230 MB, Exhibition Without Objects, Exhibition catalogue, Khoj Artists' Association, 2013.
EXHIBITION WITHOUT OBJECTS (EWO) unfolds from an initial conversation that begins with a letter of invitation from the curator to the artist. Instead of showcasing art objects, the artists are asked to create digital narratives that play with the ubiquitous format of the PowerPoint, a standard(izing) presentation medium that is used by individuals from the military, academic, financial, corporate and art worlds alike to share their work. In addition, each artist has paired their PowerPoint with an “event” that further interrogates or explicates the themes introduced by their respective slideshow.
Slideshows have long been essential to international art communication. As a result of the increased pressure on museums in Europe and the United States to diversify their collections and have a more global scope in their exhibitions, curators are embarking on brief visits to the non-western world to research contemporary artists’ works and practices. In cities like Lahore, for example, curators from reputable western institutions conduct hurried studio visits with artists patiently waiting in queue with their computers. Faced with these constraints of time and knowledge artists must present their work in the most accessible, efficient and succinct format possible. This is a curious dynamic, to say the least.
These curatorial methods and the exhibitions they give rise to warrant critique. They also force a reconsideration of issues of temporality, materiality, marketability, and the power disparity between the curator and artist, exaggerated in this case by the weight that international exhibitions hold over local ones. In this context the slideshow presentation takes precedence over the art itself, a phenomenon that is shared with many contemporary artists working today due to shifts in digital technology and modes of communication related to the production, dissemination, and distribution of their work. EWO operates within this complex postcolonial condition and digital matrix.
EWO is a dynamic exhibition platform that will transform as it moves through cities along its designated route. The show’s format shifts attention away from the singular art object to focus instead on artistic practice and discourse. EWO aims to engage local audiences, to move bodies from one city to the next, and to build upon pre-existing networks to further strengthen, reinforce and engage knowledge that exists at each locale. The show is designed so that it travels the world solely on a hard drive. It is only a compilation of data and then, at each site, a materialization of bodies, events, and hardware that manifests the data.
The first iteration of EWO took place at The Drawing Room Gallery in Lahore and was titled 136 MB / Exhibition Without Objects (136 MB refers to the file size of the entire show). This subsequent iteration of the exhibition at Khoj International Artists’ Association in Delhi includes two additional artists from Lahore. With these additions the file size of the show and its title are updated accordingly and become 230 MB / Exhibition Without Objects [File Last updated 1 February 2013]. The exhibition’s “Calendar of Events” will also continually recalibrate along EWO’s route and includes artist-led events and a public program shaped by participants and context.
There are a series of constants and fixed operations in EWO. These include the letter of invitation sent to each artist, the PowerPoint slideshow and event requirements, and the hardware housing the exhibition. These constants shift the logic of objecthood normally assigned to individual artworks within an exhibition to the very format of the exhibition itself.
LAHORE > DELHI > MUMBAI > KARACHI > DUBAI
The artists’ PowerPoints in 230 MB / EWO range from more exploratory text based works to those mining image based archives. Several of the artists responded to the exhibition’s formal constraints by creating “events” that took advantage of the absence of objects — for example, by working with the non-object based materiality of sound or by offering conceptual proposals in lieu of performance-based events. Other artists offered meditations on the form of the gallery talk or played with liveness and presence through Skype conversations.
230 MB / EWO links Lahore and Delhi as well as the cities’ inhabitants through the exhibition platform. EWO aggregates as it travels, growing in each instance to include artists from the cities it visits along a path towards its terminus. This route traces a line that is poignant for both Pakistanis and Indians alike, as it connects cities with mirrored experiences of traumatic population exchanges during Partition. Within our contemporary context this route is also indicative of a particular directionality of the art market. This route and these cities are laden with spectral resonances and market possibilities that the exhibition’s format responds to by moving artists across the border for their events and conversations (visa and politics permitting). The show’s terminus in Dubai reflects more contemporary migration patterns, as the city has become an important hub for a range of subcontinental activities and industries, as well as a prevalent node in the wider region’s art market.
136 MB / EXHIBITION WITHOUT OBJECTS
Artists: Ayesha Jatoi, Mehreen Murtaza, Rabbya Naseer & Hurmat Ul Ain, and Saira Sheikh.
230 MB / EXHIBITION WITHOUT OBJECTS
Artists: Iqbal Geoffrey, Seher Shah, Ayesha Jatoi, Mehreen Murtaza, Rabbya Naseer & Hurmat Ul Ain, and Saira Sheikh.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
Wednesday, 13 February 2013, at 6:30pm
Kavita Singh in conversation with Sadia Shirazi, 60 minutes.
The discussion will address the curatorial premise of the exhibition, digital culture, and artistic and economic networks. Two of the artists from the exhibition, Saira Sheikh and Mehreen Murtaza will also be in attendance for the conversation.
Sunday, 10 February 2013, at 6:30pm
Rabbya Naseer & Hurmat Ul Ain
Skype conversation, 120 minutes.
This event occurs during the opening of the exhibition and will allow visitors to eavesdrop or participate in an ongoing Skype discussion between the two artists, for whom this software is a primary tool of communication in their collaborations. Cross Connection will expand, in this instance, to accommodate any Lahori artists in the exhibition who are unable to attend the opening in Delhi (if their visas are not issued).
Sunday, 10 February 2013, at 7pm
Saira Sheikh and Neha Mirza, event, 30 minutes.
Saira Sheikh presents Deinstall with museum guide Neha Mirza during the opening. Sheikh and Mirza will guide visitors through the exhibition and discuss aspects of artists’ oeuvres that touch upon prevalent concerns in the discourse around contemporary art from Pakistan.
Sunday, 10 February 2013, at 8pm
Seher Shah and Kanu Agarwal, discursive event, 60 minutes.
Shah’s PowerPoint will function as a point of departure for this conversation between Seher Shah and architect and curator Kanu Agarwal. Shah's slideshow takes the presentation format as an opportunity to test the productive frictions produced by splicing together recent photographic works from Hinterland Structures (2011) and Mammoth: Aerial landscape proposals (2012). The conversation will focus on autonomous objects in the landscape, as well as the role of drawing within architectural proposals in negotiating scale and erasure.
THE INVISIBLE RAIN
Sunday, 10 February – 17 February 2013
Iqbal Geoffrey, event, variable duration.
Geoffrey’s event is a generous offer of clouds sent from Lahore that will release invisible rain over Old and New Delhi.
7 MINUTES OF OCCLUSION
Sunday, 10 February – 17 February 2013
Mehreen Murtaza and AT (Azeem Tahir), sound piece played on Mp3 player, 7 minutes, looped.
Murtaza shared her slideshow with musician AT (Azeem Tahir) who then created an autonomous sound track as a response to her work.
Sunday, 10 February – 17 February 2013
Ayesha Jatoi, sound piece played on Mp3 player, 4 minutes 54 seconds, looped.
Jatoi created an experimental percussive sound piece consisting of the overlaid sounds of heartbeats.
The Written Versus the Art Writ, 2013
PowerPoint slide show, 25 slides, silent; 5 minutes, looped
Landscape Proposals, 2013
PowerPoint slide show, 42 slides, silent; 3 minutes 35 seconds, looped
PowerPoint slide show, 12 slides, silent; 1 minute, looped
This Film Should Be Played Loud, 2012
PowerPoint slide show, 122 slides, silent; 11 minutes 24 seconds, looped
RABBYA NASEER AND HURMAT UL AIN
PowerPoint slide show, 28 slides, silent; 7 minutes, looped
The moral rights of the Artist, 2012
PowerPoint slide show, 31 slides, silent; 2 minutes 3 seconds, looped
New Delhi, 2013