Ahmedpur East, 2022. (excerpt)
In this work, the artist attempts to shape a memorial for the 219 persons who were burned to ashes while collecting fuel from a crashed oil container on July 11, 2017 near Ahmedpur East, Bahawalpur District, Pakistan. A fully laden fuel truck had toppled over when its driver took a rash turn when trying to get on a highway. The fuel it was carrying spilled over onto the road and nearby fields. Soon enough, hundreds of men, women and children from the village rushed to the crash site with kitchen utensils, baskets, plastic bottles, and whatever else they could find, in the hope of collecting some free fuel. However, the fuel caught fire and blew into a fireball that consumed all the free the fuel as well as many of the people trying to collect it. The artist saw this event as an attempt to transfer fuel from one container to the other – from one massive truck carrying 5,500 gallons of the Royal Dutch Shell to hundreds of small household containers meant to help extract as little as a few hundred milliliters for those carrying them. The film records a group of gas station workers associated with a filling station near the artist’s Pakistan production site, as they attempt to fill to their maximum capacity the household containers that the artist brought from his home.
Sunsets, everyday, 2020. (excerpt)
Sunsets, everyday is the result of an investigation that the artist undertook of the process, both physical and cinematic, involved in creating images of domestic violence. During the lockdown, some victims courageously used social media to share photos of their faces, as a way of encouraging other women to report such crimes. The marks on their bodies were the only tangible proof of the blows and pain they had suffered, and the artist took these as a point of departure for thinking about all the things that happen out of sight. Mahmood commissioned a production team in Lahore to create and film, in his absence, a repeated scene of domestic violence, based on his instructions and images of injuries that women shared. While the main crew was busy with this task, two camera operators were asked to constantly film the entire process and the elements of the set, down to the last detail. This method of working from a distance, invites a reflection on the artist’s role and authorship, turning him into a witness and observer of his own work. The process of staging violence is what generates the images on the screen, but the act itself is almost completely hidden from the viewer. We see only narrow closeups and small portions of women’s bodies. Rejecting spectacularization, the artist focuses instead on the cinematic process and the codes of its language. In this metacinema of violence, the onlookers are technicians, crewmembers, present settings and objects struggling with his exhausting work for sixteen straight hours of shooting. The camera explores the settings with a forensic gaze, and the objects that compose it are put on an equal footing with the people. Both are forced to witness to the violence enacted before them. The almost obsessive repetition of identical actions, like cleaning the floor, becomes a way of expressing the routine nature of violence. An act that is repeated with tragic continuity. Every day, as inevitable as the sunset. (text by Leonardo Bigazzi)
Death, at least once, 2020. (excerpt)
The work was conceived and later realised by exploring the odd possibility of hiring a group of professional protesters, who are occasionally employed by political parties, and other entities, to help demonstrate publicly on their behalf. The artist acquired their unconventional service at its usual rate of around 1 dollar per hour and a meal for each participant, to demonstrate by striking a complete menu of a nearby fast-food restaurant available to where the work took place. The artist using his phone kept on ordering online, accordingly they respond swiftly taking less than twenty minutes for each order to deliver, to be consumed fresh by the work, until the protesters grow tired and decided to leave. The present work invite ones ability to confront, in indirect conflict with the others skill of efficient making. The film crew documented collision within the parameters set by the artist. - I remained interested in the idea of a profession, which one takes to earn his or her living; what impressions their doing leaves on them with time, setting up certain way of thinking, influencing actions or even at times manifest itself into ones’ physical characteristics. I borrow only temporarily others’ idea of the work, into my idea of an artwork.
moon-sighting, 2019. (excerpt)
Basir Mahmood’s recent visit to Bradford and Mirpur triggered ‘new curiosities’ about self-defined identity and ‘otherness’ particularly within the Bradford Mirpuri community, explored in his new video work “moon-sighting”. His epiphany was the realisation that what we deem to be Mirpuri in Bradford can be defined as British in Mirpur. Identities become viewpoints through which the ‘other’ is viewed. The world of social media enables him to create an other-dimensional third space that allows re-imagination and performance of identities while facilitating a fluid switching of standpoints. A car becomes a narrative device by inhabiting the neutral space of a green-screen film studio. Mahmood has placed his collaborators and himself physically and metaphorically within the centre of this work, implicating himself in a narrative of confusion and aggression. Within his work, Mahmood made a music video with Mirpur- based YouTube star Arslan Shabir. While Mahmood’s work was shown in a museum, Shabir’s music video went viral and was removed to due combative reactions.
Good ended happily, 2018. (excerpt)
The artist has a growing interest in not making his own work himself. Rather, he likes to draw larger parameters within which his work may be performed by such collaborators as he may involve in the process of conceiving a work. Thus, for the present work, he had a film crew associated with Pakistan’s Lahore-based film industry, known as Lollywood, to collaborate with him. They were required to help him build a narrative for the work. In this, he assigned them the task of recreating and filming the after-images of the American Special Forces operation that resulted in the death of the infamous Al Qaeda supremo, Osama Bin Laden. The artist left the execution of the film to the imagination of his crew, allowing them space to reproduce the events as they saw fit. Whereas, the artist only observed the process of recreation that he initiated, his collaborators worked to form a narrative around the said event. Throughout making of the work, including the filming part, the cameraman, his assistant and the director of action wore collar mics as they worked to create fiction. The process of recreation soon started to form its own reality. This new reality rested between the factuality of the actual event and its fictive, and thus, imperfect reproduction; and, between the intention of the artist and its interpretation by the collaborators as they tried to resolve it into a work. This is the second collaboration of the artist with Lollywood, a Lahore-based film industry that is centered only miles away from his home. During its heyday, the film industry was amongst the largest film industries in the world, producing scores of movies every year. However, beginning around 1977, the once vibrant film industry began a dramatic collapse into creative banality, intellectual decadence and popular irrelevance. Today, it maintains a limited, almost peripheral existence in the arena of Pakistan’s socio- cultural production.
all voices are mine, 2018. (excerpt)
The author intends to tell a story of another. The course of re-narration takes place in someone else’s setting of temporal and physical space. What had been carried through time is to be performed again from early morning into the late evening. Participants arrive remembering the performed sequences. The camera now observes recalling of a memory and then the process of forgetting the borrowed narrative. It witnesses a recreation and records it getting subsumed into the narrative that no one keeps but the non-participating initiator. As the narrative plays out, he stays and waits to observe a reconciliation. While waiting, he recalls a song he grew up listening to which had been written by his father for a film. Both the author and his father were and remain unaware of the settings in which the song was to be placed. The film was never made. -- Beginning in the closing years of the first decade of the new millennium, a new cinema began to emerge in Pakistan, which has inspired hopes of revival of the local film industry. The present author, however, disputes the “newness” of the reviving industry, arguing instead that the idea of a revival is implicit in a return to once was. Lahore-based film industry, during its heyday was amongst the largest film industries in the world. However, beginning around 1977, the once vibrant film industry began a dramatic collapse into creative banality, intellectual decadence and popular irrelevance, marking its end. The new wave has clear differences from what once was. This new cinema wave is led, on the one hand, by a new generation of filmmakers, many of whom have been trained abroad; and on the other, by a generation of actors and technicians, most of whom began their careers on television, or have otherwise remained affiliated with the same. Yet, despite this recent influx of fresh talent, the broader industry itself remains beset by obsolete studios, equipment, cinematic techniques and, actors and extras. Even as the new cinema wave continues to blaze trails across Pakistani cinema skies, the old film industry has struggled to maintain its limited, almost peripheral, existence, with those affiliated with the Old Era now rendered redundant and without work. The author recollected the memories of actors, extras, writers, filmmakers and other associated with Old Era films. Today, many of whom live anonymously, and often carry other professions. With the collected recollections, the author has hoped to construct a narrative which explores ideas of abruptness, imperfection, resemblance, memory, and remembering and forgetting.
Observing translators work, 2017-18. (excerpt)
A group of professional translators and interpreters of various languages enter into the author’s settings, which he generated for them to convey what was written here a while ago. An email invite was sent a week earlier, the few that replied came. They partook in the process of mediation between the artist’s intention and the meaning of the work, between form and context and, language and image. The procedure begins: the observing author is present with his camera as they enter one after the other. They breathe and stare away; hold the papers that are distributed to them; blink as they read what must be read; eat the sandwiches that are served; drink the water that is poured in cups for everyone; wait remaining unmoving; and, exit as they came. In the afternoon, participants leave the told narrative. The author however continues to practice his observation in a conceived space of no doors or windows.
In authors’ space of no physical actions 2017-18. (excerpt)
Author attempted to replicate his thinking space in other spaces of production. Here, the artist invited athletes to temporarily inhabit his studio space where no physical action had taken place otherwise. Therefore, the space that had produced no creation visible to others, and had remained stilled and inactive, became a site of production with introduction of outsiders. The group's initial movements are abrupt but calculated as in the author's intended narrative. As this narrative is told, the author observes it play out through a camera he holds next to him. The athletes stand and work; sweat and breathe; eat and swallow; and they repeat.
Monument of arrival and return, 2016. (excerpt)
A group gathers as the other arrives. One must inform the other, it has been so ordained. Yet, the one who ordained so – the initiator – is not present. And so they wait: unsure, unmoving, still. The initiator is withdrawn from making of his own work to allow his participants to both create and witness creation. To witness creation, the participants must wait, and they must cover a distance – a distance that equals the distance between them and the initiator. And as they wait, the initiator, too waits. And as they wonder, the initiator hopes – he hopes that participants will create and shall carry creation to him. The work now begins. Participants gather in a group; lift personal belongings of the initiator to carry towards him; unsure, unmoving, still. They leave. -- Under the high arches of Lahore’s railway station, trudge about its Kullis. The Kullis were luggage-carriers and porters in England, and came to Lahore when the British brought railways to the Indian subcontinent in the 1800s. Here, the porters shed their skin, became Indian, put on red shirts which sew numbers into their bodies, and became Coolies. In the far old age of 1947’s summer, the British stopped flagging their own trains, and left the subcontinent. The Coolies, now, became Kullis. Soon, the trains stopped breathing smoke, electric wires webbed over the Kullis ̧ and their skins oranged. The author worked with the Kullis of Lahore’s railway station, whom he saw and observed while growing up in the same city. He saw the Kullis as persons who move but do not go. To make the work, author only sent the instructions. The work was made in the absence of the author, who was away waiting for the work to be made and delivered.
Practicing Procedures of Killing, 2016. (excerpt)
The author at the present time is contemplating the story of murder which goes back to a conflict between the two sons of Adam and Eve: Abel and Cain. Cain killed Abel and thus committed the first murder in the history of humankind. When Cain killed Abel, God was both the only witness and the prosecution; and was, at once, the judge and the jury. And at the time, the witness gave testimony; the prosecution prosecuted; the jury deliberated; the judge ruled; and Cain was condemned. The condemnation has reverberated through time – as has the act itself and its implications. Muhammad, the founder of Islam, once remarked: "No soul is wrongfully killed except that some of the burden falls upon the son of Adam, for he was the first to establish the practice of murder." Whereas Muhammad, in this quote, constructs attribution and, perhaps by some stretch of imagination, a chain of blame, there is need to return to the original act of murder itself, and reinterpret it to construct new meanings. “Practicing Procedures of Killing” looks at the first murder in the history to establish the possible last murder on earth and all the others in-between. For the two-channel installation, the author invited young actors to reenact the story of the first murder. Participants were given instructions in a Waiting Room, where they were videotaped as they spoke, waited, ate, rehearsed and left. In the Recording Room, the participants (two at a time) narrated the story in an improvised manner and in so doing, become a part of the story itself in reenacting it. Here, the camera only recorded the end of their performances wherein the participants, unmoving, try to hold their breath so that their death may be established. However, the author continued to observe natural behavior of the participants’ bodies with the help of the camera.