Peepal & Banyan: A Cosmopolitan & Interdiciplinary Collective

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Peepal & Banyan: A Cosmopolitan & Interdiciplinary Collective

    The artworld is re-opening its doors and gallery shows are back after the uncertainty of prolonged lockdowns. Inside the Haus der

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The artworld is re-opening its doors and gallery shows are back after the uncertainty of prolonged lockdowns. Inside the Haus der Statistik, an art centre in Berlin, curators Zara Sajid, Benjamin Merten and Amna Mawaz Khan showcased Pakistani and German artists in a three-week exhibition titled ‘Peepal & Banyan. The collection included paintings, drawings, videos and multimedia installations. There were a series of performances, film screenings, art talks and a listening room held amongst the paintings, drawings, sculptures, prints and installations created a unique immersive experience for visitors.

 

 

The exhibition title is referencing a painting by Bibi Hajra Cheema. During the talk “Politics of Artistic Identity” Sajid shared that Bibi Hajra had a painting titled ‘Peepal & Banyan’ which is part of her larger series that commemorates the mausoleum of Ruqayyah bint-e-Ali located in Lahore, Pakistan. Bibi has painted other recognisable native trees Neem, Bairee and Dhaak that depict large gatherings of people. Her work celebrates community and has a transportive immediacy that connects localised relations and narratives capturing a shared history of people. The opening performance was by Abi Tariq, who created an installation placing a large mirror between two photographs. Above the mirror, he had the word “Jahil” (Ignorant) on the wall. Entering into the installation, Tariq sits on a carpet and invites the viewer into an interactive space exploring ideas on culture and identity. The photographs are titled “Directional Prayer” & “Language” the subject is posed within an interior space and a recognisably similar carpet like the one Tariq sits on for the performance. Bibi and Tariq are exploring the ephemeral and mystical origins of scripture and spiritualism by reclaiming depictions of ritualists.

 

 

Paintings by Abdullah Qureshi, Waseem Ahmed, Ahmed Baloch and Amber Arifeen had elements of figuration, geometry and stylistic techniques that expressed individual and personal experiences. The sculpture piece by Imran Hunzai is an intricately carved throne-like chair done in ancestral and historical craftsmanship with cultural motifs that are recognisably South Asian. The video piece by Daniel Hopp & YAYACLA titled “FOULPLAY” has a collection of actors, relatives, friends and Hopp himself in a blurring of staged, circumstantial, calculated social experimentation between documentary, research, morality and public interaction. We get to know Sara Farid’s photojournalistic practice during the “Politics of Artistic Identity” talk where she mentions “Dekho Magar Pyaar Se” is a photo essay created after spending time with the transgender community of Pakistan. ‘Peepal & Banyan’ examines how Pakistani artists use art as a form of resistance against the injustices, censorship and restrictive social environments. In Shireen Ikramullah’s piece “My Body My Choice” (Mera Jism Meri Marzi) she highlights the Pakistani women’s freedom movement’s powerful slogan painted onto one of the main gallery windows. The work of Shehzil Malik, Isma Gul Hasan, and Akeli Larkian Group focus their imagery on women’s rights, human rights, freedom of speech and countering patriarchal hierarchy rampant in the country. Along the same lines of art expressing social commentary, the futuristic illustrations of Omar Gilani offer an imaginative VR experience of rapid gentrification, damaging urbanisation, disproportionate socio-economic development and climate crisis creating a believable and not so distant dystopian Pakistan.

 

 

The exhibition spent every weekend hosting performances, screenings, talks and listening room sessions with Pakistani and German artists coming together. The collaboratively choreographed dance performance by Amna Mawaz Khan & Franka Marlene Foth performed by the FMKF collective was titled “Ibtida” that featured traditional movements from Bharatanatyam. The second weekend featured series of panel discussions that focused on the changing social & political culture globally and in Pakistan around issues on gender, queer citizenship, the need for inclusivity and diversity to support creative people and artists. Topics included Politics of Artistic Identity that had H.E. Dr Mohammad Faisal, Ambassador of Pakistan and Lorenz Strittmatter, Desk Officer to Pakistan at Auswärtiges Amt (Federal Foreign Office) Germany. The exhibition is part of the 70 years of German-Pakistani democratic relationship and friendship celebration. Strittmatter had spent time in Islamabad and was familiar with the work of artist Gilani, commenting on how delicate political and social issues were being discussed within the animations that would have been harder to explore on a political platform. He went on to share that he felt art can be used as a transportive medium to become a voice to issues faced by the poor, women and other minorities. He highlighted the therapeutic practice of art that helps to create a positive, safe and inclusive experience for the public. Each speaker contributed to the talk with experiences, thematic explorations from their artistic practice creating a dialogue on the current state of contemporary Pakistani art.

 

 

In the series of talks, “Queer Elsewheres & Ways of Seeing” a three-way conversation between Imad Gebrayel, Omar Kasmani and Abdullah Qureshi highlighted the struggle, history and culture around ideas identity and queerness. Hajra Haider Karrar led two sessions, one on “Visibility and Opacity & Aspiration” with speakers Anam Abbas, Sadia Khatri and Nida Mehboob and the other with artist Bani Abidi on “Failure in the Everyday”. There were film screenings of “Natari” directed by Jawad Sharif & Haroon Riaz and “Rebel Optimist” directed by Mahera Omar. Digital transmissions and broadcasts were an integral part of the show as artists and speakers were able to participate in the panel talks via Zoom. The ending of the performance segment of the exhibition was an experimental setlist of sound artists that used electronic music, multiple instruments and visuals to create an immersive listening experience called the Listening Room 2. The session was started with a sound bath by Zeerak Ahmed who creates experimental music under the moniker Slow spin followed by Karachi Community Radio’s performance with Shehroz Hussain Khan on sitar and audio-reactive visuals by Jehanzeb Khawaja, Catman MU (Mudassir Sheikh) music accompanied by live visuals by 15sec.mp4 (Rahema Alam) and Perera Elsewhere (Sasha Perera) from the UK based in berlin creating experimental electronic music.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exhibition Website: https://www.thxagain.com/

The exhibition sessions can be watched on the Thx Again YouTube Channel Link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUI48sV7gp1wl69amOaVGqQ

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