Transformative art for the proletariat

HomeIn Focus

Transformative art for the proletariat

Rameesha Azeem’s interdisciplinary and site-specific curatorial project called “The Factory” invited 22 artists to explore and create installations i

Durriya
Art & Value
Politics of Language, Colonisation, and Visuality

Rameesha Azeem’s interdisciplinary and site-specific curatorial project called “The Factory” invited 22 artists to explore and create installations inside the Chawla Footwear industrial enterprise. The participating artists were Abid Aslam, Suleman Khilji, Mohsin Shafi, Suleman Faisal, Rabbya Naseer, Unum Babar & Matt Kushan, Ammar Faiz, Saba Khan, Komal Naz, Dua Abbas, Mahbub Jokhio, Ali Shariq Jamali, Ali Baba, Rabeya Jalil & Rabeeha Adam, Ayaz Jokhio, Rabia Ajaz, Hassan Mujtaba and Faizan Naveed. The journey of this hybrid artist residency started two years ago opening on 30th January 2022. Rameesha brought artists to the site for over a year and a half providing unrestricted access to industrial materials, machinery, engineering technicians and installation staff. The artists conceptualised, prepared and created their pieces both on-site and remotely at their studios. The monumental scale of the works and the variety of immersive environments created through installations were spread across the factory space. The viewer could spend up to three hours walking through the several levels, large halls, wall spaces, loading docks, warehouses, gardens and side alleys that had been activated for the exhibition. Rameesha shared that they recorded 1000 visitors coming to see the exhibition in less than 5 days of the opening. 

The artist Hassan Mujtaba created a three-part series titled “Transient Modulation” that begins outside the main factory building where the viewer encounters a high rise structure made using pieces of metal pipe welded together with a single LED light on the pole mimicking a live signal. The rust on the metal instantly connects the mighty pole with the scattered industrial scraps collected along the factory boundaries. The height of the piece feels aligned with the other towering buildings around the area. His second installation is a walkthrough between carefully stacked metal containers, their industrial purpose is to store chemicals but the artist chooses to create a playful structure by stacking them into high winding walls. The third installation takes the viewer from the exterior into the interior of a warehouse storage unit. The light of these chandeliers emits a warmth that feels human as compared to the overwhelming concrete and metal environment. 

The lack of trees in an industrial sector is a deeply internalised reality that involves clearing natural habitats to turn them into commercial property. Faizan Naveed takes the structure of a tree including its roots as a reflective metaphor to draw attention to the relationship between industrial and organic matter. In his work “It Was a Tree of Life” he has extracted a tree from a suburban area of Lahore and transported it to the factory. It is hanging upside down inside one of the factory’s loading docks. The found tree was meticulously chosen after several months of research and field exploration by Faizan looking for the exact measurements so it could fit the height of the factory hall. Working in a reversal of the industrial process, the artist chose the specific site inside the factory before he started looking for the found tree. Similarly, “It Was a Tree of Life Too” is made from aluminium, a sculpture created at the factory but planted directly into the soil of the outside grounds. 

The kinetic sculptural piece by Ayaz Jokhio is called “Do Qadam Ka Fasla” in which the artist uses a pair of weathered shoes that are worn by two motor-driven feet like components. He combines the motion of a human walk with the repetitive cyclical motions of the machine creating a powerful visual of the thousands of workers within the factory. These workers have spent every day on their feet working in the factory for decades. The viewer starts to imagine  these labourers’ worn and torn shoes, following their countless steps that can be heard from the artist’s sculpture. The two-step motion merges into one singular loop as the title suggests leaving us heavy with the weight of their bodies at work around us. The sculpture is powered using simple AA batteries and a few wires, the entire piece acts as an exoskeleton of the shoe factory. These motifs of industrial processing are repetitive and synchronised blurring the line between human error, the artist Abid Aslam draws on this perspective to create perfectly woven tapestries titled “On Repeat” and “Eliminating” that use Synthetic Fabric treatment where an image is perfectly replicated using weaving machines where the viewer is unable to differentiate between the artists mark-making and machine.  

Rameesha Azeem intended that each of the participating artists would be fully engaged in all the various practices of the shoe factory. Rabeya Jalil and Rabeeha Adam collaborated on a series of works that include the mesmerising “Marks & Machines” that uses an Industrial Pigment Machine as the main drawing device reprogrammed to take instructions from the artist. Ali Baba uses Stereolithography (SLA), a laser cutting process that prints resin in 3D form. The result is an interesting pair of shoes that are designed by solidifying space between the feet and the shoe that do not come into contact. These otherworldly artworks are immersed in the deep reflection on the rigidity of machines. Exploring the materiality of factory byproducts, artists Suleman Khilji and the duo Unum Babar and Matt Kushan create artworks that use recycled rubber turned into Eva Sheets. Khilji’s “Remains of the Day” series is a four-part painterly tapestry where he paints a tall tree using natural pigments on an Eva Sheet. This sheet is unique to the factory as it is made from rubber waste and scraps repurposed as materials to create shoes. Unum Babar and Matt Kushan have created immersive installation rooms using Eva Sheets and recycled rubber scraps, in their works “Meshes Of Abandonment” & “A Labour of Discarded Love” the viewer is transported into an otherworldly space that feels futuristic.

Chawla Footwear is located in the Sundar Industrial Estate, an hour’s drive from the main city centres of Lahore. Rameesha Azeem considers herself an art practitioner having exhibited her work in several shoes, curated “A site for sight” that was collateral to Lahore Biennale in 2020 and now engaged in “The Factory” as a three-phase project starting with the exhibition followed by a book publication and documentary of the exhibition. Each artwork brought the viewer closer to understanding the environment, community and industrial life of the factory. The exhibition celebrates the heroes of the factory which are the workers, who volunteered their technical expertise, time and efforts in supporting the artists in their projects. The installations did not disturb the flow and grind of the factory, assimilating well within its hustle-bustle and ever present hum of the industry machine. The artworks offer a momentary intervention for the community to see themselves in a new light, reclaiming their workspace as an artistic platform to showcase their skills and talents. The collaborative effect of the project on the factory highlighted the adaptability and pictorial intelligence of the workers, who were able to execute the complex installations as they understood the fundamentals of design and engineering. There are many ways to interpret the exhibition as an essential study of the industrial commercialisation of social interaction in relation to its natural environment.

Newer Post
Older Post

COMMENTS

WORDPRESS: 0
DISQUS: 0