Like machines, tools and art, boundaries and borders between countries are human inventions. Since the world as created by God did not have any such demarcation, except the geographical frontiers in the form of mountains, rivers, insurmountable forests and unapproachable deserts, which separate one region from the others.
But these political boundaries, an invention of modern times, are not restricted to actual places only, these survive more in the mind of man, who has to deal with this human construct on multiple levels and at various stages. Thus in order to cross the invisible but difficult (at times impossible) lines of/on the map a person is required to recognize and respect the differences, which – in some cases are mere illusions. For instance traveling between borders of two neighbouring countries, one registersthe change of the state, but realizes that the trees, fields, animals, water, air, soil and in most instances, features, language and customs of inhabitants from across the borders do not alter.
Ironically, these lines of maps are more engraved on mind, rather than existing on soil or visible in nature. However these categorizations (or cutting off) of regions continue to dissect and distort culture; and attempts have been made in the human history (including Iron Curtain, Khmer Rouge’s Kampuchea and Taliban’s Afghanistan among many others) to isolate a society from other influences and currents. An impossible task, because like wind and birds, ideas float beyond borders, practices move across the continents, and not only in this age of communication, but in past too, races, religions, rituals and languages have been traveling from one place to other.
The works of art is an apt example to defy the tyranny of boundary, since art in its essence is about freedom of thought, position and action. Throughout history art and artists have been questioning the reason or/and operating above the narrow margins of society; and have been pivotal in introducing new elements within a society. May those be illuminated manuscripts brought by Jesuits into Akbar’s court or wood cut prints wrapped around Japanese pottery sent to France prior to Impressionist movement, these changed the course of art of a place and period – and art history in general.
In our present issue we are focusing on how borders and boundaries are seen in art. Because more than a bureaucratic formality, these measure of separations have political, psychological and aesthetic effects. Especially in a region, which was unified before it was divided into two nations and further into three countries. Also the link between physical boundaries and virtual borders is also important in the realm of art and culture, because a country is may be situated next to another state, but can be more close to another country that is located thousands of miles away. As Pakistani at occasions feel more connected to (distant) Saudi Arabia than to India which shares its frontier with Pakistan.
In the In Focussection, both writers approach the question of a nation, its purity and globalization in their separate ways. Atteqa Ali discusses the question of Western influence on Pakistani art, while Pushpamala N. in her essay disguised as an interview invokes these issues on a wider context. Lali Khalid also creates these concepts of boundaries, in a subtle manner through her photo-essay. The Urdu essay of Raqs Media Collective, one of the leading exponents of art and theory in India today addresses the issue of how borders can exist or diminish in the present world – and in the world of art. AnilaZulfiqarHussain in her Urdu essay approaches the same theme within a Pakistani frame work.
Both the profile and interview for May issue incorporate the theme of boundaries and borders in art, as the profile is based upon the illustrious personality of Iqbal Geoffrey, the artist who has been showing in different parts of the world, and who has adapted a name that in its essence defies the restrictions of race, religion and region. Shilpa Gupta, the most prominent artist of her generation from India in her interview discusses the same concerns, in reference to her visual practice. Her work, due to its nature, structure and concerns have been part of numerous prestigious international exhibitions, recent being the Sharjah Biennale.
The May issue includes reviews and gallery news, butthe notion of borders in art addressed in the Art Now Pakistan is significant for multiple reasons because the world is divided according to certain balance of power, prestige, influences and impacts. The situation of world – split into different regions, particularly in our context reminds of Mexican president’s famous saying about his country. ‘Poor Mexico, so far from God and so near to United States of America!