The word ‘techne’, translated as: art, skill, or cunning of hand, perhaps best summarises the programming of the Digital Anthropocene Age, replete wit
The word ‘techne’, translated as: art, skill, or cunning of hand, perhaps best summarises the programming of the Digital Anthropocene Age, replete with the urge to necessitate order out of chaos. In contemporary oracular fashion, cultural imports create avenues for political defiance, revolutions broadcast across social media, and a resurgence of nationalist fervour comes full circle crashing towards the nadir of information hegemony.
Enter Aamir Habib’s ‘Yours Truthfully’, on display at Canvas Gallery, Karachi, from 2nd – 11th November 2021, where a quiet revolt against subterfuge manifests in large-scale installations ranging from the Duchamp-ian elegance of found-object to pop-culture satire in the lexicon of contemporary symbology. Entering the gallery space and encountering the acclaimed Habib’s highly anticipated latest series, the viewer is immediately made aware of the maturity of his trajectory, while stepping into a carefully curated Wonderland that elevates the ‘art’ in ‘artifice’.
Indeed, Habib’s entire premise is based on this principle, as is evident in the tongue-in-cheek ‘Rose-ba-Rose’, a paean to the daily grind of casual Instagram filters, presentational perfectionism, and hyperrealist deep-fakes, which populate our feeds and minds, and eventually, inform our choices. ‘Selective Listening’, a monumental sculpture of fibreglass, aluminium and 2k paint, on the other hand, is a nod to the influx of augmented realities and pockets of dissociative trance often brought on by the charm of an audio book, podcast, blaring music or the subversive video designed to passively forward the agenda of an institution, government, religion or another ideological framework. The unassuming ‘ear-pod’ within the gigantic ear is thus transformed into a symbol of (dis)engagement with truth-seeking. Similarly, the wry ‘Press Release’ borrows from the franchise of illustrative satire, wherein a cloud of sepia hued smoke emanates from a saturated glass bottle containing dubious contents. The photo print and acrylic piece is an enterprising and timeless analysis of the ramifications of inauthentic publicity and mass consumerist puppetry.
Of course, the last two years have transformed the nature of what is perceived as ‘experiential’, and Aamir Habib is one of Pakistan’s pioneers in virtual sensitisation, where new-age technologies meet with material culture, socio-politics, and commodity-driven global communities which pivot off image-makers and their creations. Habib escapes the dangerous rote glamour of popular sensationalism by consistently returning to his roots while engaging with a broad spectrum of current events, shifting ideologies and self-reflective analysis. The references to sensory engagement in installations such as ‘Knead’ (Fibre Glass, Metal and LED Lights) and ‘Can You Feel It’ (Gas Room Heater Body and LCD Screen), aptly summarise the illusory nature of digital paraphernalia, while highlighting the human need for full-spectrum sensory immersion.
A true distillation of many truths hammered home, ‘Happened To Me All Over Again’, in resplendent monochrome, playfully contextualises manipulative tactics elevated to an art by consumerism. A frontal view presents a comical ghostly form, dripping with deceit, and peering out with triple sable eyes, while on closer examination, a profile view reveals the leering menace of shark fins. This piece perhaps best encapsulates the spirit of the exhibition; an encounter with the deified image as object, subject and narrative.
Habib postulates that the majesty of aesthetics has all too often been appropriated by elaborate machinations, and in his own words“…the bliss in ignorance is now beset in perfect inauthenticity”. The defect of materialism is that it casts a shadow of reproach on all non-material interests and occupations of mankind, doing away with imagination as purposeless. It is imagination, however, that keeps the flames of civilization fanned. In doing so, the perfunctory breadth of man’s life is punctuated by meaning, and Aamir Habib asks us to carefully consider the twisted truth in soporific beauty. He is ever the faithful genre-dodging raconteur, drawing from Conceptual, Minimalist and Neo-Digital concerns, yet commendably arriving at a lexicon at once futuristic and contemporary.