The current exhibition of contemporary Pakistani art, “Resemble Reassemble,” up at the Devi Art Foundation, was curated by Rashid Rana from the private collection of Lekha and Anupam Poddha, and fits comfortably within the context of contemporary discussions surrounding the peace talks between India and Pakistan and the Aman ki Asha (Hope for Peace) joint initiative between the Times of India and Jang Group of newspapers.
In January of this year I attended a peace conference between India and Pakistan where the inaugurator opened with a light hearted remark about the lack of difference visible in a hall that was at once full of Pakistanis and Indians. It is this move away from the tired, worn out, and often parochial notions of ‘difference’ and ‘identity’ that has been picked up by Rana in his curatorial efforts to highlight what he has described as the international and global undercurrents that work to make the artistic practices of our age so unique.
At a time of an apparent trans-nationalism, "Resemble Reassemble" is very literally and unavoidably a ‘national art show.’ However, while the exhibition is never able to wholeheartedly break free of this baggage, the individual works themselves along with a pertinent curatorial assemblage seem move beyond the limits imposed by the idea of both the nation and its art.
There are 45 artists included in the exhibition and well over 70 individual works – a conglomeration of ideas and materials too vast and rich to adequately pigeonhole. However, as I moved throughout the space and between the many, many works I couldn’t help but pick up on a kind of recurrent mood of duality – in both form and idea. In pieces that played with materials as diverse as embroidery, broken egg shells, worn out clothing, broadcast media, and bathroom appliances, there was a kind of coupling, a pairing, an uneasy equivalence and symmetry through which metaphors emerged carrying a multitude of meanings open for interpretation from the intimately personal to the directly political. I left feeling as though there had been a constant back and fourth, a continual to-and-froing, a kind of cycle of experience that was not in any way over….
Despite the problematics that a ‘national art show’ entails, “Resemble Reassemble” managed to come through with something that presses gently at its own margins from within.
-- Alana Hunt
(Images, from top to bottom: Ayaz Jokhio, Titled (still life); Farida Batool, Line of Control; Mehr Javed, Hairdo. All images courtesy of Devi Art Foundation and the artist.)