Resemble Reassemble: A revolutionary dispositif

Maryam / Amber Hammad / 2006 / Digital Print / Courtesy: Devi Art Foundation

‘Resemble Reassemble,’ a landmark group show at Devi Art Foundation presents the works of 45 contemporary artists from Pakistan. Art writer Natasha Ginwala analyses how Rana examines the ‘notional entity’ called ‘Contemporary Pakistani Art’ through this show.

The recent exhibition ‘Resemble Reassemble,’ curated by Rashid Rana has been termed here as a dispositif, in order to facilitate a deconstructive reading rather than categorising it simply as a survey exhibition of Contemporary Art from Pakistan. The significance of this assemblage of works extends far beyond their corporeal presence at a private museum close to the Indian capital.

Foucault elaborates upon the dispositif thus, “A thoroughly heterogeneous ensemble consisting of discourses, institutions, architectural forms, regulatory decisions, laws… in short, the said as much as the unsaid. Such are the elements of the apparatus. The apparatus itself is the system of relations that can be established between these elements.”(1)

‘Resemble Reassemble,’ functions as a constellation of tangible and intangible utterances which assimilate an array of themes, mediums and discourses capturing a fractured zeitgeist. In essence, this show presents an alternative visualism by privileging an experiential ontology. The curator has purposefully bypassed conventional curatorial categorisation and instead focused on combining individual works by deploying what he terms ‘visual thinking’; thereby, weaving a plenitude of tactile narratives. By working upon cultivating an interstitial aesthetic, Rana presents oscillating expressions which subvert notions of spatial enclosure, corporeal essentialism and redundant theoretical binarism. The interstice therefore, appears as a potential site of resistance, an immanent source of critique that is (dis)located in the fissures and cracks of conventional architectonics, emerging from within panoptic social architecture.(2) The works articulate discursive ambivalence that threatens suppressive political and cultural regimes. A linear narrative of the nation is also contested through this strategic approach to exhibition design. In his catalogue essay, Rana writes, “As I examined this notional entity called Contemporary Pakistani Art, I came to realise that this was a creature with no single connecting spine or identifiable shape. If anything, I was determined to avoid forcing a preconceived or clichéd form on the work in front of me.”

‘Resemble Reassemble,’ showcases works from the Lekha and Anupam Poddar Collection. The extensive list of artists reads, Abdullah M.I. Syed, Adeela Suleman, Ahsan Jamal, Aisha Khalid, Ali Raza, Amber Hammad, Anwar Saeed, Asma Mundrawala, Attiya Shaukat, Ayaz Jokhio, Ayesha Zulfiqar, Bani Abidi, Ehasan ul Haq, Fahd Burki, Farida Batool, Ferwa Ibrahim, Hamra Abbas, Huma Mulji, Huria Khan, Imran Ahmad Khan, Imran Mudassar, Imran Qureshi, Iqra Tanveer, Ismet Khawaja, Jamil Baloch, Mariam Ibraaz, Masooma Syed, Mahbub Shah, Mehr Javed, Mehreen Murtaza, Mahreen Asif Zuberi, Mohammad Ali Talpur, Muhammad Zeeshan, Naiza H Khan, Nazia Malik, Noor Ali Chagani, Nusra Laitf Qureshi, Rabbya Nasser, Raju G. C, Risham Syed, Roohi Ahmed, Saira Wasim, Sajjad Ahmed, Shalalae Jamil and Unum Babar.

The exhibited works cover a spectrum of creative praxes which have emerged over the past decade. They appear to be in active conversation with global art trends and speak while being vitally rooted in specific socio-cultural paradigms. As the exhibition title suggests, the art is seen in a state of re-construction and in dialogue with historical formations as well as dispersed knowledge frameworks. Much like Rana’s elaborate photo montages, a bricolage of striking creations come together to form a uniquely fashioned whole.

While several exhibitions inadvertently endorse critical distance and intellectual exposition, they become victims of tunnel vision and somatophobia. In this exhibition rather than a ‘looking at’ there seems to be a looking over, under and within. Further, there is an overwhelming mobilisation of sensorial stimulation. Vision is, thus, fortified by an influx of peripheral experientiality.

The complete article can be viewed here


1. Foucault, Michel (1980), Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972-1977, edited by Colin Gordon, Harvester, London.

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