Join Pakistani artist Imrana Tanveer on a tour around museums of the world, where her handsome tapestries are virtually hanging from the ceilings of the museum halls, in her work 'Construction/Deconstruction: The Work is Present'.
I am so pleased and thrilled to present my work ‘Construction | Deconstruction: the Work is Present’, which was exhibited in the very first Karachi Biennale, curated by Amin Gulgee, that took place in October/November 2017 .
‘Construction | Deconstruction’ was conceived as a two year tour exhibition in several galleries and museums in USA. The curators of the exhibition were Imran Qureshi and Saamia Ahmed Vine, and the US organization that was involved in the promotion of the tour exhibition was International Arts & Artists. The project was in planning and fund raising phase since 2012, and the tour was supposed to take place between 2017 and 2019. It has unfortunately been cancelled.
Were there specific reasons for its cancellation?
Only what we received from the director of International Arts & Artists, David Furchgott: “Despite receiving initial interest and investing all our best efforts, we were unable to get a single American museum to make a firm commitment to host the exhibition. Those few museums which were interested, but not committed, could not fit it into their budget or schedule”.
Unfortunately, since no museum committed to the exhibition, we have to leave it at that, until we can come up with an alternative plan if anything is possible
We love the boldness and courage of your project: your beautiful tapestries hanging in museum halls around the world. Your project is a wonderful example of art that crosses borders and boundaries, that infiltrates through the thick walls of both old and new museums, bringing inside the textile artworks of a young Pakistani woman, crossing cultures, genders, and generations. What was the inspiration behind your work, and behind this project?
After the cancellation, I proposed my work ‘Post Betrayal’ to be re-titled ‘Construction/Deconstruction: The Work is Present’. It was displayed at the Karachi Biennale 2017, and it was the same work that was supposed to tour in the US but was rejected: it shows my works displayed in different museums, both in the US and in other capitals of the world.
Given that the tour exhibition was not going to happen, the idea was to showcase the work through social media, tagging those museums and galleries on Facebook, Instagram and the other social media. As the world has shrunken to become a ‘global village’, and every thing is just a ‘click’ away, the idea of the tour exhibition could be redefined into a virtual tour exhibition, i.e., the art in the age of digital, technical and virtual reproduction.
It seems like, with the right lighting, you could see dots of light on the ground or walls of the rooms. Have you intentionally left holes in your hanging fabrics? With specific meanings?
Yes, they are actual holes! The earlier work was developed after I purchased the camouflage fabric. The market from which I bought the fabric used it to make canopies for shelter from the sun and to cover goods on trucks in bad weather conditions during transportation. The parachute camouflage is also used for tents. I wanted to use that canopy, and the process of punching holes by overdoing and repeating the process of punching rivets numerous times: thousands of small metallic rivets punched on camouflage tent representing bullet holes. The purpose of the tent is to protect and provide shelter and the rivet is used to strengthen it, but the overdoing of the punching changes the purpose. I wanted to represent our own behavior and attitude towards the safety of the state and borders.
While the recent display questioned the idea of art practicing, interactivity and commentary on ‘definition of arts’ as norm, it may create a new conceptual understanding and combination of different techniques, production and display methodologies.
What is the meaning of the name you have given to this work?
‘Construction | Deconstruction’ refers to the cancellation of the tour exhibition, to the tremendous amount of time and energy that invested in it and then wasted. ‘The Work is Present’ was inspired by Marina Abramovich’s ‘The Artist is Present’. Even if the tour was cancelled, the work is still there.
Do specific museums have a connection to the meaning of your project?
I firstly thought of presenting the work only in U.S. museums, as it was planned for the tour exhibition. But while discussing the idea with the chief curator of the Karachi Biennial 2017, Amin Gulgee, I decided to add other worldwide museums/galleries, to expand the idea further and let the work go round and square.
You mention that your work is also intended as a commentary on normative definitions of art. Can you tell us more about this?
It is commentary on art practice, on the tremendous amount of work, time and care put in realization and conceiving of the project. This is also to illustrate the mêlée an artist goes through for galleries and museum representation.
Do you think that in our contemporary age we need a new definition of art, or should we do away with attempts to define art, normative or otherwise?
It is always tricky to try to define what is art, and what is not. We need to scrutinize its definition through time, culture, history and representation. The concept of evolution can be very helpful here. The definitions and the practices of art keep evolving.