KB19, the 2nd Karachi Biennale, which is showcasing eighty-nine projects by ninety-eight artists at seven historic and iconic venues across the city of Karachi until 12 November 2019 has released details of its first three prize winners. The theme of this year’s biennale is Ecology and KB19 invited artists to unpack the cultural dimension of the contemporary crisis of unsustainability, as well as its cultural roots and the origins of this narrative. Three prizes were awarded at the opening ceremony: the KB19 Peek Freans Emerging Artist Prize, the KB19 Mahvash and Jahangir Siddiqui Foundation Juried Art Prize and the KB19 HM Habib Lifetime Achievement Award.
The final two prizes, the KB19 Langdon-Malik Foundation Performance Art Prize and the KB19 Shahneela and Farhan Faruqui Popular Choice Prize Art Prize will be given at the closing ceremony on 12 November.
KB19 Peek Freans Emerging Artist Prize
This prize was created to recognize a young interdisciplinary artist under 30 with extraordinary ability to envision the KB19 theme, Ecology. This prize aims to encourage and introduce a new generation of exceptional Pakistani artistic talent. The Prize has generated tremendous interested and been incredibly inclusive. Applications were received from across the country, including Malakand, Peshawar, Lahore, Hyderabad and Karachi. The jurors were Adeel uz Zafar, Waheeda Bano and Muhammad Zeeshan. The KB19 Peek Freans Emerging Artist Prize was awarded to Arsalan Nasir, for his work In Karachi Live Birds Who Fly From Trees, 2019. In keeping with the KB19 biennale theme, internationally known Iranian/British artist and academic researcher Mohsen Keiany using recycled materials created an exclusive sculptural medallion for this prize.
Arsalan Nasir’s work focuses on the rise of urbanization. As cities like Karachi grow larger, this brings an increase in the interaction between wildlife and urban ecosystems. The horizon of Karachi testifies the change it has faced in the past two decades as it is interrupted by high rise buildings, tangles of wires, mobile towers. With tangible and intangible dangers, our need for communication has become an invisible enemy for wildlife, specifically for birds. What began as a jungle of hanging wires rapidly transformed into large urban areas being comprised of high rising mobile towers that pose a number of threats to birds: death by collision, exposure to harmful radiation, lack of natural nesting places, and interference of mobile towers with the Earth’s natural magnetic field for navigation that birds use. Using the ring toss game, his aim is to engage the audience in an immersive experience so that the activity of playing can be transformed into an activity of realizing and learning. The close, handheld interaction brings to realization the idea of how close at hand this disturbance in nature is occurring.
Arsalan Nasir obtained his Master’s Degree in Art & Design Studies, from Beaconhouse National University, Lahore, in 2017. He received his BFA from the University of Karachi. He has exhibited his work in several exhibitions, the most recent of which was at the Dutch Embassy and Karachi Biennale 17. He has also participated in several artist residencies, including the First Sanat Residency, Karachi. He is currently teaching as assistant professor in Dept. of Textile Design Technologies, Textile Institute of Pakistan. His energetic drive to explore new mediums has resulted in his development of interactive technologies within his artwork. The basis of his artistic practice is an exploration of memory, and relaying of memories through everyday stories. He is especially interested in the concept of collective recollections, and the role of imagination in the formation of the personal narratives that constitute our memories, which are subsequently passed down asedifying experiences.
KB19 Mahvash and Jahangir Siddiqui Foundation Juried Art Prize
For the second consecutive biennale, (KB17 and KB19) the Juried Art Prize is sponsored by Mahvash and Jahangir Siddiqui Foundation. This prize was created to recognise one national or international participating artist of KB19. This award revolves around identification of exceptional talent and work based on originality of creativity, interpretation of the theme, innovative use of material and imagination of depiction. The jurors were Amna Naqvi (Art Collector and owner of the AAN Ghandhara Art Space), Ingo Arend (Art Critic and Cultural Journalist) and Stephen Welsh (Art Curator, Manchester Museum). The KB19 Mahvash and Jahangir Siddiqui Foundation Juried Art Prize was awarded to Rashid Rana for his installation, Beauty Lies, 2019. Artist, Assad Hussain, was commissioned to create the bespoke trophy.
Rashid Rana’s installation unfolds in two parts: a video projection and a photo montage. In the performative video, Rashid Rana evokes references to the iconic painting Wanderer above the Sea of Fog by Caspar David Friedrich, as Rana stands amidst one of the largest garbage dumping sites. The structure of the work is reminiscent of a painting from the past but it also relates to one’s own reality: of being exposed to waste, especially in the port city of Karachi. The situation of being exposed to trash at close hand, the experience of the single artist/the maker is repeated and experienced by the viewer/visitor as he/she stands in front of the second part of the installation. The photo montage, and the flatness and vastness of the seascape reveals images of trash and waste plastic bags in great numbers giving the illusion of sea waves with pictures of sailing ships inserted within. These are three chapters of the same story which refers to colonialism and then consumerism that produces affluence (as well as ‘refuse’) far beyond its need or control.
Rashid Rana is widely considered to be the leading Pakistani artist of his generation. He first came to prominence in South Asia alongside artists such as Subodh Gupta, before gaining wider, international exposure after the millennium. In his photography, sculpture and digital printmaking, Rana transposes imagery from one time and place to another, through manipulation, repetition and rearrangement. His early photomontages – originally made by painstakingly reconfiguring tiny squares of imagery into micro-mosaics by hand, latterly by using computer software – superimposed hardcore pornography on to the silhouette of the burqa (Veil, 2004) and turned hundreds of graphic slaughterhouse snapshots into facsimiles of Persian rugs (Red Carpet, 2007). Rana’s telescoping of politics, civilizations and time also appears in three-dimensions, in works from the series Desperately Seeking Paradise (2007-2011), which splice Lahore’s humble streets and houses with the architectural promise of skyscrapers and the slick lines of Minimalism. The new wall-sized Crowds are similarly tumultuous composites formed of innumerable multitudes of human protest and unrest. Another continuing body of work, produced under the heading Language, crosses the cultural rubicon between historical and contemporary art, obliterating iconic works by Jacques Louis David and Gerhard Richter with data streams made up of horizontal strips of miniature interlocking bytes of visual information. Rashid Rana was born in Lahore, Pakistan in 1968 where he lives and works. He trained as a painter at the National College of Arts in Lahore, Pakistan and at the Massachusetts College of Fine Arts in Boston, USA. He is the founding faculty member and head of the Fine Art department at Beaconhouse National University in Lahore, Pakistan. Solo exhibitions include the Pakistan pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale, Italy (2015); ‘Labyrinth of Reactions’ at Mohatta Palace Museum, Karachi, Pakistan (2013), Cornerhouse, Manchester, UK (2011) and Musée Guimet, Paris, France (2010). Participation in major group exhibitions includes Arnolfini, Bristol, UK (2016), Kiev Biennial, Ukraine (2012), Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland (2010), Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK (2010), Saatchi Gallery, London, UK (2010) and the Asia Society, New York, USA (2009).
KB19 HM Habib Lifetime Achievement Award
The KB19 Lifetime Achievement Award is an initiative to celebrate and acknowledge a senior artist, artisan, art practitioner, art educationist or art critic for significant contributions to art and culture in Pakistan, for a vibrant career spanning at least 40 years. Supported by Zahida Habib in the name of her father, this award commemorates the life and contribution of HM Habib, and serves to prolong his legacy. This Award is the art community’s highest honour, given in recognition of an individual who has been influential in creating new and innovative ideas and practices in the field of art in Pakistan, while also dealing with several social and cultural concerns. A group of esteemed nominators comprising of artists, art educationists selected and nominated individuals in the first phase for this prize from different regions of Pakistan. The jurors were Nada Raza, Art Critic Aasim Aktar and Niilofur Farrukh.
The KB19 HM Habib Lifetime Achievement Award winner was Akram Dost Baloch. Artist, Amin Gulgee, was commissioned to create the bespoke trophy.
Akram Dost Baloch was born in Nushki, a border town in the south-west of Balochistan province of Pakistan in 1958, and received his school education there. He graduated with his BFA from National College of Arts, Lahore, and is among the founding faculty of The Department of Fine Arts, University of Balochistan. He paints and sculpts and the themes of his work are wide ranging, with a heavy focus on human rights. The dominant aesthetics of his work are inspired by the traditional motifs of Balochistan, an area to which he has contributed much himself; Baloch wrote his PhD dissertation on the traditional patterns of Baloch embroidery and handicrafts, and has contributed invaluable items to the collection on Balochistan at the Mohatta Palace Museum in Karachi. Baloch has received wide acclaim, both at home and abroad, and is also the recipient of Pakistan’s President’s Pride of Performance award (2004). He is currently based in Quetta where he runs his studio and chairs The Institute of Fine Arts at University of Balochistan.
Karachi Biennale Trust would like to thank the Chair of the Prize Committee, Bushra Hussain, its prize juror members and its prize sponsors, English Biscuit Manufacturers PVT; Mavash and Jahangir Siddiqui Foundation and Zahida Habib for all their support.
Juror profiles for KB19 Mahvash and Jahangir Siddiqui Foundation Juried Art Prize
Amna Naqvi is the founder of AAN Foundation and AAN Gandhara Art Space. She is an art collector, philanthropist, publisher and an enabler of art projects and initiatives, which have led to the development of the contemporary Pakistani art space both locally, as well as globally for almost fifteen years; confounded with her husband Ali Naqvi, which supports art exhibitions and projects in Asia as well as globally. A very significant part of the AAN Foundation’s aim is to provide support at the very initial/conceptual stages, to projects, which could become platforms for further strengthening the artistic space in their own areas and geographies.
Stephen Welsh has been the Curator of Living Cultures at Manchester Museum, the University of Manchester, since 2007.He is responsible for ensuring access to a collection of over 18,000 ethnographic objects from Africa, America, Asia and the Pacific. Prior to this he was a project curator working on the International Slavery Museum, National Museums Liverpool. Stephen is originally from Skelmersdale in West Lancashire, leaving in 1999 to study classical archaeology at the University of Edinburgh, and museum studies at the University of Manchester in 2003. As an active member of the museum sector, both regionally and nationally, for over a decade; he is currently the North West representative for the Islamic Art and Material Culture Subject Specialist Network and is collaborating closely with the British Museum on several partnership projects. Ingo Arend studied politics, history and journalism in Bonn and Cologne.
Since 1990 he works as a art critic,cultural journalist and essayist for fine arts, literature and cultural policy. From 1996 to 2010 he was cultural editor of the weekly newspaper Freitag – from 2007 to 2009 its editorial director. Since 2010 he works again as a freelance critic in Berlin and from 2012 as the art editor of the taz – the daily paper, since then at the Deutschlandradio Kultur. He is also a Bureau member of the NGBK. Ingo was a member of jury for KB17 Juried Art Prize.
Juror Profiles for KB19 HM Habib Lifetime Achievement Award:
Aasim Akhtar is an artist, art critic and curator. In addition to gaining a BA in Design from the National College of Arts, Lahore, he researched English Literature. He was a residency curator at Japan’s Fukuoka Asian Art Museum in 2002. His curatorial practice involves An Idea of Perfection: The National Photography Exhibition (2004), The Figurative Impulse (2007), The Nocturnal Song: Night Theme Interpretations (2008), The Line Unleashed (2010), Pachyderm (2010) and Silent Decibels (2010). Akhtar is the author of two novels that have been released: Regards Cruises: Peshawar and The Distant Steppe: Indus Kohistan, and has just completed writing his third novel. He is a professor at the Fatima Jinnah Women’s University in Rawalpindi, where he teaches Art Appreciation.
Nada Raza has been the research curator at the Tate Research Center Asia and has successfully curated prolific exhibitions such as the 2016 India Today Award, New Delhi; and the Arts Culture & Theater Awards; London Award winning “Bhupen Khakhar: You Can’t Please All”, 2016. Raza has also organized exhibitions with works by international artists such as Meshac Gaba, Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, Zarina Hashmi, Sheela Gowda, Amar Kanwar and Mrinalini Mukherjee. She is the Artistic Director of the Ishara Art Foundation, which is a fresh non-profit organization that focuses on South Asian modern art. The organization has a broad regional definition that encompasses the diaspora and the region’s overlapping history around India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. Moreover, Raza completed her MA from the Chelsea College of Art and is currently a doctoral candidate at the Courtauld Art Institute.
Niilofur Farrukh lives in Karachi and moves freely between art criticism, art history, curatorial projects, art education and art activism. Since the 80’s she has regularly contributed to national and international journals and writes a monthly column for the op-ed pages of Dawn. Her writings are influenced by the highly political space she occupies, and her belief in the power of creative interventions. Niilofur co-founded ASNA, a non-profit emerging from a need to address the colonial rupture between craft from art in South Asia. Its main mandate was to foreground clay as a medium and help artists to make connections with craft forms and craft skills (www.asnaart.com). She is also the founding Editor of NuktaArt, Pakistan’s Contemporary Art Magazine (www.nuktaartmag.com). She is frequently invited to present her research on art and art criticism at seminars around the world and has participated in art forums on six continents. Niilofur is also the President of the Pakistan Section of Paris based, International Art Critics Association (AICA) and Vice President AICA International, Paris. She serves on AICA’s Commission for Freedom of Expression that is committed to protecting artists and their art against all forms of censorship. As a curator she has national and international shows to her credit, and represented her country as the Commissioner at The Asian Art Biennale, Dhaka, the Tashkent Biennale and Kathmandu International Art Festival. Her book, Pioneering Perspectives was published in 1996. She is the Managing Trustee of Karachi Biennale Trust.
Juror profiles for KB19 Peak Freans EBM Emerging Artist Prize:
Adeel uz Zafar is a Karachi based artist, illustrator and art educator. Zafar received his BFA from National College of Arts, Lahore in 1998. Along with 6 solo shows to his name, his works have also been featured in several international and national exhibitions. He has participated in both national and international residencies, including the Studio R.M Residency, Lahore, Paramatta Artists’ Studios and Cicada Press COFA UNSW, Creative Fusion International Artists Residency, Cleveland Foundation, Cleveland, Ohio, USA and at C3A – Center of contemporary art, Cordoba, Spain in collaboration with the AAN Foundation. Currently he is represented by FOST Gallery, Singapore & AAN Gandhara-art Space, Karachi-Hong Kong.
Waheeda Baloch is a performance artist, educator and a curator, who lives and works between Jamshoro and Karachi. She received her bachelors from the University of Sindh, and M.A. from Curating Stockholm University, Sweden. She is pursuing a PhD at the Department of Islamic and Asian Art History at the University of Bonn, Germany. Baloch alongside also engages in writing;her writings revolve around art, artists and exhibitions. She interweaves art with music and is keenly interested in an art practice that involves history and historical research. She extracts from history and develops her conceptual framework by reconstructing narratives affecting the individual as well as society at large. Baloch has also curated several exhibitions in Pakistan which include group exhibitions and her iconic solo performance The Left to Choose at ArtChowk Gallery in 2014. Waheeda Baloch lives and works between Jamshoro and Karachi.
Muhammad Zeeshan, based in Karachi, is the curator of the second iteration of the Karachi Biennale. KBT is committed to working with curators anchored in the city for the first few Biennales so they can provide a strong lens to connect the local to global through shared experiences and concerns. Muhammad Zeeshan’s curatorial practice defines a new attitude in the art that foregrounds the urgencies of our time. Shows curated by him offer collisions between a work and our expectations of it: audiences cannot just lean back and agree. He has conceptualized three Sanat Residences and has been a mentor to its young participants. His curatorial thrust is to empower marginalized talent with opportunities and likes to works across generations to activate overlaps and divergences. Zeeshan graduated from National College of the Arts, Lahore with a degree in miniature painting. He has exhibited extensively in Pakistan and abroad. His work is a part of permanent collections at the Metropolitan Museum of Art New York, the British Museum London, and the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum. His public projects include the Art Park Project in the Dubai Art Fair, Ishtehaar Lagaana Mana Hai, Public Art Project and KoCa Berlin.