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* Exhibition Review *
‘[It] Lives. It Breathes. It Is Me.’
Sanam Sajna, Cultural Correspondent
Posted: 19 hours ago. Updated: 71 seconds ago.
Over the past 40 years, Rizan Wareed has produced some of South Asia’s most illustrious, genre-defining works of art. His visionary style and innovative methodologies, showcased in such exhibits as “A World on Fire” and “Nations Under Water” inspired climate protests and incited revolutions.
Now at 60, Wareed continues to astound, earning national and international awards for his craft, including the World Art Prize. In recent decades, he has repositioned his artistic telescope towards the future, employing such techniques as virtual, augmented, and mixed reality technologies to illustrate what he calls ‘the degradation of social order’.
Critics of Wareed’s creations continue to denounce the commentary contained in the works citing it as a ‘vehicle for inciting sentiments against the state.’ Information minister, Tarim Nama stated such at Wednesday’s parliamentary session where ruling party MPs called for the arrest of Wareed and his apprentice Lamya Malia under the country’s much-debated Digital Defence Act (DDA). The controversial legislation has been described as a ‘tool for state oppression’ by human rights organisation Save the People, with the European Alliance calling for its removal.
In the past decade, the DDA has been used by the country’s security apparatuses to arrest and detain over 3,000 artists, musicians, journalists, and members of the political opposition according to the Independent Justice Council, a human rights organisation working with those facing rights violations at the hands of the state. Wareed was himself detained in the country’s capital last year for ‘spreading rumours on social media to hurt the people.’ The charges were later dropped, after widespread condemnation from the American, and British governments.
Driven by the alleged physical and psychological torture that he faced at the hands of the Fleet Force, a specialist paramilitary unit of the government, Wareed vowed to take on the most ambitious artistic project of his lifetime. He worked tirelessly with Malia for over a year and on Friday unveiled what many have described as an awe-inspiring exhibition of mammoth scale and possibility.
Fans gathered in the thousands from the early hours of Saturday to get a glimpse of the master’s most comprehensive art exhibition in almost half a decade. Curated by art historian and long-time friend Orin Miyazaki, at his gallery Apparition, ‘Aina’ or mirror (in English), the display features nearly 50 of Wareed’s canvases. Blank canvases.
“This is the most ambitious project of my life. An amalgamation of thirty years of research and development. A work that is about discovery not just for Malia and I, but for everyone who experiences the exhibit,” Wareed told Quark News.
Whilst he explained the incredible feat of engineering involved in it, long-time collaborator Shalia Haq coded in the final sub-routines for the launch. Haq, the mind behind the solar-powered auto-rickshaw and household water-purification filter Cleanzine, said that ‘…it was a pleasure working with Wareed on a project of this scale and magnitude. Our hope is that this will trigger a strong response from those attending…and beyond.’
As this reporter stood in front of the blank canvas, it suddenly transformed into a colourful, cubism-inspired landscape of her family home. It was impossible to contemplate how it was being done, so the question was posed to the artist.
‘It is quite simple when you think about it. There are three cameras on top of each frame. A dot projector, an infrared camera, and a 220-megapixel single focal length shooter. Every canvas is fitted with two layers of transparent film, and in between them, the real stars of the show. Intelligent, mobile, glorious nanobots capable of instant shape and colour change.’
Quark photographer Moha Hamid saw a hyper-realistic portrait of his wife holding their baby daughter, and driver Saha witnessed a cherishable moment from his childhood with his now-deceased father on the banks of the Old Ganges.
Wareed has always worked in series, often alternating between artistic styles. In Aina, he has created visuals based on his own technique, but rooted in the vibrant depictions of the lives and memories of those experiencing the works.
On Sunday, a delegation from the state including the chief of police, Badruddin and the minister for cultural affairs Nayem Khan visited the exhibition to ‘check whether any rules were being broken.’ A visibly upset Badruddin exited the booth shouting at the top of his voice. When approached by reporters from several newspaper and satellite television channels, he uttered that ‘it was defamatory!’
‘What did you see?’ asked Tajul Islam, cultural correspondent for national daily, Humanity.
Badruddin refused to comment, but sources close to the chief revealed to the New York Teller that he had witnessed a dramatic scene of him lapping the moisture off the toe end of a set of pointes.
‘It is difficult to state with any certainty the meaning of his observation, but it is not a coincidence that we have a prime minister at the helm who was a ballerina in her younger days,’ political commentator Nuruzzaman told Quark.
Nayem Khan did not reveal the nature or characteristics of the painting that was shown to him. Although several attendees to the exhibition heard the minister loudly say, ‘Murderer of free speech? Murderer of free speech?’ when inside the small observation enclosures in which the canvases are housed.
Quark asked Wareed how the paintings are manifested, and whether he had programmed the frames to display images according to his own preferences.
“Absolutely not. No one has control over what is shown. The system is run by AI. Yes, it is modelled after me, but draws on publicly available databases, news websites, social media, user-shared video, as well as context information from the camera system to display the image it determines to be fitting for the time and person experiencing the artwork. Those having no online presence can take a ten-minute quiz to inform the system. Upload their own photos. Then the AI manifests it in the artistic style that the user may find stimulating.”
The debates have been raging since Saturday, with #WareedLives trending on social media platforms worldwide, and fans in the thousands driving in from neighbouring countries. Flights have seen a significant uptake for the nation’s capital too. As anger grows within the government and its political wings, fires were set to Wareed’s personal vehicle on Sunday evening.
‘They refused to take the case or even acknowledge that a crime had taken place,’ Malia told Quark, after being asked about attempts by Wareed to file a report with the police.
Political commentators have voiced fears that arrests could be imminent for everyone involved, but legal technologists have pointed out a fatal flaw if state action were to be introduced.
‘How do you even collect the evidence?’ asked Alfred Basu, a researcher at West North University. ‘The canvas will only show the image if it detects one face. It automatically shuts down if it sees any recording device and will not display an illustration in the event of tampering.’
On the question of state action against him, Wareed said: “This is my last exhibition. A culmination of my life’s work. The AI lives. It breathes. It is me. Come what may.”
The exhibition is set to open nation-wide next month. Tickets cost less than a dollar with all proceeds going to support families who had lost members to enforced disappearances.
Wareed’s grandiose exhibit marks a pivotal point for the artist, and only time will tell what effect it has on those who attend, and the number of DDA cases it is sure to propagate.
***Have your say. Please comment below to let us know whether you will be attending Rizan Wareed’s Aina.***
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[Patriot71] The traitor Wareed should be arrested for crimes against our great country.
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Mehzeb R. Chowdhury is an author, painter and award-winning filmmaker based in the United Kingdom. His works have been published in twenty countries and eight languages with collaborations featuring the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences (CSoFS). He has been exhibited at the National Science and Media Museum, Bradford, and the Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester. Chowdhury is an active member of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) and the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA). As screenwriter, cinematographer and colorist, his films have been screened at over fifty festivals worldwide. He is also one half of coveted British rock band Megalithic.