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Naiza Khan: Between Reasonings And Residencies

Residency is rather a strange word – presumably it takes origin from residence… which means that it does imply that “this is a place to reside ”but on the same podium … it doesn’t give complete control …it sneakily makes sure in its diplomacy  – “that you are not here forever – it is not home – you are on a residency so make the most of it ..If you may”

 

Naiza khan is one name that ‘I was told’ to survey upon for her efforts in this matter. I have seen some previews/displays of her works on different occasions such as the Lahore literary festival etc. and was lucky to be part of an artist’s book workshop by her when I was a graduate student at NCA but this opportunity has come as a privilege – as Khan’s role in the visual metamorphoses is poetic – groundbreaking and the un-surpassing curiosity and intellectual passion is more of a philosopher than anything else. Her surveillance encapsulates sea, land, sky and people to shells and ‘bread-in -Tehran’ –to the way people carry it like an object … anything and everything matters under the telescopic profundity of making negotiations, bargaining and relentlessly experimenting with existence…

 

Khan’s prior conversation in ArtNow Pakistan with Simone Wille establishes and paves a path for a few crucial ‘marks’ to understanding residencies;

 

In layman’s words they may be the compound of ‘’as you sow, so shall you reap” belief system. As an undergraduate painting student one my mentors would tell me “you are a sponge  …observe all around you – as much as you can take and then release it“ those words still echo in my ears when I’m making work. Residencies as I read through Khan’s journey offer an emblem of all that but the receiver needs to be vigilant, and ready to catch the ball!  As khan puts it “Surprisingly I managed to do a number of works, some which I shared with an audience at the Open Studio, and other works that I am working on. The dilemma for me as an artist in a residency program such as Rybon “(Rybon Art Centre, an international platform established by artists in Tehran– two weeks program) how to hold onto something critical, something tangible and meaningful in this short period of time, and to make sense of the space, the society and its customs that I encountered”  so this vigilance I may repeat and curiosity  are the peripheries of knowledge and vision  – as for the work ‘bahishti metro’ and all others that came along during stay in Tehran “the sense of space in the city” was the desire which led to new dialogue and art… standing in a queue to get the bread to secretly making video’s while a host/friend makes sure she/khan is camouflaged while the driver who is accomplice pretends not to notice them! Power structures and rules are broken – sweetly! While drinking coke, eating chips and wearing a headscarf in the bahishti (heavenly) metro in Tehran which could be taken for any fantastic metro in the world.

 

Thus the ‘moment’ and direct response to situations is not accidental but pivotal. “So much of what I did was to respond to the moment, and make critical decisions on the spur of the moment but it made me really happy to make such decisions because this residency, was a chance for me to create something that resulted from an immediate and direct response to what I was experiencing and feeling at the time. The idea goes back to my relationship to my drawing practice, which is an immediate and instantaneous response to an emotion or experience” this reminds of one of those visual quizzes which ask to find out the odd face or how many circles in the picture – it is a necessity /need to take immediate action and so the mind effectively works for rapid solutions – maybe residencies are a warning sign “do it or you will regret it” although there are numerous residencies around the world…on which I’ve heard visual artists, colleagues and friends  say  – “they just wanted us to be there ..there was no compulsion of creating” … yet … ‘being there ‘in itself maybe a minute-to-minute response – as one cannot be the same in a new place or can we? Somehow newness of surrounding does bring to all of us the sense of the child who waves at the airplane …

 

‘Continuity’ is my favorite lesson from Khan’s endeavors through residencies– as research is a word with a‘re’as I keep giving my art history and all other students a cliché example of how the Wright brothers would never have managed the invention of an airplane without Leonardo da Vinci’s extensive studies of flight, observing birds in the sky and his invention of the flying machine… all existence maybe a ‘re’ in some sense  – rediscover, remake, redo, reaccept, reabsorb .. Research … the possibility of this ‘re’ is such; “I was at Waterloo station yesterday and I realized that I should also do a piece on the London underground. I would like to build up this portfolio of underground videos in which Tehran is one destination; another is London, then perhaps Shanghai. It would be interesting to see the same structure in different places and the notion of universality would enter the discourse with Tehran as part of the same terrain” hence according to Khan the horizon of experience is infinite – and a residency maybe the flame to light a torch…

 

Khan along with Adeela Suleman has been the founder and coordinator of the VASL artist international residency – I don’t want to bore myself or you by going on about the structure of the organization, the supporting bodies or the academically and institutionally correct aims and objectives on the website – this entire profile could have been a cohesive survey on the structures of residencies and their regular values but reflecting on Khan’s practice ; the engagement  is deeply personal and this rarity makes it ground breakingly universal – artists wandering through Karachi’s bazaars or workshops,  discussions and deeper exchange on the city’s landmarks, history, culture, politics, people, economics, art, architecture…all of it may be superficial till the point of an individual ‘self-reflection’. Engagement,encounter and experience make Khan remarkably eloquent with the language of residencies. And therefore the Tehran residency which Khan was a part of ‘went full circle’ … to continue only with more profound creative excuses …

 

of residential bliss …

 

 

Sehr Jalil is currently a lecturer at NCA, Lahore – and a visual artist and writer

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