Shezad Dawood

Encroachments, 2019
Multi-media installation, VR environment

The narrative behind Encroachments is a meditation on the idea of sovereignty, private property and the politics of space between Pakistan and the US since partition in 1947. The derogatory term ‘Encroachment’ is used to designate illegal structures built onto the fabric of existing private and state infrastructure in Pakistan. These ad-hoc encampments become social and commercial apparatuses for the lower classes, and reflect a grass-roots entrepreneurialism and reclamation of space. The artist expands on this idea of encroachment to reflect on other parallel readings of space and architecture, as contested sites of memory and history, through a virtual reality environment and a set of new paintings, that explore visceral tropes such as Pakistani beat bands in the late 60s and the terrazzo flooring that became ubiquitous in Pakistan from the 1950s. The central motif of the VR is Austrian-American Modernist architect Richard Neutra’s 1959 US Embassy (later Consulate) in Karachi, which was part of the US State Department’s post-war Embassy-Building Programme. On the journey there and beyond, the user passes through various parallel environments: from iconic colonial-era Urdu-language bookshop Ferozsons on Mall Road in Lahore; through a secret passageway into a 1980s video game arcade that makes reference to anti-Soviet propaganda that fuelled a large amount of early game design evolving against the backdrop of the Soviet-Afghan war.

Co-Commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation and New Art Exchange Nottingham
Special Thanks to the Hashoo Group, Gul Ahmed, EMI Pakistan