When I entered the hall, it felt like I had stepped into another world; the art on the walls silently screaming, the sculptures and the sounds evoking a myriad of emotions. Karachi Biennale 2017 – a world of art and expression.
At a time when Karachi is ranked among the worst cities of the world by the EIU (Economic Intelligence Unit), there are a few dedicated Karachiites who are making constant efforts to unveil an aesthetic, intellectual, and emotional side to the city.
Karachi Biennale 2017 (KB17) is the largest international contemporary art event of Pakistan. This year, more than 140 national and international artists showcased their work at 12 different venues across the city. KB17 was a two week long event, starting from 21st October, 2017, and ending on 5th November, 2017. Conceptualized within the thematic framework of ‘Gawahi’, or ‘Witness’, the event conveyed the following message:
“When an Artist, as a witness, becomes the author of a counter narrative to resist erasure and misrepresentation, a visual space of defense is created. Our collective witnessing will disrupt the limits of our spatial imagination. Together, we can revisit our histories, rethink our present, and re-imagine our future with greater optimism.”
KB17 provided the public free access to a cutting-edge art experience in multiple formats: exhibitions, performances, videos, dialogues, and educational activities. The highlights of the event were the thought provoking exhibitions that were set out to take art to common people and to combine art and heritage. Some of the greatest heritage sites were chosen as venues.
The event sparked the imaginations of all its visitors. From experiencing performative work at the Frere Hall and an art exhibit at The Narayan Jagannath Vaidya (NJV) High School to the screening of an iconic documentary at the Capri Cinema, the visitors opened themselves to varied forms of art, letting it paint the canvases of their minds. “The art work is great and public finds it more interesting as they need to interact with it in order to understand it. A lot of the art work is minimalistic and there is a lot of depth to it,” said attendee Arsalna Usmani.
The closing ceremony took place on 5th November 2017 at the Beach Luxury Hotel. One of the most prominent artists of Pakistan and chief curator of KB17, Amin Gulgee, said, “Art belongs to everybody, not to just one percent. It belongs to people at large.” The event was a great success, as announced by CEO Karachi Biennale Trust Niilofur Farrukh. She said in the closing ceremony that the response to the event had been way beyond the expectations of the organizers.
Karachi Biennale has also worked on the innovative and creative project “Reel on Hai!” in the past. Under this project, cable reels were recycled into artworks and placed at various sites in Karachi, including the one at IBA’s Main Campus.
Karachi Biennale 2017 proved to be an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and, at the same time, an in-depth interaction with the art and cultural diversity that the city is home to. Thus, KB17 came to an end but with a glimmer of hope that this spirit of art shall live on for a long time. The Biennale will return after two years with new themes, inspirations, and colors.
Featured image credits: Sana Baig