thinking out loud

June 2, 2011

On many days like the day we visited the Lahore end of Slice, I think of the colour of Lahore. Islamabad(our home city) is easily a cold grey with all the concrete that invades it- if you ignore it’s green and the hills you will find the ground to be grey, the structures standing very grey, and the sky too is mostly just grey in Islamabad. On the contrary, Lahore is very warm, all tones are warm, the weather, the sun, the traffic that welcome the donkeys and the rickshaws(a very bright, smart, loud, small vehicle, a three wheel motorbike of a kind with a small comfortable cabin for passengers) , the structures- a warm, dusty, alive reddish brown maybe and the Lahore end of Slice in particular a denser, dustier brown maybe.

There is a certain kind of liberation one feels along with a sense of awkwardness when one is dislocated in their own home. You’re not sure if anything jumps out as distinct or if everything just starts to feel more loaded than you remembered it to be. This exercise is very helpful and exciting when you really drill out of yourself an outsider who is as much of an insider at the same time. I repeat, an outsider and insider at the same time, for no one role should dominate your work. If it does, we’re almost taking advantage of that self-acclaimed designation, rather than arriving at something new. Don’t you think!?

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government high schools(especially girls high schools) in pakistan are a loaded subject. this load attached to our point is what we decided to list before we visited the site. this provided us with a list of generalized preconceptions that we gathered only by the name and location of the place.this list included the scarf/ sash issue, strict environment, punjabi version of english speaking teachers, home economics(a syllabus for girls to learn how to do house chores- encouraged for girls who aspire to be housewives) standard system of education, bathrooms loaded with secret sexually desperate notes, hidden bollywood inspired fashion, very aware of the viewer(us) almost to a level of pretense, lack of sports and art activities- this led to a few generalized categories of expected works from a site like ours:

  • sexually charged work
  • religious innuendo
  • gender biased
  • NGO approach
  • sympathized work
  • politically located

our rule for this project is to avoid any of the above mentioned approaches.  we are undergoing research of past projects in the art sector as well as the public sector on a similar subject- government schools in pakistan.

on our visit we discovered a highly maintained school inaugurated by Mian Nawaz Sharif- a political leader of the opposition. we witnessed a very disciplined choreographed assembly after which nails were checked, strictly obeyed uniform, educational handmade charts on walls,  a mediocre library.  the environment was very similar to our experience of studying in government schools. and all of these charged implications that we had listed a day before seemed insignificant.

we want to escape innuendo in our approach. we haven’t identified our approach yet, but identifying what we will avoid is our starting point. our initial response to our point is:

  • further dissection of generalizations of government schools- discussions with people not necessarily to do with the arts and add on to preconceived notions attached to our point.
  • dissection of syllabus-history especially (dissect cambridge universities history books in comparison to government history books and compare facts).
  • locate and place the school geographically and historically (research network of schools in the region) roughly estimating the radius of the residence of students coming to the school.
  • personal interviews inside and outside school with students, teachers and residents of the area around the school- place their visual culture
  • study sociology, psychology, history research specimen papers- to inform our approach to our point as a specimen.

Collective: Ayesha Kamal Khan, Abeerah Zahid and Beenish Khalid