Cities are metaphors – or like metaphors; you can make any meanings out of them. For a person living in Lahore, the city can be a thousand and one places. If all the inhabitants of Lahore were to describe the town, each account would be different from other, since a city is not just a construction of brick and mortar, stone and steel, roads and bridges, parks and canals, humans and animals, but a combination of inner and outer spheres. A blend of observation and imagination. A mix of dream and reality. Day and night. Ethnicities, languages, faiths, fashions, customs, classes coexist in the parameter of that limitless land we call a city.
City in the realm of art has emerged in many ways. From relatively outdated practices of painting cityscape, to works created about the city in various forms, materials and techniques. Some attempts in public art are means to bring down the boundaries between the exclusivity of art (of galleries) and spaces which are frequented by those who never step into art world. However, there is a difference between public art and art for public; in our context, often two are confused and combined. For many practitioners, the concept of public is as ambiguous as the idea of art.
But art in a city, in any format become a bridge between maker and viewer, occasionally switching their positions. Like a book is not a book – or complete, until read by a reader (author is the first reader!), a work becomes art with the interaction of an audience (and the maker is the first viewer!).
There is a history of installing art in public spaces for a large number of visitors, but recent rise of biennales and triennials have transformed the notion of art and public, or art and city. Instead of national exhibitions associated with a country, now art shows are connected to a city. Giving them a wider scope because of limitless possibilities and participations. Like Venice Biennale, which takes place in a city, but is not confined to Venice, Italy, or Europe for that matter.
Lahore has recently experienced the same, what other cities in the world are enjoying (some recent inclusion are Colombo, Kochi, Kathmandu, and Karachi). Of being at one location but not about that place. The recently concluded Lahore Biennale invited 52 artists from around the world to show their works at venues as varied as a garden, canal, an art gallery, the museum, Mughal monument, historic building and a big house in the ‘walled city’ section of the town.
The current issue of Art Now Pakistan presents essays, profile, interview and reviews highlighting Lahore Biennale 01; because an exhibition, an art event, or any experience has a limited life and calculated duration, but a text on it prolongs its life, extends its meaning, and provides diverse interpretations. The multiplicity that a piece of writing offers is matched with the multiplicity we are witnessing today in the sphere of art; since last few decades the centre of art has ceased to be one, or located in one city, country or continent. Now there are several new centres of art, spread in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, besides Europe, Australia and Australia.
Lahore Biennale 01 added a new centre, Lahore, on the map of international art.