Nashmia Haroon’s solo exhibition ‘Unfinished Conversations with Lahore’ at Rohtas 2 showcased works in the genre of photojournalism. Documenting transitory spaces in Lahore and their evolution into potential urban utopias she acts as scribe, presenting us with a visual representation of the sense of change one most often associates with lahore these days. Capturing moments of life in a city, that is in a constant state of transformation she alludes to the bigger picture and the question “where it is that we are heading?”
Today’s growing photographic community is made of people who act as our eyes bearing witness to the world around us. They consist of those preceptive individuals who aim to call our attention to the things we often tend to overlook in our daily lives while en route to our destinations. Haroon has a clear understanding of what she hopes to achieve, guiding our eyes with precision and honesty. So we can reflect on what we are already aware of but are actively trying to forget.
In her collages titled ‘Floating reparation 1 and 2’, She compiles each photograph as a puzzle piece reconstructing the existing construction sites, In the words of Jeff Wall, “the image is clearly a fragment of a greater whole which itself can never be experienced directly. The fragment then somehow, makes that whole visible or comprehensible.” Through these photographs without a doubt the viewer is reminded of glimpses caught while one peers out of the car window. The uncanny collective memories of a never ending parade of towering buildings which appear as if out of thin air.
In another piece titled, ‘Dome of the PPA’, Haroon has amalgamated images captured by her in 2015 of the Provincial Punjab Assembly’s former exoskeleton. She arranges them in such a way that each area of the building from the inside is on display on the 2-D plane, revealing the entirety of the empty carcass like building. Giving us a glimpse into the past, where its present functionality can only be hinted at. A place where echoes of a peaceful innocence can be heard once more.
The highlight of the show is Haroon’s large digital print titled, ‘Colossal damage 1’. This work is a form of palimpsest of the past, present and the soon to be future. The viewer is met with various ‘Unfinished Conversations’ via the intermingling of the visual imagery where everything is in a state of flux. It is filled with multiple layers of revelations, where one realizes that any previous recollection of the city only exists in memory. For in the entirety of this image is contained the essence of what one associates most closely with Lahore in recent times.
Haroon chooses to quote Michel Foucault’s concept of Heterotopia in which he claims;
“…Utopias are sites with no real place. They are sites that have a general relation of direct or inverted analogy with real/actual space of society. They present society itself in a perfected former self turned upside down, but in any case these utopias are fundamentally unreal spaces. There are also, probably in every culture, in every civilization, real places-places that do exist and that are formed in the very founding of society-which are something like counter-sites, a kind of effectively enacted Utopian which the real sites, all the other sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested and inverted. Places of this kind are outside of all places, even though they may be possible to indicate their location in reality.”
Commenting on the artificial nature of ‘urbanization’, where in the name of progress the government is pulling the wool over our eyes. To build room for the new, the old is being wiped clean or much rather buried under all of the rubble left by the heavy machinery. Naturally, forging our way forwards is the way things will always go, but by questioning these growing chasms we may prevent the festering wound from being infected. There by alleviating the chances of our society falling to rot.
In Nashmia Haroon’s own words, “…here is a space where two very different types of realms coexist, the question remains can they exist in time together much longer?”