• ‘Construction/Deconstruction: The Work is Present’ | Karachi, Pakistan

    Join Pakistani artist Imrana Tanveer on a tour around museums of the world, where her handsome tapestries are virtually hanging from the ceilings of the museum halls, in her work 'Construction/Deconstruction: The Work is Present'.


    Palazzo Ducale, Mantova, Italy

    I am so pleased and thrilled to present my work ‘Construction | Deconstruction: the Work is Present’, which was exhibited in the very first Karachi Biennale, curated by Amin Gulgee, that took place in October/November 2017 .

    ‘Construction | Deconstruction’ was conceived as a two year tour exhibition in several galleries and museums in USA. The curators of the exhibition were Imran Qureshi and Saamia Ahmed Vine, and the US organization that was involved in the promotion of the tour exhibition was International Arts & Artists. The project was in planning and fund raising phase since 2012, and the tour was supposed to take place between 2017 and 2019. It has unfortunately been cancelled.


    Were there specific reasons for its cancellation?

    Only what we received from the director of International Arts & Artists, David Furchgott:  “Despite receiving initial interest and investing all our best efforts, we were unable to get a single American museum to make a firm commitment to host the exhibition. Those few museums which were interested, but not committed, could not fit it into their budget or schedule”.

    Neues Museum, Berlin, Germany

    Unfortunately, since no museum committed to the exhibition, we have to leave it at that, until we can come up with an alternative plan if anything is possible

    We love the boldness and courage of your project: your beautiful tapestries hanging in museum halls around the world. Your project is a wonderful example of art that crosses borders and boundaries, that infiltrates through the thick walls of both old and new museums, bringing inside the textile artworks of a young Pakistani woman, crossing cultures, genders, and generations. What was the inspiration behind your work, and behind this project?

    After the cancellation, I proposed my work ‘Post Betrayal’ to be re-titled  Construction/Deconstruction: The Work is Present’. It was displayed at the Karachi Biennale 2017, and it was the same work that was supposed to tour in the US but was rejected: it shows my works displayed in different museums, both in the US and in other capitals of the world.

    The Louvre, Paris, France

    Given that the tour exhibition was not going to happen, the idea was to showcase the work through social media, tagging those museums and galleries on Facebook, Instagram and the other social media. As the world has shrunken to become a ‘global village’,  and every thing is just a ‘click’ away, the idea of the tour exhibition could be redefined into a virtual tour exhibition, i.e., the art in the age of digital, technical and virtual reproduction.

    It seems like, with the right lighting, you could see dots of light on the ground or walls of the rooms.  Have you intentionally left holes in your hanging fabrics? With specific meanings?

    Yes, they are actual holes!  The earlier work was developed after I purchased the camouflage fabric. The market from which I bought the fabric used it to make canopies for shelter from the sun and to cover goods on trucks in bad weather conditions during transportation. The parachute camouflage is also used for tents. I wanted to use that canopy, and the process of punching holes by overdoing and repeating the process of punching rivets numerous times: thousands of small metallic rivets punched on camouflage tent representing bullet holes. The purpose of the tent is to protect and provide shelter and the rivet is used to strengthen it, but the overdoing of the punching changes the purpose. I wanted to represent our own behavior and attitude towards the safety of the state and borders.

    Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain

    While the recent display questioned the idea of art practicing, interactivity and commentary on ‘definition of arts’ as norm, it may create a new conceptual understanding and combination of different techniques, production and display methodologies.

    What is the meaning of the name you have given to this work?

    ‘Construction | Deconstruction’ refers to the cancellation of the tour exhibition, to the tremendous amount of time and energy that invested in it and then wasted.  ‘The Work is Present’ was inspired by Marina Abramovich’s ‘The Artist is Present’. Even if the tour was cancelled, the work is still there.

    Do specific museums have a connection to the meaning of your project? 

    I firstly thought of presenting the work only in U.S. museums, as it was planned for the tour exhibition. But while discussing the idea with the chief curator of the Karachi Biennial 2017, Amin Gulgee, I decided to add other worldwide museums/galleries, to expand the idea further and let the work go round and square.

    Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Charlottesville, North Carolina, US

    You mention that your work is also intended as a commentary on normative definitions of art. Can you tell us more about this?

    It is commentary on art practice, on the tremendous amount of work, time and care put in realization and conceiving of the project.  This is also to illustrate the mêlée an artist goes through for galleries and museum representation.

    Do you think that in our contemporary age we need a new definition of art, or should we do away with attempts to define art, normative or otherwise?

    It is always tricky to try to define what is art, and what is not. We need to scrutinize its definition through time, culture, history and representation. The concept of evolution can be very helpful here. The definitions and the practices of art keep evolving.

    Tate Modern, London, UK

    “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

    -Marcel Proust
    • Very beautiful, powerful and provocative work!  Wondering if you've ever

      thought of exhibiting it in airports where there are exhibits and public art works.  

      The scale of the work seems like it would lend itself well to the sweeping space of airports.


  • Lost and Found Objects: Between Art and Monotony | Delhi, India

    New Delhi artist Sonam Chaturvedi shares the inspiration, process, and meanings of her artistic practice. We are happy to publish it here, courtesy of the Utsha Foundation Blog.  Sonam's work 'Time, Thoughts .... Incoherent' has been part of the Building Bridges three-city exhibition, and it is still in view at the Gallery Sumukha in Bangalore.


    Lost and Found Objects: Between Art and Monotony 


    isn't it good sometimes
    to be stuck in traffic
    and stay
    not reach
    the destination


    i have an orange
    in my bag
    it travels with me
    to work
    and back home
    i always forget
    to eat it
    it stays
    in a corner
    of my bag
    i like it
    while i
    listen to the impatient
    honking cars
    flickering lights
    people with music
    in their ears
    and games in their hands


    the orange
    sitting in it's dark




    At last I had to throw the orange, it started decaying. But I bought more to carry in my bag, as there was something missing, the bag weighed lighter and I didn’t like the emptiness.

    This article is primarily about my practice, and touches on some personal thoughts and everyday experiences which stimulate my works, including the work I did in the residency at Utsha. The above images are of an impromptu installation at a group show at NIV art gallery, New Delhi. I had used the above poem for this work, which is an echo of my daily struggles and journeys. I installed it around a pillar as a never-ending stream of thoughts portraying the journey connoted in the poem; there is also a performative act at play while viewing the work.

    I was once confronted with the question: what do you do in life apart from art making? I didn’t understand the question then, and even now I don’t, because everything I look at, I do, I’m constantly thinking in terms of expressing myself through art. When I was in Mumbai for a residency, every evening I would walk two miles from my studio to bandstand, aimlessly wandering, just to touch the ocean and catch a glimpse of the drowning sun. I would always return with my pockets filled with random objects thrown by the waves for me. At the end of the residency I had an accumulation of sea shells, broken terracotta, marble icons of gods and stones studded with sea animals which gave off a rotten smell and lingered for a very long time in my pocket. I was unsure at that time what I would do with this small museum, but during the transition from Mumbai to Bhubaneswar my ideas also travelled, and I brought this carton of objects with me to Utsha. It took sometime to unpack the ideas, but eventually the memories attached to these objects slowly consumed the whole premises of Utsha.

    The work is titled Lost and Found Memories; it is a mixed media installation consisting of 10 parts/objects,
    scattered over in Utsha. The objects I collected are a marker of a journey and/or an experience, like
    diary entries which remind us of a certain event in the past and how much we’ve changed through time.
    The objects were collected from the coastal line of Mumbai and left in Bhubaneswar and in the sea at
    Chandrabhaga beach in Konark.

    The display was done to create an experience of finding the works or chancing upon them, just the way I had found these objects.

    There is a memory attached to each object which makes it valuable and personal to me. This work is about leaving these objects back in nature but at a different place, and in exchange gathering something to mark its departure, which includes another object, sound, thought, impression, photo, video, et al.


    Lost and Found Memories is a series of exchanges which do not cease with time, since it is intrinsic to me and my obsession with collecting. The work is progressing with new objects collected and left, to collect further.



    Sonam Chaturvedi (1991) is a visual artist living and working in Delhi. She has participated in various group shows and residencies within India, including residencies at What About Art?, Mumbai;  the Utsha Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Bhubaneswar; and group shows including a show curated by Meera Menezes at Bikaner House, Delhi.  She has been an active participant in the Building Bridges project and in the three exhibitions, Kolkata, Delhi and Bangalore, that have marked the conclusion of the project.











  • ‘Folk Games in the Outskirts of Lahore’ by Ammar Faiz | Lahore, Pakistan
    'Bandar Qilla' still by Ammar Faiz

    Pakistani artist Ammar Faiz is sharing here the videos he produced for his Master Thesis in Visual Arts at the Beaconhouse National University, Lahore, Pakistan.


    'Bandar Qilla' by Ammar Faiz from Emergent Art Space on Vimeo.

    'Folk Game in the Outskirts of Lahore'

    My work addresses the adaptation of human behavior to the changing roles of the viewer and the viewed.
    I focus on the daily lives of ordinary people in my immediate surroundings, and in the process I record the evolution of their comprehension of personal and public spaces. To that effect, my work hinges upon the sociocultural anthropological approach, which compares and correlates people and their surroundings, and explores the ways they make sense of it as narratives.
    My research process entails visualizing such narratives through a time-based medium, such as a camera, juxtaposing environments and personally significant objects.  I therefore create narratives from the observer's point of view of these person-to-person and person-to-group relationships.

    'Gharmas Ghori' by Ammar Faiz from Emergent Art Space on Vimeo.

    With the evolution of my practice, I have created this series as an investigation of the origins of local/folk games (lok khed)
    of Lahore such as Gharmas / Kamas Ghori, Chug Chug, Body Body, Bandar Qila, Pito Gol Garam and others,
    which are increasingly becoming absent from public memory. The creation of these videos also serves
    the purpose of creating a lasting archive of these games.

    They were chosen as a topic of investigation primarily because of my interest in the fact that these games
    have indefinite, undefined and shifting rules, since they have been transmitted orally.
    Hence the desire to keep alive the memory of their practice.

    'Body Body' by Ammar Faiz from Emergent Art Space on Vimeo.

    In September 2016 Ammar presented this work at the
     'New Wight Biennial', 
    University of California, Los Angeles, in the group exhibition 'Eye Spy', together with a large group of artists from South Asia and the Middle East. 

    The show  "... illuminated a covert mecca of thoughtful artists expanding the perimeters of their cultural norms. Looking beyond the media-driven imagery attached to these regions of the world, this exhibition offers a candid view through the artist's lens' (from the curatorial statement, by Nasim Hantehzadeh and Sarah Malik)


    'Bandar Qilla' Snapshot by Ammar Faiz
  • The Portals Project | San Francisco, CA / Herat, Afghanistan

    An amazing project that is allowing face-to-face conversations between people across distances around the world.

    The San Francisco Portal at Crissy Field, San Francisco, CA [Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Litak, SF Portal Curator]

    On a beautiful, clear breezy day and within sight of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, we walked through fresh dew on the grass of Crissy field to an average sized, metallic gold storage container. We found the door open with a dark curtain containing the magic within: “a cocoon­-like setting to imply safety, time, permission.”1

    We, myself and fellow EAS staffer, entered to find an entirely black room, apart from the far wall completely occupied by a large screen. Upon the screen was a life­-sized video feed of two seated young men. They both smiled and waved as we entered. It made me think about this gesture. A smile and a wave, both are friendly, welcoming, even caring gestures. These two men didn’t know us. They had no idea who we were, yet, in the following twenty minutes, they extended their space, their stories, and their understanding to us.

    Exterior of the golden shipping container with a list of locations of other portals [Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Litak]

    They introduced themselves as Herat's Portals Project curators from Shared Studios. The San Francisco portal curator, Anne­-Marie Litak, later described her experience working with curators across the country and across the world. “There is such a variety [of perspectives] with all of
 these curators [currently 30 in 22 sites worldwide]! The constants are the curiosity, the patience, and the immense heart that I see in these other organizers. It is tricky to disarm strangers; it takes a certain kind of casual love of Other. I am really inspired by the warmth, inclusion, and dexterity that I witness in these curators. The differences I see­­--oh, everything­­--dress, directness or shyness in conversation, education or ideas around ambition, relationship priorities, sexuality norms, religious beliefs, family dynamics, involvement in politics, sense of possibility or lack thereof. It is really astounding.” 2

    In the same vein of sharing cultures and embracing differences, Emergent Art Space
 also uses art as a gateway to conversation. EAS’s global focus is on building communications, across culture, transcending language barriers through art.

    The curators in Afghanistan, Khaled Salar and Saied Habibi, communicated with us in English and have traveled past the borders of Herat, Afghanistan, from where they were in a portal themselves. Saied is from Iran but moved with his family to study. Khaled started travelling to the United States when he was a student as part of an exchange program and continues to travel for work. They both work with people by day, as a soon­-to­-be professor and educator of teachers, respectively. I admired the effort they made to bridge the gaps in communication and was inspired to put aside my reservations of not being able to relate to their lives.

    Exterior of San Francisco Portal with instructions [photo credit: Uji Venkat]

    We eventually delved into a conversation about teaching and the wonderful privilege it is to get to work with students, to be able to witness their “aha” moments and build circumstances where their creativity thrives. Saied and I found common ground in math and problem solving. We even enjoyed trying to convince Khaled of math’s beauty and virtues.

    By the end we mentioned the weather. But it’s not like when you are in the same place
 as someone and you talk about the weather. This wasn’t small talk. Anne­-Marie says, “sometimes, I could see how it's a shame to not be able to share a conversation on the surroundings--­­to refer to little details and jump into a conversation from there. The surroundings can still be described, though!” 3  This wasn’t an exchange of pleasantries. This portal is an isolated space, yet it transported us to a common ground, like an embassy, a sort of ceasefire or peace zone between two nations, but instead between people.

    The weather was vastly different between fall in San Francisco and Herat. But weather is something we have all talked about. We all know what the sun is, what it feels like. What it is to be cold. To wear layers. To get a runny nose from the chilly air. There is common ground among all people.

    Sharing laughs, likes, and dislikes, we formed a bond with the Afghani curators in the twenty or thirty minutes we spoke. There wasn’t a moment of silence, wondering what to say next. There was no moment of wondering if what we were sharing was valid, useful, or necessary. There was no end goal and perhaps that was precisely the point.

    Anne­-Marie suggested entering the conversation without expectations of what it should be, and to dispose of the idea that we were entitled to a particular beauty in the conversation.

    Participants and conversations within the portal connecting people of all ages and races to other parts of the world [Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Litak]

    Part of creating an open space is asking questions without imposing an answer, not imagining that this conversation will be at all like any other we have ever experienced.

    We fear that we would not be able to connect with people in different social, political, and economic circumstances. People vary in their race, culture, experiences, and background. But instead of creating connections and seeking to understand what we do not understand, we shy away from what we do not know.

    Founder of the Portals Project, Amar Bakshi, says, “the most important facet of this whole project was the association with the world of art. The idea of purposelessness. Because people came to the portal like you would come to a painting or a sculpture. [They come] out of a sense of curiosity, hoping to be filled with joy, or ambivalence, or boredom, or ecstasy­­ but not to necessarily to get something. Not to get a date or get a job. And that association of purposelessness also allowed people to create their own purposes for the space.” 4

    The San Francisco Portal at the Presido in San Francisco, CA [Photo credit: Uji Venkat]

    The SF Portals Project is providing an opportunity to people of all backgrounds. The portal started as a “standard intermodal shipping container: because it’s secure, it’s accessible, it’s not that expensive, and it’s uniform.” There isn’t a requirement for prior understanding, expectation of what the conversation should be, or end goal. In creating the Portals Project, every detail from the location to the physical space was intentional in creating this atmosphere.

    Importantly, it is also open to all socioeconomic statuses, as it is free and in high­-traffic, publicly accessible open spaces. Anne­-Marie quotes Jonathan Herrera in her explanation: "‘If it is inaccessible to the poor it is neither radical nor revolutionary.’ We need all voices, all types of people, teaching each other. Those without homes, those with several houses, those that talk, those that listen, those that need to be heard...you already know. The chaos of the plaza! The only real, free education out there.” The portal not only gives people permission to express themselves fully, but is also unlike the public sphere, where people fear the recurrence of injustices they've faced.

    Participants and conversations within the portal connecting people of all ages and races to other parts of the world [Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Litak]

    Making connections and learning outside of one’s original capabilities is a driving force of the project. With the expansion of communication comes the expansion of accessibility. “This project is inherently about people: the difficulty and the beauty of sparking a conversation with a stranger. The black interior focuses the conversation on the individuals' performative habits, their dress, their presence, their ideas--­­how they act when they can't monitor their own appearance, or refer to just anything around them. It provides more visual information than, say, a confessional, but the same intimacy of being in an enclosed space, away from the stream of activity outside.” 7

    Litak hopes that if people disagree or have questions about this work, they do reach out to Shared Studios, but they don’t come empty handed. She encourages participants to first analyze the problems they see and think of what they would do differently, and then do it! We don't have enough action taken in the world.

    Participants and conversations within the portal connecting people of all ages and races to other parts of the world [Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Litak]
    The San Francisco Portals Project was previously set up in Crissy Field and outside the Officer’s Club in the Presidio. For interested participants, it has now reopened at Bulldog Tech Junior High School in East San Jose.


    You can find out more about the Portals Project at this website: https://www.sharedstudios.com


    1  Interview with Anne­-Marie Litak
    2  Interview with Anne­-Marie Litak
    3  Interview with Anne­-Marie Litak
    4  Amar Bakshi on re:publica ­
    5  Amar Bakshi on re:publica ­
    6  Interview with Anne­-Marie Litak
    7  Interview with Anne­-Marie Litak