During the semester a lot of significance was giving to “public art” or site art projects. We have been exposed to many national or international artists work based on public art. Basically public art is any form of art that can be performance based, visual, realistic and abstract in order to see a collective community expression.
Public art can express community values, enhance our environment, transform a landscape, heighten our awareness, or question our assumptions it can be temporarily or permanently exhibited. It is done in order to see public reaction towards it, how it affects them and it can be interactive or convey any message in a very subtle manner. For example, Tiravanija used food as a diplomatic tool as his contemporary public art piece. It was more like a performance as in a gallery setting where he cooked Thai food for the visitors. The main aim for this performance was to bring people together unanimously on a table where they interacted and ate at the same time.
His idea of cooking food in front of people and calling it public art seems really unique to me as it explicitly shows how abstract art can be with no set rules or boundaries.
As for my site intervention project I worked in pair with one of the class mate and our project was based on wall graffiti after observing that in some areas of the city the private messages are conveyed by writing them openly on walls, similarly after thinking of a private message “Yahan pishaab kerna mana hai” we decided to use this really bold tag line as for our project as it is a message which is extremely personal and rarely seen in places where affluent people live. Such messages can be obscene or obnoxious. Roads and street walls are public property then why in specific areas of the city only wall grifitti is allowed? Why can’t one freely write anything on any wall on the city? Why is there a restriction and difference in treating one part of the city than the other? To break that wall of thought we decided to write this statement openly and see how the elite respond to it when they see such a statement in their area.
To fulfill our purpose we thought of targeting the most elite areas of Karachi, like the Dolmen mall, The Place, parks in porch or residential areas of Defence. Amongst these we chose our site to be dolmen mall located in Clifton (being the mall for the high class with all the international brands outlets in it), Rahat park in one of the residential areas of defence and Indus valley school of art’s courtyard.
As for the execution we made stencils and a poster of the tagline. First we secretly spray painted the tagline on the front wall of Rahat park which was facing towards the houses. The next day we went to the dolmen mall and placed the poster on the entrance of the mall.
At each place we derived a different response, at dolmen mall after placing the text the guard blatantly stated that the mall caters to the elite who would find this offensive thus it should be removed immediately. Where as in Indus valley people saw the text and laughed over it, and at the park we saw the graffiti was removed the next day.
At dolmen the response was most effective as what we wanted to hear, the guard said that himself. He blatantly spoke about the class difference and the power the elite have over the areas where they are living.
Looking it theoretically, the theory of Foucault about power and sexuality, how sexuality can be used to attain power within our society and rule and channelize peoples prospective. This theory supports the idea that our society constitutes with mainly two different classes the upper and the lower class, which are both important in the formation and functioning of a society. With our work we see that the power is concentrated in the hands of few individuals, they see what they want to see. Whereas the lower class is left with no option to even choose anything for them hence are forced to live with what is enforced on them.
However, if this graffiti was written on Tariq road’s Dolmen mall the guards wouldn’t have reacted the same way as they did in Clifton mall. It clearly shows the mentality of people living in a same city but different locations.
After doing this assignment we realized that there was a lot of room for improvement when it came to execution of our art work. Firstly, the the tag line should have been conveyed through the same medium (stencils) in all our targeted location instead of placing banners in some places. The more responsive place to showcase this statement at Indus valley would have been in the washrooms or back alley as we have seen written conversations and opinions of unknown students on the walls and at the backside of the washroom doors.
The project wouldn’t be considered as a failure since our ambition was achieved through the guard’s statement at the mall and removal of our graffiti from Rahat park. We had both silent and verbal response from the public.
Placing the banner with the graffiti at dolmen mall was extremely precarious which lead to an argument with the guards and they started following us.
Our inspiration was Asim butt, Pakistani artist who took many risks with wall graffiti. Much of Butt’s art practice, including his public art, explored themes of gender, sexuality and masculinity and the male physique Butts is a really inspirational artist for me as he boldly wrote what he wanted without getting intimidated of being caught.
Despite of being sent to jail and getting caught two times nothing was a hindrance towards his art practices. Looking at his biography it gave us the courage as a pair to step out of the house and do something really bold out there on the walls of porch areas of Karachi.