you’ve got leeches, you can draw blood.

Disclaimer: I started writing this post with an intention to rant about art practice and then it twisted itself into wild introspection. I still don’t know what the practice of art demands from me. I have stopped hoping I will ever know for longer than those moments when I seem to know what it wants. Then we all fall down.

* from The Cruel Practice of Art by George Bataille

Smack My Bitch Up

the woods

by Nadia Batool Hussain on Saturday, April 7, 2007 at 2:26am

it started with the eclipse, with how kissing a man and marrying a man are very different things, with neruda, with tears on the early train, legs brushing on strange legs, gloved hands and sitting on the floor. but then the keys were misplaced. and we got lost. and then we found it. the finger bridge. the hot chocolate. navigating the slippery rocks in trusty boots. gurgling stream – or was it the river? i am not a nature girl. we were looking for something in the woods. a story? then began the telling and the listening. the diner. the cemetary. sprinkles and jimmies. more words for my brain. if only i didn’t feel so sick.

The internet is a funny place. It documents life in a way. All those years ago, I was looking for something. In those faraway lands, right here at home – I was looking for something. We’re all looking for something.

In my quest, I found a lot of pain. No, this is not a sentimental journey into the past. This is a frank self-evaluation. If you’re not interested, nobody is forcing you to read on. Why so glum, chum? I ask myself a lot these days. Everyone makes mistakes but some of us make more than their fair share. We make the mistakes you can overlook on a good day. Our hearts and our minds are carried away by kindness. And then, when kindness is replaced with what lies under it, we are disappointed. And then we are marked with yet another scar. All of this is almost self-inflicted. We allow and so, we deserve.

And here I am, so many years later wondering if indeed I am masochistic. Nothing new here, people. I’ve talked and written about this too many times. But am I masochistic? Are we all masochists? Do we enjoy this miserable game? I look around me and all I see is suffering and insecurity. As somebody told me recently, these are difficult times for us all.

On another note, there has to be more to life than just this crap. That’s what I tell myself every day. My art practice is almost at a standstill. My health has deteriorated. Work is weird. Everything seems to be falling apart. Even the aunties have quit their aunty-ness. This is all so depressing.

But there is something…perhaps a new obsession which is difficult to define at the moment. It is absolutely illogical in the context of “real life” and makes no sense if I think about it too much. However, it has given me more inspiration than anything else for a long time. That got me thinking about the practice of art-making. Maybe the whole idea of muses was closer to the truth than I thought. Who knows? In constructing my own reality, I can do anything. And isn’t that what I do? I construct reality and then show it to other people. For some reason, they’re interested in looking. That part of art-making has always pleased me a great deal. People like to look. As long as its worth looking at, I suppose.

Sometimes when people tell me that they “don’t get art” I want to smack them. What’s there to get? Why do they expect profundity? Why can’t they just look and let it tell them about a new world somebody else constructed just for their viewing pleasure (or their own viewing pleasure). In this brave new world, where we “share” everything – our thoughts, ideas, pictures and emotions, what’s the harm at looking at some artwork and just – looking? Why do people expect some profound statement in a picture? I have to admit it frustrates me.

hand touching hand

Many years ago, in another world, I was manning the coffee station at a wedding at the Racquet Club, Philadelphia (wearing my sweet black bowtie) and the wedding singer did a cover of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” – the following lines got stuck in my head:

Hands, touching hands, reaching out
Touching me, touching you

Those were good times indeed. I had been on my feet for 10 hours but I felt alright. That’s where this drawing came from. Those were good times, yearning for that feeling – but it was a good yearning. That’s where my artwork comes from. Life and those moments when songs or people get stuck in my head. Is that so profound? It is something we all know.

Dumb Bomb

dumb bomb: a bomb that falls because of gravity and is not guided to a target

Yes. Gravity makes it fall down. Sometimes, that is all you need. Gravity. I’ve always wondered at my own patience (I’ve been told I have none but I beg to differ) and at how long would I put up with anything. Let’s just say the dumb bomb has dropped. And its all because of gravity. Nature runs it’s course and you can do nothing but watch things destroy themselves. Or, in other words, the shit has hit the fan.

No more Mr. Nice Guy (or Ms. Nice Gal). I’ve had it with these people!

I should explain. I have spent the last few years surrounded by absolute morons and it hit me while I was on my self-imposed hiatus – I can get away from them and turn everything around. Now ofcourse, I am to blame for sticking around these morons for as long as I have. I could have always said no. But I think I am masochistic. It must be the fucking culture (oh my hatred for that word has grown ten-fold).

These people are racists. No, they’re not just racists. They’re obsessively racist. They go on and on about their ancestry as if their lives depended on it. And the rest of us are supposed to fall to our knees in admiration. All I remember doing is controlling the snicker building up in my head by reminding myself to be respectful. Yes. Respectful. But that’s just one little thing.

Besides being racist, they are abusive. And since they want to fester in their delusional cesspool, they want to bring everyone down into it. Their entire lives revolve around their delusions of grandeur. Nobody is good enough. But this is the shit they throw at you. It’s not real. They know they’re shit and so that insecurity makes them abusive and depressed. And they depress everyone. This makes them feel better (if they even know what better is).

The strangest part is that they have no idea that anyone has caught on. That is what makes them complete idiots. This post is venom. I have had enough and I had to write about it. Names and identities have been left out because – well, just because.

So long, suckers!

Rules Of Engagement

In military or police operations, the rules of engagement (ROE) determine when, where, and how force shall be used. Such rules are both general and specific, and there have been large variations between cultures throughout history.

From Wikipedia

Note: For various personal reasons, I detest the word culture – emphasis on personal should be noted. I am not trying to be cool by being politically incorrect. I just hate the word culture so much that it makes me vomit.

Having said that, I can begin. I was thinking about ROE and how that could apply to so many things. Ofcourse, there is that television show too, but this post is about how people behave with each other.

to force: to cause to do through pressure or necessity, by physical, moral or intellectual means; urge to an action; constrain or motivate; impose urgently, importunately, or inexorably

When, where and how can force be used between people? Between friends? Between family members? On oneself? There are rules. There are always rules. Without rules, we’d be flailing helplessly in confusion. Rules are made to be broken? I don’t know about that – but rules are good. Rules are practical and they make things easier.

behavior: manner of acting or controlling yourself

Control only comes from acting according to the rules. There is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Most people are very clear about this. It helps them maneuver themselves through life. Some people, however, have no clue. I have been considering this for a while now. Why can’t some people understand that there are rules? That control is admirable? That it is absolutely essential to behave appropriately?

I was thinking about social responsibility and the rules of engagement. Ofcourse, using force is important. Assertiveness is of great value. But where does assertiveness stop and misbehavior begin? In the context of art-making, there is some confusion in the minds of young artists about this. Is causing offence forgivable? Are shocking images appealing? These are just questions I like to ask myself.

Recent events have also given me a new perspective on misbehavior. In my previous post, I mentioned bullying from a personal perspective. Now I’m thinking about how it functions on a larger scale. Artists are strange people. Here, I am in no way glorifying their existence. I am simply stating things as they are. Call a spade a spade and it is simply a spade. I have recently discovered that “well known” artists tend to think that they can disregard the common laws of behavior. Quite simply, they’re nasty people. I am also not generalizing by any means. No, that’s not it. Some “well known” artists who have “made it big” believe they can bully anybody into submission. They also believe that they own every visual in the world. They claim visuals as if they invented them personally. This sickens me and makes me wonder how crude and low people can get. Artistic license does not mean you can bully people, or offend them whenever you please. “Making it big” also does not give you special rights. Basically, if you forget your manners, then you’re just an asshole. And this is where I begin to lose all respect for these self-proclaimed, award winning heroes of Pakistani art. I will respect you only if you deserve it, thanks. And if you’re a jerk, then you’re just a jerk. Anything you make loses all its value. It might bring you fame and glory, but I’ll silently never accept it as anything but lies. I believe one has to draw the line somewhere. If you’re not human, then you’re not worth my time. Perhaps, then you can just be an auntie for my amusement. I can laugh at you and never feel an ounce of regret.

These Boots Are Made For Walking

Dada Giri (slang): bullying; pushing somebody around because you think you can; walking all over somebody.

Suffering from an acute sense of confusion and general embarrassment (the whole world is laughing and pointing fingers), I figured now is a good time to think about bullying. I googled dada giri and got some interesting results:

Well “dada” means elder brother and “Dadagiri” means exercising your rights as an elder brother but with a wrong sense. You force your juniors to listen to you and make them do whatever you feel like even if its wrong. And if they dont obey you, you simply punish them badly…!!

Emphasis on the exclamations! It sounds like the NCA (oh no, I’ve said it!) and most of the world, even.

Hit, beat, cheat or make pains to people; for money and other forms of profit. Demonstrate a power against a mass and loot them or produce a strong feeling of unsafe environment.

Uhm, yes. That sounds like the whole world.

I was bullied a lot (and still am to some extent since it seems to be the way of the world) and it’s not exactly fun. Being pushed around cannot be fun. It’s just in bad taste. A friend told me I was being a push-over when it came to somebody I care(d) about. And my brain tells me she is right. I don’t think I’m generally a doormat but in some situations I can be. Old habits die hard.

Somebody I care(d) about just ran away and has been denying communication. Everything in my stupid head tells me that reeks of abuse. I have a good heart (unreasonable, too, it seems) and I have forgiven such acts in the past. However, this time, it’s gone too far. I used to think I could forgive anything but I guess I was wrong. People can be abusive in so many ways. I have thought about this for the past 4 days. In silence.

I have always believed in common courtesy and I foolishly assumed that other people had similar inclinations. I have been proved wrong on various occasions but I never gave up on what I thought was goodness. Here, I confused myself. I have often confused myself with the noises that other people make in their heads. Being empathetic, I feel their pain and own it. Then I open the door to the blame-game which is form of bullying (usually I get bullied into some form of submission). This makes me wonder if I have masochistic tendencies. All of that aside, I forgive and forgive. But now I’m finding it harder to forget. Bullying is abusive. It is complete disregard of another person’s existence as a separate being with rights of their own.

I have also realized that such abuse stems from mental imbalance. But do I have to put up with it? Do I have to even be a part of it? My permissiveness just makes me party to it. I become the aggressor by allowing aggression. I’ve seen this happening to a lot of people. Are we naive and trusting or just plain stupid? Is it the Pakistani upbringing? Is it lack of self-esteem? So many questions arise but the truth remains the same: my friend ran out on me.

It hurts but it also makes me wonder why I am around such a person. A person who blames me for every failure of his own. A person who cannot come to terms with his own mistakes. A person who never apologizes or admits his mistakes. Being compassionate and eager to help/please makes me a prime target for such people. Their overestimation of themselves is justified. Their delusions are justified. And they have a convenient person to blame.

If I step back and look at it, I feel like a fool (emotional reaction) but I also see the need to back off (sensible reaction). This dichotomy is where the confusion begins. We are slaves to our minds and our hearts. When they say two different and opposing things, confusion is only natural. I’m not trying to justify my confusion. I’m just stating things as I see them right now.

People who commit such unforgivable acts of inconsideration have to be either completely selfish or completely stupid. They are bullies and I think they need counseling. But is that my problem? Am I out to save the whole world? That would be so ridiculous that it wouldn’t even be funny.

On a brighter note, I saw something absurd yesterday:

Aunties outside Masoom's Cafe. Coffee?

I think this one was looking for a nice spot to have a cigarette.

Sometimes, you get to see the strangest things in Islamabad that really change your perspective on life. Such things also have the power to make the pain of living easier to endure.