Khan’s visual practice is built on a process of critical research, documentation and mapping-based exploration, focusing on public space and its entanglement with history. For Manora Field Notes, Khan has drawn upon her prolific archive of images, objects and observations recording the evolution of Manora Island, a peninsula located off the harbour of Karachi. The exhibition will investigate how the reshaping of the island landscape reflects wider changes across the region, and conveys larger concerns of post-colonial histories, climate change and displacement.
Zahra Khan, curator of the Pakistan Pavilion and Co-Director of Foundation Art Divvy, comments:
“The Pavilion of Pakistan will give visitors insight into a nation navigating its way through a changing contemporary culture, lasting colonial influences, shifting regional power balances and infrastructures. Pakistan’s presentation encourages the vision of the artist as a lens through which the public can see the world.”
Manora Field Notes - featuring a soundscape, sculptural works and a multi-channel film installation - will expand across three interconnected spaces within the pavilion.
Works in the first gallery respond to an archival weather report from 1939 - The India Weather Review - which Khan retrieved from the dilapidated Manora Weather Observatory, a nineteenth-century British colonial structure. The review is a factual record of the aftermath of storms across British India, with the cities listed now spread across three nations, the socio-politics of which are often in a state of flux. The soundscape Hundreds of Birds Killed is a narration of this report by a female voice, capturing the mutability of atmospheric and geographic states.
In addition, the artist has selected particular cities listed in the report to extract and digitally map via research engines and imaging software. Combining modern technologies and traditional artistry, these contemporary maps have been laser cut into Plexiglas and hand-cast into brass by artisans in Golimar, Karachi.
In the pavilion’s courtyard The Doorbeen - a sculptural installation in the form of a telescope - encourages visitors to consider different points of view. Taking as its reference the telescopes set up for local tourists on Manora’s beach - the apparatus is a symbol of the artist as mediator, and provides a space for critical reflection.
The exhibition continues with Sticky Rice and Other Stories, a four-channel film installation created using footage taken by Khan on Manora Island over a decade. The first part follows the artist as she journeys between artisanal workshops to produce miniaturised models of historic and contemporary boats. In an inversion of the industrial scale of the Arsenale’s renowned shipping production, Khan works with artisanal communities in Karachi to produce model vessels that echo ideas of the New Silk Road and the global supply chain. The second part of the film opens into a workshop with a telescope being cleaned and reassembled in order to be used by tourists on the beach. This telescope, made with vintage binoculars, is constructed from parts smuggled across the border between Iran and Pakistan. The film’s conversations reveal local histories and modern methods of commerce, reiterating the frictions between labour and production and between slow and fast technologies.
Naiza Khan comments:
“Manora Field Notes is in some ways an homage to Manora Island and the port of Karachi. At the same time, the exhibition moves through the materiality of that space, inviting questions about labour and production, optics and erasure, and frictions between old and new infrastructures. There are interesting parallels between Karachi and Venice - both are port cities within historic transnational trade routes, who have had to negotiate modernity and industrialisation.”
The Pavilion of Pakistan has been made possible through support from the Qazi Foundation and the Mahvash & Jahangir Siddiqui Foundation.