Andre Gide once declared: ‘The writer must know how to swim against the tide’. A descriptionwhich can extend to all creative individuals, including artists. Since writing or art making is a means to deviate from the usual, normal and ordinary, and to seek – as well as suggest the impossible. Often that impossible becomes unbearable for the society in which it is produced, thus we have examples from literature, film, theatre and visual arts, which were banned – mainly for moral or religious reasons. However Time – the ultimate judge – eventually bestowed a life of immortality to those works, which were decreed immoral, immodest and blasphemous both by the courts of law and large number of population.
This separation between the public opinion and the position or production of an artist is a modern day phenomenon, because in earlier periods, both the makers and consumers of art existed in complete harmony. Paintings, sculptures, poems, fables, plays were for a public whichnot only enjoyed those works, but understood and endorsed them too. Hence Shakespeare’s depiction of Jewish character in a damaging tone in The Merchant of Venice did not raise any negative response, nor the portrayal of people from colonies, such as Africa and Asia in a derogatory fashion was regarded offensive by the readers, viewers and audience before the age of modernism.
It was only later, that the artist and society – instead of keep on collaborating on the matters of taste and morals – start confronting on these issues. Hence the lawsuits against writers like D. H. Lawrence, Sadat Hassan Mnato and others became epitomes to evaluate the freedom of expression, individual imagination and the tolerance level of a society. A recent example of this attitude appeared in the case of a book written in English by an author of Indian origin, which was denounced being a sacrilege text. There were processions demanding the burning of the book, punishment for the author and confiscation of all the copies, to the extent that a number of people were killed for that cause; but today after two decades the book is still sold in all English bookshops, while the protestors are gone, disinterested, disintegrated, or became involved in some other conflicts. In a similar way the novel of Naguib Mahfouz, once barred in his homeland Egypt is available in several Arab countries.
In the art world there have been numerous example in which artists defied the notion of taste, aesthetics and ethics in/through their works and faced the consequences. EgonSchiele went to prison for his obscene and offensive drawings. At numerous occasions many art pieces were taken off from the walls before the opening of exhibitions on the basis – or presumption of to be against public morality. Yet artists continued pursuing their personal visions – no matter if those were in contrast or conflict with the norm of society.
Art Now Pakistan investigates this association of aesthetics and ethic in its current issue. While Adnan Madani examines the link on a philosophical level, Rashid Arshad focuses on a recent event to express his ideas towards desecration of art on moral/ethnic grounds in his essay. Naila in her photo essay approaches the same theme but in a subtle tone.
Two personalities, which are part of our profile and interview section are different, yet have an uncanny similarity. Waqas Khan rose to fame due to his meticulous works shown at international venues. Recently his art is selected for the prestigious Jamil Prize at V&A. While DurriyaKazi for a number of years have been concentrating on the cultural practices of this society along with contributing towards art teaching. In her interview Kazi shares her ideas about popular culture, art and the act of art making, along with its context in our surroundings.
In our regular sections of art reviews, studio visits, book review and news we try to bring all that is new in art world, because at present the prime moral task is to transmitinformation, and the sole aesthetics we enjoy today is the aesthetics of media, on our computers too!