In deze Voices een hoofdstuk uit ‘As the Light Turns’ (2018) een project van Omer Wasim dat deze zomer werd gecureerd door Zippora Elders voor sonsbeek20-24 en te zien was bij Collectie De Groen. Het project bestaat uit een installatie en een publicatie waarin de kunstenaar op poëtische wijze verslag doet van zijn verblijf in de bossen van Murree, aan de voet van de Himalaya, en de tuinen van Karachi in Pakistan. Omer onderzoekt in zijn werk de spirituele, historische en seksuele verbinding tussen queerlichamen, natuur en stad.
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 (1988, Karachi. Woont en werkt in Karachi.) is een intermediair kunstenaar wiens praktijk de ruimte queer maakt en de kaders van ontwikkeling en vooruitgang ondermijnt die de menselijke relaties met de stad en de natuur vormgeven. Zijn werk getuigt van de meedogenloze uitwissing, het geweld, en de vernietiging van onze tijd door te verblijven in queer lichamen die ruimte innemen en verlangen uitdrukken. Hij doceert aan de Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture; was van 2017 tot 2019 lid van de redactieraad van Hybrid en redacteur van het derde nummer. Hij studeerde af met een BFA in interdisciplinaire beeldhouwkunst met een specialisatie in video- en filmkunst, en een MA in Critical Studies aan het Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland, VS.
Zijn solo- en samenwerkingsprojecten waren te zien op sonsbeek20→24: force times distance—on labour and its sonic ecologies, Arnhem (2021); Yokohama Triënnale (2020); Dhaka Art Summit (2018 & 2020); Karachi Biënnale (2017 & 2019); Kunstraum Niederoesterreich, Wenen (2019); Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery, Haverford College, Pennsylvania (2019); Shrine Empire, New Delhi (2019); International Public Art Festival, Karachi (2019); Rossi & Rossi, Londen (2018); Gandhara-Art Space, Karachi (2018); Aicon Gallery, New York (2018); Cairo Video Festival (2017); en CICA museum, Gimpo (2016).