August 1, 2016 - July 31, 2017 (extended from January 31)
Ramla Fatima graduated from N.C.A national college of arts in February 2015 with major in sculpture and minor in print making and digital arts. She has participated in a few group shows around the country. She has also been selected for two artist residencies: ”B.Q (binqalandar artist residency) and VASAL international artist residency, Karachi. She currently lives and practices in Pakistan.
As a fresh graduate with just two years of practice, Ramla’s art career may appear to be on the right track – graduated from the National College of Arts, participated in an exhibition, left for an artist residency, came back and exhibited in a number of group shows, again left for a residency – the path desired and considered as successful by many of her fellow graduates.
She is however not satisfied with all this, feeling confused and having difficulty understanding the professional art circle. She does not want her artistic career to run on the usual trajectory of group shows, solo shows, residencies, and biennales etc. She wants to take a path which no one has ever followed. When she came back from her last residency, she started looking for another which would give her a new dimension and fresh perspective to her art career, but to her disappointment, all the residencies are running very similar programmes. Then she found RFAOH, which she thinks is the exact thing she was looking for and simply wanted to be part of it.
For her on-hiatus residency at RFAOH, she does not want to propose anything. She wants to sit back and think of “tasks” that are not related to her work as a sculptor; she might write a book on the issue of “the art circle in an artist’s life”. She wants to give her career a new start. She wants to begin this residency with her mind as a blank canvas.
On Jun 22 2017, co-director (m) commented on On Hiathus: The best part of hiatus is that its an open ended concept. Its like a non-declaration declaration. I[...]
“it perhaps is not dead as yet”
You can never be “on hiatus” as an artist. Even if you are wrapped in different packaging (like me as an event manager) but an artist remains an artist somehow and it happens to everyone.
What made my life busier is the added incentive to my monthly income a drawing teacher. This happened when I was at a stationary shop for buying some stuff for the office and a mother of a 9 year old child came to me and asked “are you an artist? Are you teaching art somewhere?” and I was shocked to hear that how did she know that I am ex artist. Her question left me speechless. After two days she visited my place and had a cup of tea with me. The conversation began….. She told me that she was looking for an art teacher for quite a long time for her child. I told her that I have no teaching experience of art. But the moment I saw that kid with bright eyes full of passion I could not refuse her I don’t know for what reason. Anyways, he started coming to my place every day for one hour drawing class.
It’s been more than a month now. Initially in first two classes I was totally blank. But with the passage of time I have started enjoying going back to times and revising the basic art lessons. This whole one month experience took me back to my foundation year of BFA.
Today was his last day of drawing course. During these classes I myself have developed a little interest in drawing again. But today when he left I find myself again on hiatus. I think at times my mind just accelerate with artistic thoughts and began to think creatively but for some reason my hands are unable to work in coordination with my mind while drawing or sketching an idea. I think I still need some more time to think about it either I want to quit or continue.
I was quite happy with the non-artistic office work and not being surrounded by the people of art circle anymore. As I have mentioned in my previous post that I have started working as an event co-coordinator with an event management company and me as an event manager it has dominated the first half of me as an artist. I was very happy because over here I was supposed to do something which is not related to producing art. For example, I am currently designing a course outline for a workshop to be conducted in February 2017 on event management.
I think this art class has disturbed my routine again and left me again in the deep confusion and threatened me again that “it perhaps is not dead as yet” which will make burden on my mind harder to bear in 2017.
Talking about marriage is the biggest social taboo in the sub-continent. Arrange marriage is an institution. People anticipating an arranged marriage isn’t actively involved in the partner selection process. The actual man or women about to be married is not the only factor to be considered. Indeed people use the other factors to offset their shortcomings in the more obvious departments, such as looks or employment. The situation of getting an arranged marriage proposal for a girl with above average looks is “too good to be true” unless your family credentials are also pretty exceptional.
This post is about my recent “on hiatus” activity i.e. arranging a matrimonial match-making event in the town named “HIM & HER”
This initiative was taken to encounter the essential unreality of matrimonial relationships being made as a result of arranged or forced marriages-a biggest social taboo, what starts out as hope, soon becomes finessed into a hegemony of power, leaving only a sense of chaos and the possibility of a new reality. The relationship which is supposed to be based on love and extreme willingness, if is based on force how would it be like.
The purpose of this event was to provide a platform for the essential advisory services for marriage in a healthy and comfortable environment and to raise voice against the taboo of late or second marriage, or looking for your spouse by yourself.
Being the pioniers of bringing this concept in Pakistan, we were highly appreciated not only by the words of mouth but have also got a tremendous response country wide via our social media page. We haven’t got any negative criticism, not even a single comment which was not in the favor of this initiative.
Unlike the usual events e.g. concluding a movie premier, a concert or a cultural festival, HIM & HER was a big challenge because meeting the recreational purpose is much easier than meeting up the emotional contentment of an individual. This platform has proved to be a blessing for all those who lack the usual channel of getting a marriage proposal. We have been successful enough in concluding a successful event as far as the arrangements and meeting up the deadline is concerned but I think that we have not been that successful in meeting up the true purpose of this event. On one side where people have walked in with high hopes and bright eyes to the venue on the other hand they left with a bit disappointment. This could have been referred as a great play with human emotions. For some reason we haven’t done justice to each one of them.
Its been long time that i was quite confused about what should i write in the next post. “Negatives at work place” was the reason of not being in touch with RFAOH in the whole month of December. But the email that i received yesterday from you have actually compelled me to write this post expressing my current situation. I have started working with an event management company for the last 5 weeks. It was my first experience of job and i am jotting down few thoughts expressing my experience.
A living organisation would never deny that it is filled with both emotions of positivism and negativism. Every single organisation, every work station, every division, is always surrounded by colleagues, who are unfortunately ‘possessed’ of negative tendencies.
They can only see the dark, the very dark clouds in almost every facet of life. They are even blinded to the promise of the silver linings behind these dark clouds. They ignore them and hence are obvious to the potential of the ‘silver linings’ attached to difficulties in work and life. These are seen by the negatively oriented as a scientific deception to looming depression of clouds. They do not realize that even the longest day has an end.
Negatively inclined colleagues, you would find rush to quickly point loopholes even in the best of initiatives. They would never look at half a glass as an opportunity; they would only crib and complain why it isn’t full! These types of colleagues are like the hyenas they lark in office corridors waiting for the unsuspecting positive colleague and then attack them venomously with negative news; depressing views, unsubstantiated hearsay that could be of no relevance to either of them, but it is done with the sole motive to rob the individual of the positive energy. They think that their job description is to cause incorrect-able pollution of minds.
I have always identified these individuals with the glorious nick-name of ‘corporate mother-in-laws’. They love the language of sarcasm and taunt. They enjoy teasing. They relish in derailing people from their goals.
None could break through the great wall of negativism that they had so lovingly built around themselves. It is another matter that later in life the same became his career’s prison walls. He entrapped himself in negativity; while the positive world around him moved forward. The man who never moved forward. The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptile of the mind, as said by (William Blake).
In dealing with those colleagues who are affiliated with this trait, it is best firstly to accept, that we are dealing with some bacteria for which no corporate vaccine or antibiotic has been found. In fact, it is a stage four cancer at its very beginning itself for it is bound to eat away from within the good cells of the organisation. Treatment therefore has to begin before its lethal onset. Unchecked it can become endemic and epidemic.
If recognition of the problem individuals is fast, speedy, and quick, then it is safe to rely upon the age old held opinion that negativism is impermanent because it is on conflict with man’s innate nature of being positive. I think that a door shut is an opportunity that it can be opened and unlocked. Negativism in life is a waste of time. Positivity prompts action.
Negativity always kills passion and effort. As Churchill said, I am an optimist and a positive person because it does not seem to be much use in being anything else.
At the workplace in dealing with these types of individuals, develop a non-sense attitude to the intruder who would want to spend time with you with no good work at hand but only to bite your calmness and to pollute your mind with negativity. Be wary of such colleagues who would otherwise appear out wardly as good intention and positive but in their insides reside oceans of venom waiting to be unleashed upon the shored of positive minds.
I personally believe and subscribe that all reaction to negative news is a broad smile or if necessary a comment on the lines of ‘that could be one way of looking at things’.
Attempt to end conversations with negative colleagues, by asking them to view things differently. Work upon them slowly for conversation to positivity of thought. I am certain only a few dosages would alter their mental makeup barring the die hard and the unfortunate. Why don’t we learn from the bee that sucks the sweetest honey from the bitterest of flowers. Deal gently to get them on rails, otherwise a strong retaliatory reaction would usher more negatives. At times it is the consultation with the ignorant that gives access to unknown wisdom.
There is an Irish saying: count your joys instead of your woes; count your friends instead of your foes. Try to quote this to those in need of a reminder.
Here is the sneak peek of my current project. What to do else than art was a difficult question. Then certainly i have got this opportunity to be a part of a short documentary.
I have been working with three documentary filmmakers currently in the International Film Exchange program sponsored by the U.S. State Department through the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad and administered through the Humpty Dumpty Institute. The program trains emerging Pakistani filmmakers and funds the creation of short social issue documentaries on important topics in Pakistan.
I along with Kanzul Fatima, Jawad Sharif and Zeeshan Younas, working together on a groundbreaking film studying the effects of trauma on mental health. I have been featured in this documentary as a subject (a remarkable young artist whose father was kidnapped and to date there has been no word of him). I have agreed to discuss the effects of this trauma, the ways that I have expressed myself through my art and the steps me and my family are taking to move forward towards healing. This team of filmmakers is very talented, supporting and committed to tell this important story of my life.
SHOOTING INTERVIEW AT KASHMIR
Although the filmmakers are not being paid for their work, the film’s expenses are covered by the program. The program also includes funds to distribute the films, to create a permanent website with supporting materials, as well as showcasing the films in the United States and entering them in major international film festivals.
I am looking forward to showing you the finished film early in the New Year as it would be my biggest project of my on hiatus activities other than art.
With all of the power of knowing and the sense of being alive, we encompass within us every breath of our existence, taking leaps of breaths before taking another. We are born innocent, the sense of right and wrong, to know or not to know and the extensions of it are all man made inventions. What isn’t a man-made invention is the sense of belonging to a relation, no matter how anonymous it may stand.
This dialogue generated when I have started a research on the ghost fishing nets. I left for an artist residency almost a year ago and I was searching for a material which should be relevant to my subject that was “missing persons around the country”. I meet the coordinator of the olive ridley project which was set up by a group of Marine biologists situated within the Maldives working towards preventing entanglement of Olive Ridley’s and other marine organisms. They aim to actively target the origin of ghost nets using information gathered from a concerned community. They also rely on observations around the Indian Ocean of poor fishing practices, in particular small or large scale netting methods or any methods deemed detrimental to marine organism survival.
I visited his place and gathered some ghost nets to use them as my art material. This material inspired me a lot. So, I wanted to write something down about them. Because they seems to be such miserable creatures which are the portrayal of what you and I fear and hope, what we lack or hide, the idea and the strength to unveil what makes us or destroys us.
So, I was compelled to write my first post of December about these unpublished mysteries, how I respond to them. I want to express the feelings I had when I saw these nets.
They seems to have mysteries that even we are unaware of yet go on to finding answers we may never, only to satisfy what yearns the human mind .They seems to have a very strong association with the missing person and the identities that you and I have lost, a soul perhaps because they themselves goes through the same process of “lost and found”. These nets are once lost in the sea, remain there for years and then might be found by someone who again brings them with him, may be repair or recycle them in any way and the cycle continues… And some of them remain forgotten like the missing persons who have been lost for the past few years and we still don’t know where they are or will they ever come back?
They are a sorrow filled stimulus of what we are persistently undergoing. They showcase the absence present within them. The Hypnagogic ambiance of these nets ironically engages me in a more relatable manner, clustering the seen memories to evoke what dreads and concerns us. It seems to devour what lies in every beings heart, the despair of the absence of an identity. Its only human nature to fear, one which makes us veil what we know. What do we know? Will we ever know enough?
I essence the diminishing component and would like to extend my concerns towards the extensions of decomposition of those lost identities. I am compounding these found objects to render the sense of existence within misplaced, evoking many to cringe.
“Nothing whets the intelligence more than a passionate suspicion, nothing develops all the faculties of an immature mind more than a trail running away into the dark.”
Stefan Zweig, The Burning Secret and other stories
Passionate suspicion? Unaccountable and unaccounted queries that we all want the justification to, yet what can ever justify or rationalize the tactility of losing a character we could ever define so greatly, even more than our individuality? It includes mystery, violence, beauty, hope, fear, all summed up in these strange creatures. These nets are the portrayal of who once existed. The chaos that lies in our minds is something that we cannot forgo, and the one that keeps on building and burdening the souls of the lost.
These nets do not simply remind me the tragedies that we have become a part of but rather interprets the negative anonymous charms we are left with their departing. They hypocrite the phenomena and bury them under, It is you and I that are left with metaphorical alluring and eventually yearn for glimpses of what once was. What can’t be cured, must be endured.
I had always known the sky was full of secrecies, but not until now had I realized how occupied of them the earth is. Devour what we may know, to avoid the for saken distress that may come with. It is the hush-hush of the world that all things exist and do not die, but withdraw a little from sight and afterwards return yet again. The dead fish being trapped in one of the nets metaphorically says that “once something had existed and is now amongst these remembering’s”. This Familiarity Effect, where we prefer that which is familiar to us, makes loss more difficult, and if we mislay what we are by this time familiar with, we have to go through the spiteful process of getting acquainted with unfamiliar things. The phenomena in the pattern of searching, one loses itself.
Being inspired from that fish skeleton being trapped in those ghost nets, I painted a ray of dead fish emerging from the head of an anonymous identity and heading towards a mystical river, surrounded by rustic textured setting.
Dead fish are symbolic of a loss of power or wealth by an individual thus we are only as strong as we think we are, unaware of the wilderness of sadness that will carry our burden. The deteriorating of the absent identities is enough for us to create thoughtful speculations of what the future may behold for us. There is and never will be any loss greater than the one of losing the one. Our psychological mechanisms make us dread over the pain, yet with time the similar tends to heal and rectify us in a much bizarre manner. The pain becomes a memory and what we are left with are the illusory images and precedents of what we once grieved over, and soon noises are no more noises. Does the human mind make it fair? For us to heal with time? Will we ever heal for that matter? Should we even heal?
The amalgamation of these nostalgic memories and spaces no matter how vague and absurd they may seem is something which no one deny, neither is the ironic understanding one tends to develop by standing in front of these nets.
In the time and age with all we are witnessing, it has become dreadful and heartbreaking to bare the losses, even though they may not be ours- so to speak. The expectations we have about our future comfort and cement our emotional reaction to forfeiture. . One cannot help but be in reverence when he envisages the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous arrangement of reality.
“Qui craint de souffir, il souffre deja de ce qu’ill craint”
A French proverb that perhaps I have understood long before even I knew what suffering really meant. “He who fears suffering is already suffering that which he fears’’.
Career suicide is about the realities of working in the contemporary art world for most professional artists, the thousands of unfashionable, little known and underpaid ones who have to do all manners of unfashionable, little known and underpaid things to survive.
I am an artist and a writer, or a writer and an artist.
I know many other artists for whom this is true as well: It is incredibly impressed upon young artists: we need to find our particular thing. Establish our unique selling point from the very beginning and hang onto that. It was very difficult for me to find “my particular thing” in Contemporary art which so often whooshes right over people’s heads at supersonic speeds, because in many cases you need an extensive art education to even look at this type of work in any way that could conceivably be productive or rewarding. Or you can waste others time with bafflingly stupid or inept work and with a general poor show all around. I don’t know what this thing will be “I was going from up town to down town”. And I think it is a perfect way to express it.
I hate most contemporary art too, even though I make it. Yes I am bitter, but out of that bitterness has come a beautifully sweet idea. I am determined to find new ways of sharing art that matters to normal people, time to re-route around the blockages. Instead of being scarily revolutionary your not-worryingly-unique-thing will be a clever twist on a style or a genre, or better still a clever twist on a very specific and recognizable artist who is already established in the market, with a high profile and a good record of sale-ability.
Sadly, no matter how drunk the artist gets or how much heroin they shoot up even then the choices we made about our practice and about what work to make are driven by what the market wants. While it is not always easy to comment and talk about someone so respected and influential “the well established artists”, “the big names in the art world”, but I do agree very strongly with the idea that most of the times successful artists just happen to make work that rich people or major art institutions want. The art world thus is mostly business and not much art.
“Ramla, where do you store this stuff? I look at your past work and these thoughts return that I always have when I see these sprawling material practices. Questions of logistics? How does the artist store this, or move this from place to place, what are the histories of all these elements, how did they end up in your possession and part of an artwork.” Co-director wrote on September, 3 made me think about it. I have been ignoring this for so long because the answer to this question digs something from my past, which for some reason I don’t feel free to talk about. Yes it is a sad fact; it is one of the main reasons of me as an artist being on hiatus. Quitting or taking a break from art was not that easy. But I took this decision for many reasons.
I end up with my thesis project with a lot of appreciation. But sadly it was just the appreciation. It took me more than two months to build this huge piece, a lot of budget, a lot of manpower, uncountable sleepless nights, a number of restless days but this all ended up with just appreciation.
Nobody buys large scale sculptures, no gallery around the country unfortunately have that much space to exhibit huge work. A few of them who can, they probably don’t want to get into this mess of keeping large scale sculptures, the hassle of their transportation and installation.
After two weeks of thesis display I have to move back my work to my home. Luckily I have got a storage space which 90% of the artists don’t have actually. So I wasn’t that unfortunate. Anyways I have to hire a crane to move the iron armature of my work right from the college to my home. It took me and my friends five days to dismantle all the work, pack it up and load it in a truck separately in addition to the crane.
After that whenever I have written proposal for large scale installation to a gallery, nobody gave me a positive response. Eleven months back a gallery owner called me because she wanted me to put up my thesis project in an upcoming show. So, the whole process started again. Though have took one month this time, hired crane, labor, truck, have loaded my work, reached gallery, installed, got appreciated, dismantled the piece again, got home with the piece again.
Then I sit back and realized I seriously have no energy and money for all this now. I was heartbroken I have decided to quit. I started a 9am-5pm job at a software house on less than 150$. That was my first salary. I was happy because I have not earned, not even a single dollar from my art ever. But the happiness did not last long. I kept regretting of quitting art. Then I found a way out. I found an escape in digital art. Thought I was trailed as a sculptor but I have realized that my work could be transformed into photo collage and digital manipulation of my work. I kept documenting random objects on streets and roads and started producing digital work. I was glad that I have tried a new medium. But inside me my own whole world was just grey. I was doing it forcefully. That was not my way of working. I was a sculptor an installation artist. I was born to produce huge and large scale sculptures. So the journey of squeezing 20 feet sculptures to 20 inches digital prints came to an end. I end up with nothing but with a conclusion not to produce art anymore….. unless I find a gallery who could support me in shipping my work at least, unless I find a museum ready to take my work in their permanent collection, unless a find an art collector ready to keep large scale sculptures, unless I find something more than appreciation.
The journey began when I have started finding the meaning in my B.F.A thesis subject i.e. “reassembling the body”. December 2015- a time when ideas of definitions, boundaries, representations and interpretations have gained an almost unparalleled fluidity and my mind was not accepting the previous modes of art production.
I was going through a complex exercise of thinking about the very essence of meaning-making or wondering what in fact “meaning” may in itself is. My mind was bombarded with-what is to begin with; what is the meaning of art? It was precisely the time when I turned towards the search for which can be deemed “meaningful”. I kept hearing that art could be immediately identified as such: that works of art had a strong identity that set them apart from the ordinary that made them qualify to be called art. Also art could be whatever it wanted, as long as it had been bestowed with an intent-giving meaning.
The will to produce art dies when you find no more logic and reason in your work. Producing art without a purpose is pretty insignificant. The purpose of making an art work eventually leads you to a sense of attachment and where if the purpose of making an art is lost, so is the will to produce art also dies. This conflict had changed the view of my own existence; my drive towards this search for that what is meaningful was in direct relation to the damage and distress that I was facing. At that time I found myself rooted in a frustration with the idea of “meaning”. To seek and find that which is meaningful to my subject was perhaps as critical as choosing life and death.
In a book named “the transfiguration of the commonplace, Arthur Danto argues towards a definition of art, where he asserts that “[….] works of art are always about something and hence have a content or meaning; and secondly that to be a work of art something had to embody its meaning. This cannot be the entire story, but if it could not get these conditions to hold, I am unclear what a work of art without them would look like”.
I kept thinking that people will only find damage, destruction and despair in my work. When we are unable to find a validation in this that for the many that will not be able to understand, there are also the many that will. After a long debate I finally had decided that it is the time to actually get your hands dirty. I began with my work and it has started communicating with me. I have started with a 4′ x 12′ sculpture which lead to 22′ x 19′ one.
I have realized that the work was loaded with the meaning of the past, the present and the future all at once. I have realized that meaning itself is not a static thing. It keeps moving and keeps taking a new direction. It changes with the circumstances that surround it can lead it to the evolution of a completely new concept, conferring new life upon the thing that embodies it, and in doing so, in itself becomes like an entirely different thing.
an unplanned photo walk in the abandoned streets of an abandoned city
Hello everyone hope that you all would be doing great. After posting my first write up for the residency I have realized that it was quite depressing. All the frustration of the last six months of being on an artist block was transferred into my post unintentionally. But I am glad that RFIOH has given me new energy, hope and will. I have been reading all the posts from my fellow residents and I am really looking forward for the upcoming posts. So, finally I stepped out of my home two days back, carrying my camera and went for a photo walk with totally unplanned destination. My mind was free and relaxed and I kept walking on streets and documented random objects showing signs of negligence. I love to document found objects most specifically personal belongings and abandoned buildings.
I caught a street beggar having lunch after collecting random stuff from the streets.
A very interesting coal store house was found. I really enjoyed the process of packing coal in the sacs and putting each sac one on another in a foam of quite a well-planned heap.
While reviewing the pictures again on my way back to home I have realized that most of my documentation was based on the abandoned walls of the abandoned buildings. I have found these layers of different colors very appealing and I tend to find faces and stories in these images. I am glad that my mind have started working.
For as long as I can remember I always wanted to an artist. But for the last few months’ art is bringing nothing else but depression to me. I being on an artist blog often find myself wishing my art practice would magically make me happy again, some sort of magical healing abilities that would send all my worries away.
Some days I struggle to get out of bed more than others. It’s just hard to move, to do anything, to feel anything. I go through my daily routine much like a robot. It’s lying in bed all day, doing absolutely nothing but drowning in my own uncontrolled thoughts. They say that when a creative person is feeling down, they should channel those feelings into their art. I hardly could retain anything in my memory. At times its easy for me, some random ideas just keep coming to my mind and I keep putting them on paper, other times its hard. I come up with absolutely nothing and these feelings are trapped inside, unable to be let out. A lot of times it feels as if all the emotions have been sucked from your body, leaving sadness behind to consume you. Sad is the only thing you think, feel, say or do. Little things can upset you further. But usually, there is no reason behind the feeling you just feel sad, constantly with no explanation no matter how hard you try to find one. Your life could be going great, fantastic but yet for some reason you still cannot “produce art”, “resolve art”. For some reason you find yourself unable to fall asleep at night. You feel a certain darkness lingering in the air, behind you, above you, below you, just waiting to take you over, but you don’t know when or why and you don’t understand it. Things can be happening around you, both good and bad and you simply don’t feel a thing. You simply don’t react. It’s as if you are in an everlasting sleep, but somehow you are still breathing. But there is no life in you anymore. It’s like you are in prison and your own body is your cell. You cannot even look outside and cannot appreciate a beautiful day, because your whole world is just grey. It makes you feel like an entirely different person when you cannot even enjoy your favorite food and all the things you used to love to do, start to become more and more boring. It starts to make you feel like you are not an artist anymore. You begin to believe that you will never be an artist again and that if you do somehow produce some work it won’t last long. . . . .