Friday, October 12, 2012

Works that encapsulate Bani Abidi’s artistic concerns

In her work, Bani Abidi generates an atmosphere that evokes the personal, domestic and the familiar, set against the larger tectonic forces associated with nationhood and citizenship within Pakistan today.

The first ever UK solo public exhibit, entitled ‘Section Yellow’ (2011-12), comprising recent works by the renowned Pakistani artist took place courtesy BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead. ‘The Distance from Here 2010’, a central work in the show, according to the gallery press release, was a video that panned between two distinct environments; the sanitized interior of a generic waiting room and a vast outdoor ground circumscribed by security scanners, guards and surface markings.

It elaborated: “In both locations a crowd of people quietly assembles and waits their turn, although for what one doesn’t entirely know. The artist develops a play on coercion and control, using migration and the movement of people as a subtle metaphor. Ambient sounds form the mood of the work: the deadly stasis and mechanical noise of the waiting area contrast with the sound of dawn in the world outside.

Bani Abidi’s recent photographic work ‘Untitled, One of Two and Two of Two’ (all 2010) well complimented the film. The series (Untitled) carried mundane plastic and paper folders, stuffed with stamped copies of personal documents. Text and image combined to create narratives of endurance, of longing and resignation. These works contrasted with the enlarged passport photograph ‘One of Two’ that made for a more intimate encounter, showing the haunted expression of an old man.

Another series of digital drawings by her looked at various types of surveillance architecture in Pakistan. Class disparity and the protectionist nature of gated homes were examined in Intercommunication Devices 2009, while Security Barriers A-L, 2008 showed security barriers found outside foreign embassies and government buildings in Karachi. Isolated from their context of use, both these series embodied hierarchies of power and partial, or selective, communication.

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