Omer Wasim’s publication As The Light Turns, which was part of a bigger project consisting of video, sculpture and installation, describes the artist’s research based on the mapping of forests located on the foot of the Himalayas, in the town known as Murree in Pakistan, which was established as a hill-station by the British in 1851. The story also leads to the gardens of Karachi. Omer studies queer energies stemming from these spaces and their nature. In the chapter ‘A Walk Through the Forest’, which is part of Kunstfort Voices #7, Omer describes a walk in a mountain forest in the dense of the night, where three individuals have a queer encounter.
I vividly remember carrying my bag, stuffed with an umbrella, a grey jacket (borrowed from my father), water, and cigarettes (stashed in the front pocket of the bag). The weather was slightly cold, and I was wearing a blue cotton sweater (actually a sweatshirt, but I never allow myself to think of it as such). It was probably between 7:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. (can’t recall the exact time). We were waiting patiently—as on numerous occasions for the last two weeks—on an empty, foggy street, next to the Governor House in Murree. We were waiting for him.
He had been driving us around, taking us to film and photograph numerous sites in the area; the day before, I had made him promise to show up on time. The “waiting patiently” part stemmed from the trust that we had intrinsically established in him between moments of silence and laughter, making and loitering, failure and success. So much of making art is actually failure that when we make with and around people, it is inevitable that they experience that failure, too, even if it is not immediately their own, which, to a certain extent, would explain our connection with him.
Fog in the air carried the lights of his car, announcing his arrival; he stopped, reversed, got out to help us with the equipment. We were going to the forest to course through it, in the dense of the night, in hopes that she may get some images, and I to learn from her and talk to him. Once we got there, we realised that the ground was waterlogged, with invisible puddles camouflaged in and with grass and weeds, and by this time he had mentioned, several times over, that there had been leopard sightings here—and that he had seen them himself. We believed him, allowing the night and its darkness to seep into our skin. We walked, and walked, and then some, huddled together, never far from each other, following a paved path, going deeper into the forest with every step, breaking this rhythm only to setup the equipment to photograph.
He eventually persuaded us to go off the track to see a different side of the forest. We agreed, not anticipating that the ground would get steeper and wetter, and certainly not knowing that the light being used for navigation would die only a couple of minutes into this foray. What ensued was both terrifying and exhilarating: even a slight sound would send us careening into him, and with such darkness, it was him who held our hands and navigated the landscape for us—having done it for as long as he could remember.
When I think about that night, I most remember his touch, his gaze, held for a split second longer, the darkness, as it allowed us to experience something together that has probably changed us forever, and that which has not yet revealed itself.
That night, I went to bed asking myself if it were a queer experience.
Omer Wasim (b.1988, Karachi. Lives and works in Karachi.) is an intermedial artist whose practice queers space, subverting the frames of development and progress that shape human relationships to the city and nature. His work bears witness to the relentless erasure, violence, and destruction of our times by staying with queer bodies as they hold space and enact desire. He teaches at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture; was on the Editorial Board of Hybrid from 2017 to 2019, and edited its third issue. He graduated with a BFA in Interdisciplinary Sculpture with a concentration in Video and Film Arts, and an MA in Critical Studies from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland, USA.
His solo and collaborative projects have been shown at sonsbeek20→24: force times distance—on labour and its sonic ecologies, Arnhem (2021); Yokohama Triennale (2020); Dhaka Art Summit (2018 & 2020); Karachi Biennale (2017 & 2019); Kunstraum Niederoesterreich, Vienna (2019); Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery, Haverford College, Pennsylvania (2019); Shrine Empire, New Delhi (2019); International Public Art Festival, Karachi (2019); Rossi & Rossi, London (2018); Gandhara-Art Space, Karachi (2018); Aicon Gallery, New York City (2018); Cairo Video Festival (2017); and CICA Museum, Gimpo (2016).