Between time and timelessness
KARACHI: Novelty may not always pay, but it, for sure, pushes the envelope as far as creative thinking goes. This is the reason why the attempt to bring visual art into theatre space on Monday evening on the penultimate day of the music and theatre festival organised by the National Academy of Performing Arts (Napa) should be encouraged. Though there were tiny technical glitches related to the execution of the plan, they can be ignored in the larger interest of art.
Curated by Hajra Haider Karrar and Assemblage I HHK, the exhibition was titled About Time. Six artists (Zeerak Ahmed, Omer Wasim, Seher Naveed, Fazal Rizvi, Yaminay Chaudhri and Shalale Jamil) put on display their artworks or created space for performance art. Prior to the show, it was announced that it was an experiment. It’s time we got rid of this age-old concept. Experimentation is a thing of the past, because now, both in the realms of theatre and fine art, nothing is off-limits. When a viewer visits an art gallery or a theatre, s/he is prepared to be surprised, pleasantly or unpleasantly is a different matter altogether.
The six artists explored the ideas which lately have come to haunt the artist community — identity, memory, longing and recent history. This was done by projecting visual images mainly accompanying by commentaries, except the last part where the two characters (one stationary, the other engaged in a ritualistic kind of activity) behind a screen kept the audience look at them with undivided attention.
The curators, intelligently, never allowed the thread (of time) to fray and break. As a result, time could be seen in a timeless context. This timelessness was not something to write home about. The artists highlight moments of pain and anguish, some self-inflicted, that with the passage of time assume greater proportions.
The one thing that the curators could have revisited was the rather prolonged commentaries. However, one can’t fault them for it since they don’t actually belong to the realm of the theatre. Editing is one of the keys to the acceptance of any scripted performance. It has two dimensions. One: it enables the artist/writer/director to review contextual lacunas. Two: it enables to revise where language is, in terms of semantics and syntax, losing its force.
Overall, it was a praiseworthy effort, which added a distinct flavour to the festival. The festival has been truncated since the Indian theatre groups did not get visas.