Conversations in Hyperreality

Solo show | Experimenter, Kolkata | 2012  

Vinyl sticker wall texts, digital prints on paper, drawings, digital printed books (3), neon light works and video with ambient sound.

Gallery write-up:

Saira Ansari’s work is derived from responding to aggressive and vividly visual personal dreams and hallucinatory experiences that the she has experienced for most of her memory. Her primary interest over the last few years has been to work around the experience of lucid dreaming, tonic immobility, nightmares, and letters of communication that represent physical and mental displacement. Off-hand drawings and texts are studies of her own, deep-seated thoughts that provide a fleeting glimpse into her complex mind. Some works therefore are very casual records while some visuals are interpretations of scientific research and studies conducted in studying dreams and human psychology.

Ansari’s practice deals with uncomfortable dialogue, a dialogue that is loud, probing and insolent, but often ignored for the sake of sanity or even politeness and the etiquette of normalcy. She translates this dialogue into written text, sometimes directly scribbled on the walls of private and public spaces, in most instances within her drawings and journals and at other times through audio renderings. Text swathes her practice to emerge as a medium as significant as any other if not more. Conversations in Hyperreality at first sight, does not seem cohesive, but at the same time assumes the position of a storyteller and creates a visual allegory of the existence of two very important ‘realities’ that conjoin to form a sense of apparent truths where irrational thoughts, repetitive ideas, and unrealistic fears loom and interweave to create an imaginary scaffolding of conversations. Likewise the seepage of the real in this hyperreality often add an absurd logic that helps direct hysterical fantasies to a stable lull, only to resume it at another imaginary, fantastical conversation.

the work that will probably never end

Solo show | Grey Noise Gallery, Lahore | 2010

The s.a. Project launch takes into account a pre-existing debate that I have been engaged in for the past 2 years with my tutors and fellow artists at the Masters program of Visual Arts at the National College of Arts, Lahore.

it has been my unconventional practice – and the responses to it over the years – which have forced me to look at the functionality of educational institutes, as well as galleries and the print media. There is a contrived idea of what art and creativity should be and many artists find themselves adhering to these commercially viable stereotypes. It is particularly hard for younger artists who have just entered the field and are trying to make a mark for themselves. Commercial recognition, followed soon by dizzying financial successes, quickly taints a newcomers practice and helps determine the course of their career.

The two sorely visible lobbies now prevalent in the art world of Pakistan are those of the die-hard traditionalists and leave-all-else-behind-new-media artists. The polarisation of these two groups and the confusion caused thence in the teaching practices of attached universities has been the worst blow to the young artists. Students find it necessary to identify with either one of the mindset, and automatically reject the other as irrelevant. Galleries have followed suit and picked favourites.

Through this project, I want to initiate a debate and a dialogue on the ethics and dynamics of these politics and the mercenary attitude of the galleries that behave more like shops and less as promoters of art and creativity.

Photographs © Nashmia Haroon

MA Degree Show

MA (Hons.) Visual Art Degree show, National College of Arts, Lahore | 2011


The work in progress deals with the role of art institutions, galleries, collectors and the art critics in the making and exhibiting of art. My display specifically deals with the gallery space that inescapably evokes a sense of awe and reverence and automatically sets precedence for the kind of work that is expected to be on display. For many of the commercial galleries, the purpose is clear – sales are top priority and content and quantity are packaged to meet the requirements of the current art market. Galleries understand that they don’t sell art, but names (if they are bigger galleries) or replicated in-vogue visual vocabulary (if they are the framer/gallery joint).

Using the allegory of false walls, I have created a gallery space within a gallery space, showing both the facade as well as the behind the scenes of a commercial show. The installation is an alternative space that stands alone in the midst of the formal college gallery and consciously uses its location and the work around it as inspiration.

Out Loud Thoughts

Art Projects, India Art Summit, Delhi | 2011
Project Supported by GREY NOISE, Lahore and thejamjar, Dubai

At freedom to experiment with the commercial fair settings, the non-commercial project comprised of vinyl printed handwritten text stickers that were pasted at various sites in the 8000sqft + venue. The text pieces questioned or stirred personal and public opinions about the fair and its components, as well as the artist’s own views about herself as a participant.

Artist’s note:
Thoughts that stay inside for too long become strange little people of their own and have very imaginary (or very real) conversations with each other. Depending on the state of our mind and our functionality in an accepted framework of social spaces, these conversations can be either insane or enlightening, or both. All we really want is to be understood, appreciated, wanted, desired. In the Out Loud Thoughts project I use personal statements from inside my head. These are private thoughts spoken out loud and presented before an audience that might feel like they are either part of an intimate conversation or intruding on something that wasn’t meant for them.

Hear Me Roar: New Art from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Iran

The jamjar Gallery, Dubai | Curator: Dr. Atteqa Ali | 2011

Curator’s note:
Younger than 30, the six artists in “Hear Me Roar” are a fresh generation of practitioners who holler to be heard.
They are energized new voices from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Iran that offer playful and quirky, yet potent images of life in these nations—from ordinary rituals to extraordinary circumstances, from personal aspirations to collective desires. Their novel approaches to age-old themes present radical views of places that might seem to outsiders to be stuck in the past. The six women disturb our preconceived notions through coaxing us to think differently about the world and women within it.

The Complete Pakistani Art Dinner Set

MARKER Projects Section, Art Dubai | Curator: Nav Haq | 2011

The Complete Pakistani Art Dinner Set is a satirical take on the consumption of Pakistani art by the International Art Market. The venue of the exhibit, Art Dubai, makes the comment more poignant when all attention is focused towards important art acquisitions and big sales. Painted on the 12 plain white plates are silhouettes of recognizable Pakistani art vocabulary (horse/naked woman, miniature men, Jinnah, patterns, subtle vagina/penis, guns/bullets/tanks, etc.) in the likeness of 18th century period shadow portraits that the wealthy got commissioned. In this case these are portraits of artworks by top Pakistani artists that are represented nationally and internationally. The plates are both utilitarian and absolutely ridiculous at the same time. More importantly, they convey a metaphor of consumption, gluttony, and primal satisfaction that is associated both with hunger/eating and looking/acquiring art.

MARKER is a new platform for experimental art spaces from Asia and the Middle East to showcase projects by emerging artists at Art Dubai. The 2011 edition was its first and was curated by Nav Haq. It included five ‘concept stands’ that each respond to the phenomenon of the art fair as a mirror of contemporary society, and reflect on the realms of commerce, entertainment, education and aesthetics. The five art spaces that took part in MARKER were: Alexandria Contemporary Arts Forum (Alexandria, Egypt), GREY NOISE (Lahore, Pakistan), Liu Ding’s Store (Beijing, China), Makan (Amman, Jordan) and Ruangrupa (Jakarta, Indonesia).