UK again – Manchester Day 3, 4 and 5


These are notes from the time that I am spending in UK under the New North South Network / Liverpool Biennale Training Program being held in partnership with the Karachi Biennale, which is to be held later this year. 

Needless to say, I am far behind in capturing of my activities in the UK. I am currently in Leeds and that update is soon to follow as soon as I am able to catch up with all that happened in Manchester, and boy did we have a lot that happened in Manchester.

Day 3 – 14th August:

One of the that I was most interested in during my time in Manchester was to see how the Pakistani communities would be celebrating their 70th Independence Day. Thanks to the lovely Saira Qureshi, a true community leader, I was able to be part of the celebrations at the Pakistani Embassy.

The rest of the day included a trip down to the Manchester Museum, getting lost in the Manchester University, and then a trip to the Whitworth.

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UK Again – Day 2 Manchester

These are notes from the time that I am spending in UK under the New North South Network / Liverpool Biennale Training Program being held in partnership with the Karachi Biennale, which is to be held later this year. 

I must admit that my second day in Manchester, while to many, may seem like a boring feat, for me it remained a truly spectacular experience.

My day started early enough since I wanted to get to the Manchester Cathedral for the morning service, which was scheduled to begin at 10:30. So I was out the door of my hotel by 9:45, and like a typical Sunday morning, the city was deserted enough and the sun shone beautifully down upon us all. Ah, life is good!

I made my way first to the Town Hall in Albert Square, and what a spectacular sight that was. I have always been in love with Public Squares and as I sat there, enjoying my morning coffee, I have to admit, I feel in love with the city right then and there.


The Town Hall Manchester. 

Apparently there is a Sculpture Cafe in there, and I have to make my way to that soon enough.

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UK again – Manchester Day 1

These are notes from the time that I am spending in UK under the New North South Network / Liverpool Biennale Training Program being held in partnership with the Karachi Biennale, which is to be held later this year. 

I have been fortunate enough to find myself time and time again in the UK and in this process, have gotten the chance to quite a few UK cities. And every single time I am blown away by two thing (in this order):

  1. The creativity that goes in naming the bars / pubs here.
  2. The magnitude of history and the concept of remembrance goes hand in hand

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Inclusion or Narratives? A comment on Diversity

During my placement time, one of the debates that took place as part of the Delegates Program for The Spark Arts for Children was inclusion. Two discussions/sharing of experiences took place under the heading of “Conversations with Communities” and “A new kind of Artist Development”.

While my most common reaction to such topics and debates is that these are very first world problem and hardly have any relevance with my context, what stood out for me was the sensitivity towards the need for inclusion.

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Spark Festival Day 1- Lessons of a Placement

For the last two weeks, I have been in Leicester, my temporary home for a month. I have come to be in this strange land as part of my secondment/placement with the British Council and Khoj International Artists Association.

Sometime last year 15 the young and smartest of South Asia found themselves honored with the Arthink South Asia Fellowship, and this placement is just one step of that Fellowship.

But today was the first day of the Spark Festival for Children, organized by The Spark Arts for Children – my host organization.

Now coming from a third world country – Pakistan – it takes very little to impress us; people driving in lanes, not breaking signals, etc. But the first day of the Festival alone is enough to constantly ask yourself “Have I been living in a jungle?” Continue reading

In Doha – Day 1 and 2

Disclaimer: I realize the story of Germany and my trip there has been left in the middle. But I guess it needs to wait for a while!

A random incident made me find the website for a grant being given out for CIMAM Conference in Doha, which was due to take place in November of 2014. I took a chance and applied for it, and one things leads to another, I get a grant, and here I am – in my hotel room in Doha, waiting for the first day of Conference to begin.

I had read up on the many developments that have been taking place with regards to bringing Art in the forefront – this includes besides the construction of many new museum, a very big public art program, integrating Art into the fabric of the society. So much so, that you can’t enter Doha without running into one or two fo such pieces.


I got to witness some of the developments in this regard first hand, when we – as part of the parallel activities of the conference – went to MAHTAF, where Shirin Neshat’s new exhibition “Afterwards” opened up yesterday. Now I had become a great fan of Shirin Neshat, after first seeing her work in 2012. I thought, hmm this is nice! But her current body of work failed to vow me. Throughout the show the only thought that went through my head was – “Okay so whats new?” Her work for me had a lot of conceptual and technical issues. The overlapping of text over digital work, with no connection to the lines and the real subject made the text irrelevant and very disturbing for me. But these details are the subject matter of another blog post.

Evening was a normal event, as I went out to have dinner at a mall nearby, City Mall – apparently it is a big attraction for everyone here! A must see – as any Qatari will tell you. For me the only highlight was Biella! The food was fabulous, the ravioli was fresh, delicious, generous and just perfect!













The conference of CIMAM started today, that is the 9th of November 2014. The first day was a wonderful experience to attend, to be able to meet so many people who think like you and have the same type of thoughts as to the difficulties of Art and getting the message across was simply fabulous!

After the conference, we headed off to the Museum of Islamic Art, a wonderful and delightful place, and what a high it is to be able to say that you visited a building by I.M. Pei. The architecture and the overall design of the exhibits is simply fascinating. I do have a comment on the collection but then again that is another long discussion.



Afterwards, it was a trip to the Souq Waqif! Now here is a tip for people who are from the East! Don’t waste your time – and most importantly money – over there! That place is just not worth it. Made in 2008, it is not an authentic souk and does nothing more but enforce the image of orientalism that westerners have in their mind!

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So far, it is a love hate relationship with Doha! But there is still more to go! So lets see!

Berlin Berlin: Day 2

As part of a Young Curator’s Programme sponsored by the Goethe Institut, Delhi, we have been invited to come and visit the Berlin Biennale. So here I am, and here are my daily adventures!

So basically what has happened is that I have lost track of time in Berlin. In a city like Berlin, you just dont want to waste time sitting in front of a laptop, and with so much to see and do, in such a limited time, I just wanted to make the most of it! So basically this is my 5th day here – actually its my 6th day, but I am still writing about my 2nd!

The 2nd day was about getting down to business, and therefore after an informal orientation, where we got to know who is who, we headed off to our first stop of the day – and the first venue of the Biennale – Museen Dahlem – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Lansstraße 8, 14195 Berlin. 



I had read a bit about the Museum and how it has been incorporated into the Biennale. The Curators aim here seems to be to have the maximum amount of engagement with the permanent exhibits which are soon to be shifted to the Museum Island in the Centre of Berlin. This apparently has led to an entire new debate within the circle of concerned Berliners! Despite the fact that the permanent exhibit and the exhibit for the Biennale have not been mixed (the display for the Biennale is only in spaces that have already been vacated for the shift) – there still remains some confusion and more than once one does need to rely on others to guide them around the Museum. There were many many works that stood out for me!



Work by Goshka Macuga


Glenn Ligon


Glenn Ligon

The next stop of the day was KW Centre for Contemporary Art. It is also the same Institute which hosts the Biennale and has been an important factor in putting the show on the road every other year! Again while the exhibits here differed considerably from that at the first venue, they seemed to work in their own little space where they had been carved out.


Maryam Sohail

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And then it was time for food! It is so interesting in Berlin how each turn can lead you to discover something completely new! Go inside a courtyard, and then take a turn, and another turn and all of a sudden you are in a different world altogether!


A way to honor and remember! Plaques outside the houses from where the Jews were thrown out!

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And then it was time to just walk through Germany and take in the sights!

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Safe to say I was exhausted and just came and crashed!

Berlin Berlin: Day 1 – In Transit: Hammad International Airport, Qatar, 1:40 PST

As part of a Young Curator’s Programme sponsored by the Goethe Institut, Delhi, we have been invited to come and visit the Berlin Biennale. So here I am, and here are my daily adventures! 

This was my first time flying Qatar Airways for International Travels, where in other time (read: two times) I have taken Emirates. And while I am comfortable with the Emirates and with all that which goes in adding to the image of Dubai as the melting pot of various nationalities, my impression of Doha and Qatar were completely opposite. In my mind, it was to be a make shift airport constructed of Palm Trees and Sand. And yes, despite the fear of being considered narrow minded, I am going to acknowledge truthfully that these were my impression.

And lets not forget that it seemed that the entire week everything was going against me! First the attack on Karachi Airport, then my own visa problems, and then rain! Out of all the days that I prayed for rain in Karachi, it had to happen on the day of my flight!

The view definitely helped!

The view definitely helped!


Lands the flight.. and my first thought is.. Not so shabby! The building is beautiful, functional, not as gigantic as the Dubai Airport (Bless you for that – my legs are grateful to you) and only 15 days old! I don’t think I have ever visited a baby even that young!!!!!

My first worry was – since I had not realized how convenient the design is – to find my gate! After finding it easily and realizing that I have well over an hour, I decided to roam around the new building and take it in! What else am I suppose to do for an hour anyways?

And Behold! There is this sight!


Work by New York-based Swiss artist Urs Fischer, titled "untitled (Lamp/Bear)"

Work by New York-based Swiss artist Urs Fischer, titled “untitled (Lamp/Bear)”

I remembered instantly reading about the Public Art Acquisition program adopted by the concerned Qatar Authorities. It was undoubtedly nice to finally see something about Art which I had read recently and was able to recall at the right time. Reading helps, people!

And after taking in the sights, it was time to head to the loo!

Now let me tell you something airport people around the world! If you want to score it with the South Asians, and the Middle Easterns, and the whole Muslim World, just give them Muslim Showers! That’s the only thing that you need to do, and you my friend, automatically have a buddy for life! What a great sigh of relief it was to find MUSLIM SHOWERS! I cant tell you the immense joy of discovering that thing right next to me as I went about my business! It really are the Simple things in life that count!

Then was the trip that lasted 6 hours before finally landing in Tegal Airport (reminds me of Islamabad Airport) and then there it was! Berlin! Right in front of me and in my reach! So after checking in to this very nice hotel (recommended: Mercure Hotel), I decided to take a walk! Before calling it a night! These are my first impressions of Berlin!






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Harvard just confirmed something that I have been saying forever!

Just another proof that I have a decent enough IQ level and knowledge of my own self to deserve some respect from everyone out there! Recently found this article on 99u and basically it just confirmed what I have always said about myself that I TEND TO GET BETTER WHEN I HAVE MORE WORK!

This is how I usually explain it to people…

You see, when I have only one project on my plate, I tend to be “Yah, its just one thing.. I will get it done”

What that usually results in me being lazy, over confident, underestimating the time frame and limit and basically ignoring it, thinking, “just one small thing..It can be done in a jiffy”…

It is not done in a jiffy… The deadline comes and I am still not done with the singular project that I had.

Now, when I have multiple projects, I know I have too much on my plate and then I get this buzz and I start working like a bloody tornado on the loose. I tend to be more focused.. more observed in my work…able to make connections easily between the various tasks that I have to complete!

And Harvard just proved it. Let me quote my favorite line from the article

Additional research has shown that we are at our best when we are “busy” (and pushed to our limits), but not rushed.

*SIGH* It feels nice to be validated!

A Workshop for Kids!

Today was a good day.. It was a good time since it meant attending a event by this amazing author Patrice Khan. The event was a work thing, which I had helped organize in my capacity as a Museum Curator/other stuff for the Oxford University Press. Basically a workshop for kids, it was something that even I could relate to, and believe me it helped.



The event was amazing, the exercises that she did with us was amazing, she herself is amazing. What wasn’t amazing is the number of people that came. There were a total of 3 kids, one NGO worker, and 4 people other people. That is a low turn out.

It is these sort of things that seem to sadden me when I come to think of how the reading habits in this country are almost dying out. But then it is because of this, that it becomes more important that we should be having these events. *Sigh* Oh well, maybe next time things will be much better!