A Skype conversation with Bani Abidi about the Pakistan art scene and how being Germany is affecting her work
Conversation description below
Part 1 of 3
Part 2 of 3
Part 3 of 3
For the past 6 years, lot of Abidi‘s work was mainly about the very hierarchical society of Pakistan which defines politics, social and class relationships. Even the film she has shown at Documenta came from her interest in how traditional politicians like having statues made of themselves. But now she is moving away from that issue.
“I have started thinking a lot about individual people, individual in the society, who are kind of helpless and frustrated and their ways of coping with life. They are the generation that saw the creation of Pakistan and India, the separation; it is also the generation that keeps accumulating knowledge and a sort of archive of all sort of experiences.” In this first part of this conversation Abidi talks also about the art scene in Pakistan. “Art is very elitist. Galleries are still much closed off spaces, although artists manage to work across all class sectors. In Pakistan there are lots of contradictions. It seems very narrow from the outside, about issues of intolerance, but artists also get by making extremely critical and brilliant works.”
In the second part Abidi talks about the place she was born, Karachi. Then she starts talking about Berlin, where she moved one year ago for the DAD program. She says that the German imagination about contemporary art is quite local and Eurocentric.
“There is an heavy dose of pragmatism in Germany. Pragmatism, hard work and sincerity seem to be the morals and the values that you encounter in the German public talk and for me it is not necessarily my cup of tea. I went to Italy; everything is dysfunctional, but there is something that, coming from South Asia, I could relate to much more. I am much more familiar with things not working and people wanting to live a crazier life.”
In the last part of the conversation, Bani Abidi talks about how being Germany is affecting her work.
“If an artist gets picked up in one place and put in another, he or she will not respond to that place immediately. It takes a while to internalize and to figure out your own relationship to a city.” In the past years, she has produced a lot. She did the Documenta film and the photo work for the Experimenter Gallery‘s booth at Frieze, London. But she does not work very fast and she doesn’t like making tons of work. “I think I have done my work this year and now I am just sort of reading. It is nice not to be working for big exhibitions that set deadlines and I refuse to do anything very big for another year. I need to take a break.” For the moment she prefers to work for open-ended projects. “It gets very tiring as an artist to work for specific exhibitions”. What she is looking forward at the moment is just looking, observing, and collecting stuff.