Tag Archives: Pakistani Artists


“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.

3 In a Crowd

Sentimentality: falsely emotional in a maudlin way; extravagant or affected feeling or emotion

Mawkishness makes bad art. But then again, that is a matter of opinion. The work of these three artists is notmawkish. In fact, it is all but sentimental. And  that, in my opinion, makes their work fascinating. In my quest to find meaning within every visual stimulus available, I have often been disappointed by the overly mushy sentiments of the angsty. Also, I have been forced to keep an eye out for images that are compelling without the artifice of sentimentality. With this work, I feel like I need not worry about the maudlin depth of emotions.

The three artists have externalized what they have felt into images that one can relate to, without the discomfort of too much familiarity. We don’t want to live inside their skins, yet we do want to see what they see. We like mystery and we like to be amused. These artists do not disappoint. Most importantly, the work is relevant to the space and time they exist in which makes it more fun to look at and ponder on.

Atiph Khan and Sophiya Khwaja enjoy satire. We can see that they laugh at the misery inflicting our universe. Yet, it doesn’t appall us – this amusement. We laugh with them. Atiph draws from the so called history and culture of the region as well as the popular visuals of truck art and other kitschy iconography to reflect on what surrounds him. He is interested in the commonality of popular imagery as well as the news – which afflicts us daily and imposes a veil of threat on our lives. Laughing at it makes it digestible. His work also reflects on the current position of many people on the events in the country. We are frustrated and we laugh it off to survive in the chaos.

Sophiya Khwaja uses figures in humorous poses to make amusing statements on the current events in Pakistan. These figures are awkward and funny in the face of terror. Representing a particular culture within the country, the culture of the English-speaking, upper middle class Pakistanis, she brings out the attitude of laughing intelligently about the horror thrown in our faces daily. We can chuckle with her at the absurdity of it all.

Zaira Ahmed speaks about time changing familiar things. She draws upon an image she has seen for years of a building that dilapidated with time. This image perhaps means a change for the worse. What keeps her work within the realm of the “non-sentimental” is the essence of sensible observation of architecture. Her images represent a sort of unemotional vision of things falling apart. We need not shed tears for a building. But we sense impending doom or even loss.

All three artists speak of the transient nature of time and space. In this, they are screaming in a crowd louder than themselves. However, that does not take away from their work but gives it a place within the madness. In Bob Dylan’s timeless words:

There’s a battle outside and it is raging/It’ll soon shake your windows
and rattle your walls/
For the times they are a-changin.

PS: Unfortunately, Atiph (or Atif) Khan felt that whatever I had written about the show was too “negative” and did not know who Bob Dylan was. My little opinion was discarded. However, I am posting it here because I can.

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.