Jorge Luis Borges writes about a Chinese Emperor who ordered to prepare the map of his kingdom on the scale similar to the entire territory.In that story or parable, one can detect the traces of a basic concern – or conflict, that addresses the distance and difference between reality and its replication in art.At the same instance it indicates the relation between city and its representation in a visual format.
Perhaps cartography wasone of the earliest the attempts to conceive, create – rather convert an actual location into a flat image. Hence the tradition of making maps in ancient and medieval periods;with some interesting examples ranging from parchments of navigators to Mughal manuscripts in which the physical experience of moving within a space was translated/transformed into a pictorial entity.
But along with drawn into a map, the city or any liveable space manifests in many other manners as a work of art. For years towns have been represented in paintings and drawings, especially during Impressionism, which focused on the urban views of Paris. Likewise for various – and odd reasons, the paintings of old and historic quarters of a city have been popular, mainly for their exotic appeal. Yet a number of artists approach city as the site for their creative expressions, which includes graffiti, site specific works, installations and public art.
From Bansky to Butt (Asim), several artists intervened in the city to create works, which defied the established order of art, or the norms of a society. They challenged the existing parameters in terms of showing art, or treating art as a commodity. Instead their works – and many others – extended the notion of art since in their creative experience/expressionboth city and art merged and existed side by side.
In a way the planned city is also a reflection of someone’s vision and aesthetics. If one looks at the excavation of Mohenjo-Daro, the ancient city of Indus Valley Civilization, one is aware of its town planning; or the city being a manifestation of someone’s idea and imagination. At the same instance cities inspires creative individuals and their changing scenarios influence the pictorial practices of an artist.
In the realm of visual art the presence of city can not be denied, as apart from its picturesque representation, city becomes a site of socio, political and economic critique in the works of contemporary artists. For example city of Lahore appears a metaphor for the changing realities of a nation in the art of Rashid Rana. His digital prints denote the way structure and system of a city is fast moving and formulating a new notion of identity, which exists between East and West, local and foreign, urban and cosmopolitan. Likewise the impact of city is strongly felt in some artists from Karachi (commonly known as Karachi Pop), with the inclusion of transport visual, sign boards and popular products in their works.
However city – apart from being a source material – serves to be a point to reflect philosophically and anthropologically. A meeting place where artists, cultural theorists, activists and consumers mix and produce new realities. This and other dimensions of our situations and surroundings are analysed in the two essays by Farida Batool and Zarah Hassan. If one writer has approached the theme for its ideological basis the other relied on the case of a specific location. A fine balance that can be viewed in the photo-essay too.
In the Profile section Art Now Pakistan is proud to share the interview of Vito Acconci, the celebrated artist of our times. His interview with Natasha Jozi certifies that art does not have a boundary, not it can be contained in the confines of nationalism. The definitions of art, public spaces and commodities are acquiring new identities and descriptions, territories which are debated continuously.
The present issue, along with reviews of exhibition includes the book review of SalimaHashmi’s book on Pakistani art ‘The Eye Still Seeks’ by Dua Abbas. The book signifies how the art has moved beyond the border of a regional or civic address and can be associated with multiple identities. Much like the way importance of a physical address has declined inthe present times, because despite the fact a person is living in Cape Town, Casablanca, Colombo, Cordoba, Copenhagen or Cairo, one prefers and uses the choice address such as Hotmail, Gmail or Yahoo: the new cities/sites of our art, life and future!