Lebanese writer Amin Maalouf in his book Origins differentiates human beings from trees. According to him, trees have roots; humans on the other hand have feet, which instead of being fixed to a place, can take a man everywhere, anywhere. When we encounter a work of art, it also, like a work of art, transports us to faraway lands, despite the fact that we remain grounded in front, around, or inside the artwork – at a specific location.
The journey that a work of art offers, is multiple in its forms, formats and durations. Along with suggesting a sojourn to an outsider, it also incorporates the idea of travel in its structure. A video installation, a performance, a sound piece, all encompasses one point of departure and a particular point of arrival. Thus a viewer turns into a fellow traveller, almost part of the artwork.
These forms of expression, besides inviting the participation of audience also encompass the changing technologies of times. Thus a work of art, executed in these formats, whether reflecting contemporary issues or surpassing them, entails the history of its epoch: By merely encompassing the technique, tools, and facilities available in a particular period (in which the work could be produced).
So if the art of video installation was not possible prior to the invention of camera, the Performance was also not considered art, although similar kinds of acts were in circulation – in different contexts and societies around the world. Ritualistic dancing among African tribes, processions for certain religious ceremonies, narrations of myths and stories in public arena, in appearance were not different from ‘Performance Art’, but these were perceived being part of normal life, and not accepted as art.
Perhaps the journey of art is not to invent new forms, to discover new ideas, or to devise new technique, but is to realize art that existed within us, around us, and beyond us; yet never recognized. The present issue of Art Now Pakistan is an attempt to portray and present how art has moved out of a static format and turned closer to life. Breathing, moving, shifting, changing – almost speaking to an onlooker, the work is a replica – rather a substitute of the maker. Often containing his footage, segment of life, his sound etc.
For many the changing facades and formats of contemporary art has reduced the importance of human presence/relevance, but like stories, art is also made by and for human beings – so no matter if those were elementary sounds uttered to allure kids to sleep in a dark cave 20,000 years ago, or pictures of animals drawn on the walls inside those dark recesses; art still has a power to persuasion. Like the words gleaming on the screen of a computer, on a cell phone; or emoji sent through these gadgets – language and art are for human consumption/conversation. Mainly to satiate our age-old surge to know ourselves – possible only through art, and to some extent through each new issue of Art Now Pakistan.