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!

How the “Corporate World” Works?

A little more than a year into this job, and I am finally starting to understand how do corporates work. It is not such a big secret and I am sure most of you already know it and have dealt with it in some way or the other! The simply lure you into a “SENSE OF SECURITY”.

This security comes to us in the form of Insurance, Medical and Health Coverage, Timely pay, other conveniences like travel and good food (you would think that food would have little value but you can be so wrong). Anyways, all these conveniences start to make your moral beliefs and your values and everything a bit weak everyday.. you start to think that you cant get something better out there, and you slowly start to take all sorts of shit… you become more patient with all the bullshit that seems to be surrounding you, tolerating it more and more everyday!

I am starting to feel the trap surrounding me slowly and me giving into it… but I will be damned, if I say a wrong is right!


During my job and the assignment that I was working on, I had the chance to go to UK, no need to say that this year has been something so amazing, with all the travelling and so many other changes that I have taken place. Anyways, so due to the lack of stamina for something concrete to post, I have decided to post a bit from my old albums. And then using this technique for a few more posts. Therefore for today, enjoy this picture.

Jesters of Canterbury

Jesters of Canterbury

UK Memories

DO ME……..A FAVOR????

I need help.. A big help! A favor.. like the biggest favor that you would ever do to a person that you have not seen or will never see in your life!

I need all of you to take out some time to fill out the form here!

This is for some research that I am trying to do and it would mean the world to me if you can find the time to just fill it out! The form is about books, so if you are a book lover then do this – a favor from one book lover (you) to another book lover (me) !!!


USA Diaries – Day 30 of 30 – Everything must come to an End!

This diary post is a part of a 30 day trip that I am taking this month which it also happens to be my first ever International trip. So for the next 30 days I will be posting here all my weird thoughts and commentary.

PS: I haven’t kept my promise.. I didn’t post each and every day and now I am trying my best to update all the remaining days from the sanctuary of my Home Sweet Home. 

I am not going to lie, but by this time, we were so tired that we were more or less ready for it to be the End! I mean I loved it, I enjoyed every minute, I had the best time of my life, but ask me to do it again in a month and I will, but at the point, I think I just wanted to sleep and get back home!

The last day was full of things to do! It was all abuzz with running from one place to the other. In the morning, we headed off to the Beloit college where we not only got a chance to see the Museum (another Museum, Yah! ) but we also had a great time meeting the staff and the people who work there and get an idea about the curriculum that they have designed.

This is the first Museum which we have seen which had the Storage display approach to it, in which they put everything in their storage on display. The Main room is called the Box, and it is quite literally a Box with items and artifacts on display from the floor to the ceiling.


They have so much material from so many places, that it is insane, and seeing all those material right there, out there on display for us to see, was a marvel. Although it was pointed out that this is a wrong approach, artifact and collection wise, I have to say that for some reason I really enjoyed it. I actually loved the display.

Another interesting thing was the displays that they have done within drawers.. Yes you read it right, in drawers. Now I don’t know why they have done it the way they have done it, but it is truly a wonderful approach.



We even saw a Samurai Sword!

We headed off towards Madison at around 12, when we first made a stop at the hotel just in case we want to have a bite or something, before we finally made our way to the department and give our presentation. It was nice to have this ending and listen to the plans that people had for what they will be doing for when they head back. It was also nice to see that this is what we have learnt and just has that feeling in the pit of our stomach that maybe just maybe we can do something that will have an impact.

After the presentations were over, we all got out certificates….And I am not uploading that picture, since it came out really bad!

And after that, we were all out of the door, since it was already 5:30 and we were supposed to leave for dinner at 6:30 ….. not much time at all people, since I had vowed that at least on this last day, I am going to freaking get dressed even it is the last thing that I do.

But I still managed to make a stop at this event that was happening right next to my hotel, but sigh, I only had enough time to take a picture of it!

But before we could go or dinner, we made another stop and that at the famous house of Dr Mark Kenoyer.. Now I had rumours about the fact that his house is more of a museum! But I never could have guessed that it would be that much of a Museum. Every single thing in his house is a piece of art.. every drawer, cabinet, object, sculpture, even the bathroom is an antique piece! And the number of books, I mean it is amazing how he makes sense of it all. But well, I have always believed that even in chaos there is order, so I sort of appreciated the craziness, which may be made me feel good about my own desk at work (you don’t want to see it).

Dinner was at a restaurant called Swagat.. and as soon as we were about to enter the restaurant, it started to rain. The dinner was a lovely affair, with lot of chat and gossips and reliving of certain moments! The food was amazing, but there was still a feel of good bye to it. And then there was the final goodbye.. we said bye to all the new friends that we had made, we said good bye to Madison and then we started to worry about packing…… that would pretty much take the entire night.. that and gathering up of pictures from each other.

We made another stop at around 10 pm.. to the department.. and OMG! It was so weird being in a university department at that time.. I mean it was cool weird, everything being all dark and you being the only one who is wandering the halls. We actually came back to check up on the beads and the pots that we had made. We took our time cleaning them and putting them in small packets for everyone.

The rest of the night was all about packing and making sure the luggage was under the weight limit, and boy, was that a juggling act or what! You measure one and it is 57 lbs, so you measure the other one and it is 47 lbs, and so you return to the first one and reduce the weight and then you return to the second one and check it. Then you try to find space in your hand carry…. I mean OMG! That was just plain insanity!

Oh but well! It was the last night! The last time I will ever sleep in this bed, the last night that I will spend in US … For the time being! And the last night that I will be away from home .. that is if you don’t count the weird day and night transition that you go through when you are flying back and have no idea, when there is day or night!

I seriously had the most amazing time. I did things I had never imagined I would be able to do, and I saw things that I could not have thought about seeing in my wildest dreams. My entire perspective has changed about things and what can be done and made possible. It was like an opening, through which I can see how the other side worked, and take back with me all that I can and try to make it work in my own context.

I don’t think that despite writing all that I have written I can truly ever describe what this trip meant to me and what I have felt in those 30 days. But I realize the fact that it was a once in a life time thing and I am never going to forget it!