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Supermarket of Equality, 2021, Inkjet on Museo Max. 100 x 150 cm (series of 5).
Funded by Mondriaan Fonds.

Food as a signifier for communal human consumption and the global distribution of resources is an ongoing preoccupation of Basir Mahmood’s practice. How do humans interact and share? Mahmood began considering the aesthetic implications of questions surrounding parity when he began to live between Amsterdam and Lahore; two societies with very different access to and relationships with consumable goods. In all of Mahmood’s work, the precise composition of his image-making is girded by a complex armature of process. As in the international system of food production and distribution, so too is there an entire ecosystem of intensions and decisions contributing to Supermarket of Equality.

Staged and then documented in the construction site of a new grocery store, each photograph depicts standard consumer product display furniture—made out of the same material that forms the walls of the building—laden with familiar goods including produce, candy, bottled drinks, meat and fish. Each individual item is cut precisely in half, in a meticulous gesture of repetition signaling the automation inherent to production and consumption of industrialized food. Mahmood’s intension, however, is to manifest an ideological experiment in which the world’s ample resources are distributed equally. This focus on balance is echoed throughout the geometric symmetry of each composition and the single-point perspectival position of the camera.

What would it look like if the same attention to symmetry was shown to the lives of objects produced (and indeed the lives they sustain) as to the equilibrium of economic systems such as supply and demand schedules? Mahmood purchased all the pictured food from small local grocery stores, consulted their employees on the arrangements and attempted to redistribute the leftover food to those who had helped make the work. Some spoiled and much of it bisected beyond edibility, the ideological gesture of the Supermarket of Equality becomes as impossible to manifest as capitalism’s false promise of equal supply for equal demand.  

(text by Lauren Wetmore)


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                    Series of All Divided Equally, 2019, Inkjet on Museo Max. 33.33cm x 50cm each.

The work titled "Series of All Divided Equally" deals with the aesthetics of balance and equality in the decisions humans make when dividing food amongst themselves, and others.

I have been exploring ideational concepts surrounding equal division ever since I began splitting my life and time between two very different parts of the world - Lahore and Amsterdam. In this, I have attempted to imagine the impossible. I have wondered if it would be possible to divide all the resources equally amongst everyone and that should equal distribution be made possible, what might be the aesthetical outcome of such.

At present, it seems that this would be a series that I would wish to continue for the rest of my practice. For this work, there are more then a hundred diptychs for now. This number is expected to grow overtime as I continue to find new edibles items that I may divide and photograph. Ultimately, I am motivated by the intent to cover all possible eatables. Here, all diptychs would be unique with no editions, and no item or eatable would ever be repeated in this series.

As the title suggests, I plan to divide all that exists for everyone to consume equally. This may be as idealistic as it sounds but that is the beauty of art. That which cannot exist in the real world, can exist within the space of a work of art.


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                  All Divided Equally, 2018, Inkjet on Museo Max. 100 x 150 cm each (Diptych).
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                                                                            Milk, 2018, Inkjet on Museo Max. 120 x 80 cm.
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Other Living Things, 2018, Inject of Museo Max. 133,3 x 100 cm.

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All good things, 2018, Inkjet on Museo Max. 180 x 120 cm.
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                                    Holy Water from Mecca, 2015, Inkjet on Museo Max. 66.67 x 100 cm.

When returning to Pakistan from Mecca after performing Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages, believers bring with them large bottles of the Abe Zamzam - holy water from a spring that is said to have sprouted in the desert to quench the thirst of Hagar and Ishmael.

The holy water is divided into portions and distributed amongst friends and relatives in small bottles. When a family receives a bottle of the Abe Zamzam as a gift, it divides its share into yet smaller portions for each of its members. At last, when the Abe Zamzam is consumed in its tiny portions, each sip is believed to bring blessings and carry special meanings for the drinker. As the drinker drinks, the holy water, however, leaves no taste in the mouth.

The artist photographed his own portion of Abe Zamzam just before drinking it.


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One for Each, Two For All, 2013, Acrylic face mounted photo rag, 30 x 45 cm each (Triptych).

One for Each, Two for All” is a triptych which deals with human interaction which forms the framework for any social structure. When individuals gather together, they form groups. The little gestures, which they may enact in the context of a social gathering, work as joints, assembling a structure of a group, and holding it together. This structure, as human gestures have constructed, is an organic structure, which is based on basic human understanding.

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     One who gardens in the garden (Diptych) 2013 Inkjet print on Photo Rag 120 x 80 cm.

A whole afternoon I observed a gardener work in a backyard. I saw him engaged with the land, rising and squatting, moving and stilled, refreshed and tired. He left many marks on the land as he worked to cast his imagination he had prepared for it.

I asked him if I could photograph him. I wanted to see if my camera could find impressions that the land returned upon his person. He agreed.


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No Land for a Fisherman, 2012, Acrylic face mounted photo rag. 66.6 x 100 cm each (series of 6).

No Land For a Fisherman’ is collection of six photographs, which were taken during my stay in an old fishermen’s settlement.

While living there, I realized that fishing was a profession that did not exist anymore as it once used to. However, I felt that it still continues to survive on another plane of existence: you can still feel the people who partook in it, and lived as parts of the profession itself. The work, then, is intended to be a response to the memory of the profession.

I resolved to create not only a very personal landscape of the fishermen for my work, but also to develop a counter dialogue. For this purpose, I decided to stay in an old fisherman’s home for a few days while he was away. During my stay I ventured to open some of his most personal things, and photograph them. I did not tinker with anything I opened: I photographed everything just as I had found them.

My work is intended to show that while there might be no land for fishermen, they do not really need a land of their own, as fishermen.


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                                                  Silence from a Still, 2012, Inkjet on Museo Max. 100 x 150 cm.

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Basir Mahmood 2021