New Art Exchange presents Encroachments, a new virtual reality commission by the acclaimed British Artist, Shezad Dawood. The immersive installation comprising neon, wallpaper, sculpture and print, takes a direct look at the relations between Pakistan and the US since partition in 1947. The work is a mediation on the idea 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 maze-like 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.
Each scene is punctuated by a different key track from the unique music scene that developed in the late 60s in Pakistan, as local bands made up of mixed Muslim and Christian musicians drew parallel inspiration from classical Indian ragas and the layers of sound pioneered by both Phil Spector and Brian Wilson.
The Virtual Reality installation premiered at the Sharjah Biennal 14 in March 2019. Its showing at New Art Exchange, Nottingham is the first time it has been seen in the UK.
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.
About Shezad Dawood
Shezad Dawood works across the disciplines of film, performance, painting, neon, sculpture and virtual reality to ask key questions of narrative, history and embodiment. Using the editing process as a method to explore both meanings and forms, his practice often involves collaboration and knowledge exchange, mapping across multiple audiences and communities. Through a fascination with the esoteric, otherness, the environment and architectures both material and virtual, Dawood interweaves stories, realities and symbolism to create richly layered artworks.
Dawood’s work has been exhibited internationally, including Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate Britain; London; Si Shang Art Museum, Beijing; Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; Taipei Biennial, Taiwan; Marrakech Biennial, Morocco; MACBA, Barcelona; Witte de With, Centre for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam and the 53rd Venice Biennale, Italy.
Shezad Dawood was born in London in 1974 and trained at Central St Martin’s and the Royal College of Art before undertaking a PhD at Leeds Metropolitan University. Dawood is a Senior Research Fellow in Experimental Media at the University of Westminster. He lives and works in London.
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