18 January 2020 -
15 March 2020
Shezad Dawood works across disciplines to deconstruct systems of image, language, site and narrative. In this new exhibition Encroachments, Dawood takes a pragmatic and oblique look at the relations between Pakistan and the US since partition in 1947 through a Virtual Reality (VR) environment, contained within an installation comprising neon, wallpaper, sculpture and print. The narrative behind Encroachments is a meditation on ideas of sovereignty, private property and the politics of space in the two largest cities in Pakistan: Lahore & Karachi. The term 'encroachment' is used to designate the backlash in Pakistani politics and the media against so-called illegal structures built onto the fabric of existing private and state infrastructure. These ad-hoc encampments become social and commercial apparatuses for the lower classes, and reflect a grass-roots entrepreneurialism, and reclamation of space.
The central element of the VR is the proposed US embassy in Karachi designed by Austrian-American Modernist architect Richard Neutra. Its construction began in 1959, but by the time it was completed, the capital was moved to the new city of Islamabad and Neutra's building was downgraded to a Consulate. On the journey to the Neutra building and onwards, the VR user moves through various parallel environments, including renowned colonial-era bookshop Ferozsons in Lahore, established in 1894. The mazelike corridors give way to a secret passage into the Reagan years and a video game arcade referencing anti-Soviet propaganda, which fuelled a large amount of early game design evolving against the backdrop of the Soviet-Afghan war. The final sequence leads you into a contemporary Encroachment on the outskirts of Karachi, which is used as a tea shop and meeting space.
Encroachments is co-commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation for SB14, 2019 and New Art Exchange, Nottingham. Generously supported by the Bagri Foundation. Special thanks to Jhaveri Contemporary, Mumbai, Timothy Taylor, London, EMI Pakistan, Umeed Ansari, Ahsan Sajjad, Fasahat Syed, Iftikhar Dadi, Dion Neutra, Barbara Lamprecht, Sonya Rehman and Arif Belgaumi.
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Image credit: Shezad Dawood, Encroachments (Peace air drop) 2018