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Feb 20 2019

Naiza Khan Named Pakistan’s Inaugural Venice Biennale Artist

by Pamela Wong

Multidisciplinary artist NAIZA KHAN will represent Pakistan at the 58th Venice Biennale. 

On February 19, Karachi- and London-based multidisciplinary artist Naiza Khan was announced as Pakistan’s representative artist at the 58th Venice Biennale. The country’s inaugural National Pavilion, curated by Zahra Khan, will present a solo exhibition titled “Manora Field Notes,” investigating the social paradoxes arising from Pakistan’s urban development as viewed through the microcosm of Manora, an island south of the Port of Karachi.

Khan spoke to AAP via email about the pavilion: “The project consists of a multi-screen video installation as well as a series of objects that are spatialized out of an archival weather report from 1939. Both the filmic work as well as the objects and sound piece center on ideas of observation and optics; shifts of scale; and the frictions between old and new infrastructures.”

She remarked on her inspiration: “What attracted me to the island space in the beginning was the relationship of the land with the harbor infrastructure on one side and the wildness of the ocean on the other. [. . .] Manora was a counterbalance to the frenetic city of Karachi, so the space felt accessible and porous, and embodied ideas of ecology and habitation.”

“Over the last decade, these ideas have compressed and the specificity of the local has also become a way to look at broader issues that we confront in the Global South. So Manora has been a space of incubation, where ideas have germinated, and found form in different guises,” she continued.  

Born in Bahawalpur in 1968, the artist graduated with a BFA in 1990 from the Ruskin School of Art, University of Oxford. Khan is known for her explorations of physical and conceptual boundaries, from territorial borders to gender divisions. Through a diverse practice that incorporates painting, photography and sculpture, the artist reflects on the shifting geographical, cultural and social landscapes of contemporary Pakistan. She participated in the third Kochi-Muziris Biennale (2016), the fourth Colombo Art Biennale (2016), and ninth Shanghai Biennale (2012), and has staged solo exhibitions in London (2015), Karachi (2014) and East Lansing, Michigan (2013). Khan is also a founding member of the Karachi-based nonprofit Vasl Artists’ Association, which runs residencies, workshops and other educational programs for artists, cultural professionals and local communities across the country.

Zahra Khan is the director of Foundation Art Divvy, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting Pakistani artists. The Pakistani Pavilion is organized by Foundation Art Divvy and commissioned by the Pakistan National Council of the Arts, with the support of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, and Rossi & Rossi gallery.

On working with the artist, Zahra Khan commented: “Naiza, like her art, is thoughtful, precise, critically aware.” She added, “I am looking forward to the response of the audiences in Venice to Naiza’s work as they move through the pavilion surrounded by glimpses of Manora.” 

The 58th Venice Biennale will be on view from May 11 to November 24.

Pamela Wong is the assistant editor for ArtAsiaPacific.

To read more of ArtAsiaPacific’s articles, visit our Digital Library.

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