Lahore constitutes a rich and complex urban site for artistic intervention. The city has seen successive social, ideological, economic, and political changes over its extended past; including the eras of the Mughals, the Sikhs, the British Raj and post-Partition sovereignty. Although the city has been reconstructed numerous times, both physically and ideologically, it has demonstrated resilience and adaptability, and has emerged as a major agricultural, industrial, educational, and cultural center in South Asia.
The city has seen successive social, ideological, economic, and political changes over its extended past; including the eras of the Mughals, the Sikhs, the British Raj and post-Partition sovereignty. Although the city has been reconstructed numerous times, both physically and ideologically, it has demonstrated resilience and adaptability, and has emerged as a major agricultural, industrial, educational, and cultural center in South Asia.
The city today consists of a palimpsest of various communities, distinctive histories, and diverse world views. As an increasingly transnational city that includes disparate migrant groups, Lahore’s modernization is proceeding at a faster pace than ever.
With its multifaceted cultural legacy and numerous educational and cultural institutions, Lahore has produced some of the most internationally acclaimed artists of the region. Many of these artists have come from urban and rural backgrounds from across Pakistan and abroad. Although their work has brought some regional and global recognition to the city, this achievement is based primarily on the reputation of individual artists and the pedagogy within selected educational institutions. The city itself has not so far significantly featured as a space that consistently engages artistic practice with diverse publics.
Thoughtful regional and global contemporary art projects in the city can serve to challenge and empower the relatively secluded local publics towards greater participation in contemporary cultural developments. These engagements can energize new relationships of residents and visitors with the city, where the past can be reflected upon, the present debated in new ways, and the future anticipated in a pluralist and progressive direction.
By virtue of its dense historical background and contemporary cultural and social ferment, significant artistic engagement with Lahore can also offer a more complex view of the lived realities of Pakistan at large. Given the limited representation of Pakistan in global media, and the relative scarcity of regional dialogues within South Asia, there is a genuine need to foster a deeper and multifaceted exchange between Lahore, the region, and the rest of the world. The diverse and parallel realities of Lahore and Pakistan have remained somewhat underground. It is time to project them on the national, regional, and global stage via reflective, open-ended, and investigative cultural projects.
In order to address the dynamics of “public engagement” in the arts, LB01 will test the parameters of “art” and “public,” and contextualize this relation within the specificities of Lahore and in a global context. For this purpose, the LB01 will develop diverse projects in public spaces and create public programs, along with opportunities for critical thinking and practice in its Academic Forum. The frameworks of engagement will be varied; and will include tapping into Lahore’s public consciousness or collective memory, conversing with existing institutions that seek renewed participation, or proposing new ways of community involvement.
Exhibitions and events for LB01 will be held at seven major venues that engage with the city’s Mughal, Colonial and Modern layers. The inaugural Biennale recognizes the city in relation to its region, as reflected in the presentation of artists selected, and in the Biennale’s core and collateral programming. Over 60 artists will participate, including artists based in Bangladesh, India, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, Sri Lanka, as well as from Europe and the United States.
The LB01 organizational team includes Director Qudsia Rahim, curating the public arts projects; Iftikhar Dadi developing the academic program; Raza Ali Dada advising on production and exhibition design; and Ayesha Jatoi overseeing publications.