I first met Fazal Rizvi as a core member of the Tentative Collective in 2015, during a collaboration with the group of artists, curators, teachers and architects for a workshop and public screening along the Ravi River in Lahore. This gathering was held within the broader framework of Gujral Foundation’s project My East is Your West at the 56th Venice Biennale (with Lahore Biennale Foundation as a local partner). The body of water traverses the hostile India–Pakistan border, and so we converged to explore the riverine environment, tracing its colonial legacy and present-day toxicity.
Rizvi’s typewriter-drawing series Coloured Fields (2017–18) ranges from short poetic texts to minimal line markings cutting the page or clustered together. One drawing muses on the colour indigo, recalling economies of the plant dye and its central role in peasant rebellion under colonial rule. Several of the artist’s text-based works are conceived as multilingual pieces – Urdu woven together with English. They relate anecdotal and past chronicles; interlocked floating worlds that refuse a majority tongue.
In other works, such as Rooms Afloat / Tairtay Kamray (2018), Rizvi pursues coastal stories from Karachi through recorded sound fields. Inviting listeners into fishing boats headed towards the Arabian Sea, the acoustic narration, together with a handmade book, foregrounds enslaved bodies and geopolitical routes between India and Pakistan. This project was part of a larger exhibition titled The Fleet, curated by Aziz Sohail at aan Gandhara Space in Lahore. The Indian Ocean littoral is a recurring subject.
Reading Rizvi’s works between anticipation, dreaming and loss, the words of Zora Neale Hurston come to mind: ‘Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his Dreams mocked to death by Time.’
Fazal Rizvi, Coloured Fields 17 (Typewriter Series), 2018, ink on newsprint, 25 × 38 cm. Courtesy the artist and Indigo + Madder, London
Natasha Ginwala is associate curator at Gropius Bau, Berlin, and artistic director of Gwangju Biennale 2020 with Defne Ayas. She has been part of the curatorial team of Documenta 14, and recently curated sea change, the Colomboscope Arts Festival (2019); Hello World. Revising a Collection at Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin (2018); Riots: Slow Cancellation of the Future at ifa-Galerie, Berlin and Stuttgart (2018); Polyphonic Worlds: Justice as Medium, the Contour Biennale 8 (2017) and several other international exhibitions. She regularly writes on contemporary art and visual culture.
From the Summer 2019 issue of ArtReview Asia