The man who walked around in circles for three months, 2016 From ‘The man who…After Ilya Kabaov’s “The man who flew into space from his apartment”’, 2016. Watercolour on paper; 21.3 x 29.7 cm. Courtesy of Maurizio Rigillo

A major survey of the work of artist Bani Abidi is on view at Sharjah Art Foundation through Sunday, 12 January 2020. Set against the backdrop of long-standing commercial and cross-cultural exchange between the two metropolitan centres of Karachi and Sharjah, Bani Abidi: Funland considers the enduring presence and promise of cosmopolitanism today, exploring over two-decades of Abidi’s practice through works in video, photography and sound. The show also features two new Sharjah Art Foundation commissions.

Co-curated by Sharjah Art Foundation Director Hoor Al Qasimi and Gropius Bau Associate Curator Natasha Ginwala, this exhibition takes its title from Abidi’s work Funland – Karachi Series II (2014), which highlights the city’s fight for survival through vibrant imaginings of a future that is currently being abandoned.

Playing the role of a storyteller and urban archaeologist, Abidi explores an emotional and psychological space of absurdity. She wrestles with the communal amnesia of a cosmopolitan promise that first took hold during the rise of a nationalist, post-independence agenda after 1947 and was then violently erased by the country’s Islamisation under the military regime. Her works navigate between personal and communal narratives framed by the historical power struggles of South Asia as well as current geopolitical relations between India and Pakistan. Her work also confronts both visible and invisible spectrums of power, from patriarchal aggression to immigration to state power.

One of the SAF-commissioned works, The Lost Procession (2019), is a video and sound installation that explores the realities faced by the Hazara community, including persecution, forced migration and the search for sanctuary in Germany and other countries.

The second SAF commission, co-curated by Abidi and Aziz Sohail, Very Very Sweet Medina (2019), is a collection of artworks and archival materials that reflects on the art scene in Karachi during the 1990s, which was a period that saw a rise in artistic collaborations and experimentation in art-making and the development of critical dialogue that drew from and engaged with the city.

Expanding on this significant presentation, Sharjah Art Foundation will convene a one-day symposium on 17 November 2019 that will bring together a number of curators and art historians with artists active during this time in order to revisit key ideas and concerns of the period.

Born in 1971 in Karachi, Bani Abidi earned degrees in visual art from the National College of Arts in Lahore (1994) and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (1999). Her work can be found in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Guggenheim Museum, New York; British Museum, London; Tate Modern, London; Burger Collection, Hong Kong; Devi Arts Foundation, Gurugram, India and Sharjah Art Foundation, among others. She currently lives and works between Karachi and Berlin.

This exhibition follows on from the artist's solo survey exhibition Bani Abidi: They Died Laughing at Gropius Bau, Berlin, curated by Natasha Ginwala, which was on view from 6 June to 22 September 2019.

Visit the foundation’s website to learn more.