In late nineties, I visited a Pakistani architect in Istanbul, and during our discussion, asked if he missed Lahore. ‘Missing?” he said “I am still in Lahore!”. This is not a singular or isolated case, since a number of creative individuals, once out of their country – are connected to their land of origin. In a sense these people reside in two territories, simultaneously. Their adapted state, and their abandoned homeland. And move swiftly, smoothly and subtly between the two in their dreams, desires – and art.
There are numerous examples of writers, who either in forced exile or voluntary displacement – living far from their cities and societies, recreate those in their fiction. The list includes Joyce of Dublin, Rushdie of Bombay, Naipaul of Trinidad, G. Cabrera Infante of Havana, Ismail Kadare of Albania, Julio Cortazar of Argentina, and many more.
Visual artists, not such specific way, but focus on places to which they belong, or if not a particular surrounding, they create imaginary homelands. One finds references in their works to places, people, legends, history, myths, stories, issues, and visual products from their initial/original regions. Physical distance – somehow cements the bond between a creative person and his lost region. The act of converting that link into art further strengthens the relationship between a man and the ground beneath his feet (both in physical and metaphorical manner). So art making in a sense becomes a metaphor for frequently taken long distance flights.
Flights of fancy more likely; reminding the story of a young merchant of Baghdad, from Thousands and One Nights, who once lying on his bed felt that he was being lifted, and later realized he was in Damascus, all in one night. In his new place, he started business, got married, had kids, built house, and another night, while resting in his bed in Damascus, he had the sensation of being transported to Baghdad, back to his old room.
Art plays such marvel and magic, when it comes to locations and destinations. Like a busy airport and thriving airline, it generates innumerable ‘connecting flights’, in which directions, destinations and distinctions blur – merge, emerging into a new entity. A destiny.
That destiny is ‘Connecting Flights’, the theme of present edition of Art Now Pakistan. Focusing on artists who are dealing with Diaspora, either as an immediate experience or a distant information. Texts and images collected in the current issue bring together ideas, positions and practices about location, address, and identity. Invoking many questions and situations, including of those individuals, who in the words of Agha Shahid Ali, live in a “Country without a Post Office”.