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An exhibition of new works by Aamir Habib took place at Canvas Gallery, Karachi on Tuesday, 12th April 2019. Having graduated from the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, Habib has shown his work locally and internationally and is one of the few Pakistani artists who have used multimedia as their form of visual language.

 

Habib’s current body of work titled ‘Media is dead; long live Media!’ addresses today’s digital age in which media plays a big role behind political and religious propagandas and being responsible for creating an unhealthy influence on humanity. Known for having political connotations, Habib’s visuals are an interesting play of light, photographic images and videos that not only captivate the viewer but leave behind strong messages regarding the rapid digitisation and its adverse effects.

 

An artwork titled ‘Breaking News – 1’ comprised of an installation piece in which LED lights played a strong role in grasping the viewer’s attention. A radio was depicted in this artwork, which was continuously changing color and visual imagery. According to the artist, there was a time when radio overtook newspapers and it was feared that eventually, video would replace radio[1]. Taking the artist’s statement into consideration, this work was possibly a representation of the statement, as the work emphasised on its visual quality rather than the audio.

 

Another topic that was addressed in this body of work was the concept of ‘selfies’, reflecting upon the quality of narcissism that has begun to manifest in humans in recent years. A sculptural piece titled Morning Delight comprised of the figure of a sumo wrestler (or an obese man) taking a self-portrait with his mobile phone. What needs to be noted in this visual is the face of the figure which is shown considerably smaller in proportion to the body, possibly a reflection upon the obsession of showing oneself thinner and unoriginal. Similarly, a piece by Habib showed a hand holding a mobile phone, with an eye continuously blinking inside the screen, the piece being in the form of a ‘gif’. These visuals also lead one to think about the introduction of filters in mobile phones, which seemed to redefine the concept of beauty in this digital age.

 

‘Sada Bahar’ (Forever Green) was another interesting artwork, perhaps the most engrossing one amongst all the works. Being a sculpture-cum-installation piece, it consisted of a hospital door with the video of a surgery being shown in the place of the glass panel. The door was possibly symbolic of the gap between people who suffer during incidents of violence or tragedy and between the people who observe from their television screens. Such instances not only develop hatred for the ruling elite, but at the end it makes the sufferer extremely helpless, making one ponder about the purpose of media and how it creates rifts at the end.[2]

 

Lastly, a visual titled ‘Good Cock, Bad Cock’ consisted of two cocks, standing beak to beak, as if a fight was about to ensue. The cock fight, being a common and popular tradition in Pakistan’s rural culture, is possibly reflecting upon the divisions present in our society in terms of religion, caste and also politics. Taking the example of the political party system in Pakistan, there is always someone who media wants to malign, while there are others who the media approves of.

 

Looking at Habib’s visuals, they not only address issues of today but also prove that media has enough power to distort reality, with each form of media having its own specific propaganda. In order to spread awareness about this, Habib discovered his own language, which is not only engaging but leaves the viewer in awe of his visuals after experiencing them.

 

 

 

[1] Habib Aamir, artistic statement published in the catalogue for Media is dead; long live Media!, Koel gallery, Karachi, 2019.

[2] Habib Aamir, artistic statement published in the catalogue for Media is dead; long live Media!, Koel gallery, Karachi, 2019.

 

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