The Second Karachi Biennale was inaugurated on the 26th of October, 2019 at Bagh Ibne Qasim. Comprising of works by over a hundred artists from across the world, this Biennale addressed the ecological and environmental milieu of Karachi city and how its high rise buildings are impacting the smooth flight of birds. With a total of seven venues and an immense variety in visuals, this biennale addressed a global issue through the gaze of highly diverse artists, with each artist dealing with his/her individual concern.
The Karachi Zoo, which was selected as one of the locations of the Biennale, turned out to be the best suited venue according to the theme as it conveyed the idea of communicating with nature. An interesting body of work on display at the zoo was Mohsen Kienay’s sculptural piece titled Simurgh. Being his most recently created work, it comprised of multiple metallic sculptures of birds which reflected upon the state of migrants who have to flee war torn countries. Created out of metal scraps, these pieces possibly reflected upon the age of mass destruction and industrialization the world has entered into. On the other hand, Nabahat Lotia had created an installation piece titled Snakes and Ladders. Recreating the famous childhood game, this installation encouraged children to play outdoors so they can interact with their surroundings and nature.
Another interactive piece on this venue was a see-saw which was captioned Don’t grow up it’s a Trap. A collaborative piece by Qinza Najm and Saks Afridi, this art work had a giant wall placed between the see-saw, shielding off contact between the two sides. This visual was possibly reflecting upon the nature of children who are comfortable playing with strangers for the sake of their own amusement hence, a reflective wall was placed in between. But once grown up, they have to be careful around people, the whole scenario eventually becoming a paradox. Lastly, Khalil Chishtee had created figures out of trash bags to reflect upon the people of our country who have a causal attitude to solving issues while they are on their feet if they are working abroad. By attaching the figures as if handcuffed together, this visual possibly reflected upon the human nature of being dependent on others for solving problems hence, transforming the figures into a human chain.
The VM Art gallery is another venue that has been chosen for this year’s Biennale. Having a massive exhibition space, this venue had the most interactive art pieces on display, comprising of installation, film and a play of sound and light. Robbie Cornelissen and Karen Van Dam are two artists from Amsterdam who got to exhibit a massive installation piece in one of the halls at the gallery; creating a study between black and white, the artists sought to explore the medium of drawing through video and sculpture. While on the other hand, Manisha Gera Baswani is an Indian artist who made a giant sculpture titled Home using net, light and bird feathers, taking the reference of poetry to reflect upon the flight of birds.
Libby Hague is an artist from Canada who had created a large installation piece using animation and print. Created from the technique of woodcut, the artist referred to Emily Dickinson’s poem On This Wondrous Sea to reflect upon the issue of pollution and climate change. In this particular body of work, the artist narrates the story of a picnic, followed by a hurricane that seemingly floods the entire beach or poolside that has been depicted. In between the visuals, a text had been written which refers to a woman named Kendra Williams calling for help as she and her grandson struggle to save themselves from rising water levels, Williams apparently being one of the survivors of Hurricane Dorian that struck the Bahamas in the September of 2019. By visualizing the entire incident into a work of art, the artist was not only grieving but also commented upon the lack of importance given to such a crucial issue today.
Taking the works of both the venues into consideration, the artists have not only made remarkable visuals but they shed light upon a global cause which includes protecting the environment, animals and the climate, commenting upon the silence of World Powers. Not only will this highlight the issue but it will hopefully encourage future artists and people of our country to act upon this issue promptly.
The Biennale will continue till the 12th of November, 2019.