Second Karachi Biennale opens amid controversy

Second Karachi Biennale

Smashed pieces of the artwork by Adeela Suleman

According to the reports in Artforum and Pakistan Today, the installation titled ‘Killing Fields of Karachi’ by artist Adeela Suleman displayed as part of the Second Karachi Biennale was shut down along with threats given by men in ‘plainclothes’ claiming to be Pakistani law enforcement officers.

Organisers of the Second Karachi Biennale where an exhibition depicting the 444 extrajudicial killings by police officer Rao Anwar was “forcibly shut down” by law enforcement agencies (LEAs) on Sunday have said that the artwork was “not compatible with the ethos of the event”.

The biennial later published a controversial statement on Facebook that has been criticized for not defending Adeela Suleman and her work:

The Karachi Biennale is a platform for artists both emerging and established. We are against censorship of art and believe that expression is very subjective to the viewers interpretation of the artwork. With regards to the exhibit in question, we feel that despite the artist’s perspective, it is not compatible with the ethos of #KB19, the theme of which is “Ecology and the Environment”, and we feel that politicising the platform will go against our efforts of bringing art to the public and drawing artists from the fringe to the mainstream cultural discourse.

The City Government has been part of the entire process and has placed trust in our platform by facilitating the use of public spaces to install artworks and use the city as a canvas. We have painted with freedom on this canvas, and while art is self-expression, the theme this year did not warrant any political statement on an unrelated issue, as all artists have agreed to focus on “Ecology & the Environment” within the framework of cultural sensitivities.

We hope the artists’ community will understand that our platform, as has been illustrated through our projects is purely to promote art to build a large public audience and any public event has to work within certain agreed with boundaries. To ensure a sustainable future of Karachi Biennale it is imperative that we focus on its the mandate to connect art with the city and its people.

Team Karachi Biennale

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