18th September - 18th December, Thessaloniki
Born (1935) in Karachi, Pakistan. He graduated in civil engineering from the University of Karachi in 1962 and moved to London in 1964. His main interests concern painting, sculpture, photography, performance, mix media works and installations, textual and conceptual works, issuing manifestos. Recent exhibitions: Ikon Gallery (retrospective) (Birmingham, UK, 1987); Modern Art Gallery (Fukuoka, Japan, 1993); SKUK Gallery (Ljubijana, Slovania, 1994); Habana Biennale (Cuba, 1994); South London Gallery (London, 1994); John Hansard (Southampton, 1995); The Contemporary Art Centre (Vilnius, Luthuania, 1996); Serpentine Gallery (London, 1996); Sydney Biennale (Australia, 1998); Aicon Gallery (London, 2010).
Art today is trapped in the facile idea of the individual “freedom of expression” that merely produces the banality of media scandals and sensationalism, thus widening the gap further between art and life, in which art now operates purely as a commodity. The commercial success of the artist today has in fact inflated the artist’s narcissist ego (hereafter narego) further and turned him or her into a celebrity which can entertain the public spectacularly, but without any transformational function.
All this has in fact been due to the failure of historical avant-garde. This failure was not inherent in the avant-garde itself, but has occurred due to the appropriation of its critical ideas by the very forces it wanted to confront and change. However, its potential to intervene in life and transform it is still there. But it must first liberate itself from the artist’s narego, and also from where this ego leads art to: the bourgeois art institution. Art must now go beyond the making of mere objects displayable in the museum or/and sold as precious commodities at the market place. Only then it can enter the world of everyday life and its collective energy that is struggling not only to improve life itself but to save it from its impending destruction due to the climate change and environmental pollution.
Historically, it was during the Land Art movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s that what emerged, though paradoxically, as both a Concept and Form, abandoned the making of objects in favour of art as concepts, and paved the way forward. A piece of land can now be conceived not merely as a conceptual artwork but it can be taken beyond its status as artwork and integrated into an ongoing, self-sustaining dynamic process with a movement generated within itself, by its own agency that thus legitimises itself. This agency is not of an individual, who might have initiated the idea of land as art, but the collective work of those who work on the land. It is this collective work of the masses, not of nature as perceived by the American land artists Smithson and Morris, which continually transforms the land, producing an agency which is not only creatively productive but posits a progressive idea for the humanity to move forward in pursuit of an egalitarian world society.
An Extract from Ecoaesthetics*
22 July 2011
*For the full text, see “Ecoaesthetics: A Manifesto for the 21st Cemtury”, ART BEYOND ART / Ecoaesthetics: A manifesto for the 21st Century, THIRD TEXT Publications, London, 2010.