Lahore Biennale 01

Lahore constitutes a rich and complex urban site for artistic intervention. The city has seen successive social, ideological, economic, and political changes over its extended past; including the eras of the Mughals, the Sikhs, the British Raj and post-Partition sovereignty. Although the city has been reconstructed numerous times, both physically and ideologically, it has demonstrated resilience and adaptability, and has emerged as a major agricultural, industrial, educational, and cultural center in South Asia.

The city today consists of a palimpsest of various communities, distinctive histories, and diverse world views. As an increasingly transnational city that includes disparate migrant groups, Lahore’s modernization is proceeding at a faster pace than ever.

With its multifaceted cultural legacy and numerous educational and cultural institutions, Lahore has produced some of the most internationally acclaimed artists of the region. Many of these artists have come from urban and rural backgrounds from across Pakistan and abroad. Although their work has brought some regional and global recognition to the city, this achievement is based primarily on the reputation of individual artists and the pedagogy within selected educational institutions. The city itself has not so far significantly featured as a space that consistently engages artistic practice with diverse publics.

Thoughtful regional and global contemporary art projects in the city can serve to challenge and empower the relatively secluded local publics towards greater participation in contemporary cultural developments. These engagements can energize new relationships of residents and visitors with the city, where the past can be reflected upon, the present debated in new ways, and the future anticipated in a pluralist and progressive direction.

By virtue of its dense historical background and contemporary cultural and social ferment, significant artistic engagement with Lahore can also offer a more complex view of the lived realities of Pakistan at large. Given the limited representation of Pakistan in global media, and the relative scarcity of regional dialogues within South Asia, there is a genuine need to foster a deeper and multifaceted exchange between Lahore, the region, and the rest of the world. The diverse and parallel realities of Lahore and Pakistan have remained somewhat underground. It is time to project them on the national, regional, and global stage via reflective, open-ended, and investigative cultural projects.

In order to address the dynamics of “public engagement” in the arts, LB01 will test the parameters of “art” and “public,” and contextualize this relation within the specificities of Lahore and in a global context. For this purpose, the LB01 will develop diverse projects in public spaces and create public programs, along with opportunities for critical thinking and practice in its Academic Forum. The frameworks of engagement will be varied; and will include tapping into Lahore’s public consciousness or collective memory, conversing with existing institutions that seek renewed participation, or proposing new ways of community involvement.

Exhibitions and events for LB01 will be held at seven major venues that engage with the city’s Mughal, Colonial and Modern layers. The inaugural Biennale recognizes the city in relation to its region, as reflected in the presentation of artists selected, and in the Biennale’s core and collateral programming. Over 60 artists will participate, including artists based in Bangladesh, India, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, Sri Lanka, as well as from Europe and the United States.

The LB01 organizational team includes Director Qudsia Rahim, curating the public arts projects; Iftikhar Dadi developing the academic program; Raza Ali Dada advising on production and exhibition design; and Ayesha Jatoi overseeing publications.

+

LB01 Director’s Statement

Qudsia Rahim

Director LB01
Executive Director LBF

Qudsia Rahim

Director LB01
Executive Director LBF

Qudsia Rahim received a BFA from the National College of Arts (NCA), Lahore and an MFA from Alfred University, New York. She has since worked in art academia, first at Alfred University and later as an Associate Professor at the National College of Arts, Lahore where she was actively involved in mentoring and overseeing studio practice in the Fine Arts Department. Additionally, she was Curator of Zahoor-ul-Akhlaq Gallery at the NCA and during her term organized many significant art exhibitions, both domestically and internationally. She has independently conducted noteworthy and insightful research-driven exhibitions, including Stet, a contemporary art exhibition at the Lahore Literary Festival 2014. Rahim has also developed and executed numerous international exchange and artists’ residency programs over the years.

The Lahore Biennale Foundation (LBF) was founded in 2014 in an effort to create opportunities for the promotion of the visual arts in ways that encourage public involvement in the arts. In our past projects, we have focused on furthering opportunities for creative practitioners to develop their work and present it to local and international publics. We have successfully executed numerous public-private projects in Lahore and elsewhere during the previous four years.

Along with my team and the board of the Lahore Biennale Foundation, I am very proud to present the inaugural edition of the Lahore Biennale, the flagship event for LBF planned to be held every two years.

Historically, Lahore has been one of the capitals of arts, culture and letters, a city of gardens and monuments. Today, the city is home to prominent artists, cultural practitioners, music gharanas and art institutions. However, given that Pakistan lacks spaces such as museums of contemporary art to showcase such work on a sustained basis, one of the aims of the Biennale is to create this exposure for local audiences, and to enrich conversation and dialogue within the local, and global art scene.

Our vision for the biennale is a decentered one – meaning that instead of curatorial authority being divested solely in one person, we have chosen to work through collaboration. For this reason, the biennale has engaged multiple curatorial voices, and has a dedicated academic advisor and a dedicated publications advisor. Working with the advisors of the Lahore Biennale Foundation, our team has developed a program in which the city of Lahore emerges as a point of complex focus, and as a node of exchange between the region, and the rest of the world. Keeping in line with the very active public arts mandate of the Lahore Biennale Foundation, segments and projects within LB01 have been developed with the city’s various organizations, institutions, and individuals, harnessing various public resources and being shaped by them.

For LB01 we have also commissioned many new site-specific installations of contemporary art. Some of these engage with the idea of nature, others work with Lahore’s layered history and diverse geography, while others allow chances for us to take control of our own narratives. Another focus of the exhibitions and programming is to bring the work of artists and the voices of curators and scholars working on South and West Asia, to Pakistan. We hope these efforts will continue to foster greater mutual understanding and cooperation in future, as well as develop greater institutional expertise in Pakistan.

The Biennale and its programs are made possible through the support extended to us from artists who have been the true champions in this process as they have generously devoted time and effort to their projects, and believed in our creative vision. I would like to thank the board, my advisors, and especially my family for their unwavering support.

We are also grateful for the support of the government and various departments of the government that have assisted us throughout the process, our private sponsors, and our
international cultural partners. We acknowledge this in humility, and value the trust individuals and organizations have placed upon us in realizing the first Biennale.

+

Advisors

Iftikhar Dadi

Advisor / Academic Content Director
LB01

Iftikhar Dadi

Advisor / Academic Content Director
LB01

Iftikhar Dadi is an associate professor in Cornell’s Department of History of Art. He is the author of Modernism and the Art of Muslim South Asia (2010) and the edited monograph Anwar Jalal Shemza (2015). Dadi has co-edited Lines of Control: Partition as a Productive Space (2012); and Unpacking Europe: Towards a Critical Reading (2001). Dadi serves on the editorial boards of numerous journals, is an advisor to Asia Art Archive (Hong Kong), and co-director of The Institute for Comparative Modernities at Cornell University. He received his Ph.D. from Cornell. As an artist, Iftikhar Dadi has collaborated with Elizabeth Dadi for twenty years. Their practice investigates popular media’s construction of memory, borders, and identity in contemporary globalization, and the productive capacities of urban informalities. Their work has been widely exhibited internationally.

Ayesha Jatoi

Advisor / Publication
LB01

Ayesha Jatoi

Advisor / Publication
LB01

Ayesha Jatoi is visiting faculty at the National College of Art MA (Hons.) Visual Arts Programme. She was co-publisher and one of the founding editors of the Journal of Contemporary Art and Culture. Jatoi is a practicing artist and activist. Trained in miniature painting, her practice primarily explores the traditional manuscript’s symbiotic relationship between image and text. While being immersed in the local aesthetics of iconography, she simultaneously questions the relevance of traditional modes of constructing images today; resulting in a practice which takes on hybrid forms. Her work has been exhibited widely locally as well as internationally- most recently at the Shanghai Biennale, the Dhaka Art Summit, WIP: Konsthall, Stockholm, and Nelson Atkins Museum, USA.

Raza Ali Dada

Advisor / Exhibition Design
LB01

Raza Ali Dada

Advisor / Exhibition Design
LB01

Raza Ali Dada is a highly regarded architect and teacher in his field in Pakistan. He is currently a managing partner at Nayyar Ali Dada & Associates. The firm has been the recipient of numerous awards including the Agha Khan Award for Architecture. Mr. Dada has 10 years of extensive experience in New York where he designed projects of various typologies. A supporter of eco-conscious practices, Mr. Dada has actively worked on sustainable projects and in raising awareness about the city’s heritage and environment. He is a visiting professor at the Beaconhouse National University and serves on the board of the Lahore Conservation Society. Mr. Dada’s artistic interests have also led him to work on custom objects such as furniture, lighting, and clothing; he is deeply interested in exploring how these objects and environments transform the experience of our physical surroundings.