Canadian artists at the 2nd Karachi Biennale

October 26 – November 12, 2019

Canadian artists, Libby Hague and Lyla Rye, and Asma Mahmood from the Canadian Community Arts Initiative, have been chosen to showcase their work in Pakistan. The theme of this biennial, titled “Flight Interrupted: Eco-leaks from the Invasion Desk”, is especially timely and relevant to Pakistan, which is urgently fighting climate change.


Libby Hague, On this Wonderous Sea, detail from woodcut installation, studio set up, 2019

Libby Hague will create a new woodcut installation entitled “On This Wondrous Sea”. The title, from Emily Dickinson’s poem of the same name, refers to life in our world and our leaving it. It is a cautionary tale, taking place between two disasters and two visions of paradise. This utopian/dystopian split begins with paradise. Overhead, swimmers float, oblivious to both the Eden close at hand and the dangers ahead. A viewer, however, will see a waterfall, the flooding of a city, and a nuclear power plant ahead. The installation attempts to show the interconnected precariousness of our world and what we risk losing from environmental disaster. Its delicate paper woodcuts embody the wonder and vulnerability of life on earth and its fragility. The situation is dire and our choices are hard, but people can still help each other and create hope.


Lyla Rye, A Meditation, video still detail, 2019

Lyla Rye is presenting a new video installation, “A Meditation”, that explores the ambivalent attitude our society has to nature. While we indiscriminately treat land as a resource, Rye draws attention to how we simultaneously use it as a source of comfort, like in offices where landscapes are the most common images for calendars and computer desktops and a multitude of nature videos can be found online as meditation aids. In “A Meditation”, the architectural scene depicted resembles office cubicles with landscape footage replacing cubicle walls. The scene is rendered in isometric projection so the space extends systematically in all directions, in contrast to the photographic perspective of the videos. Alongside these conflicting depictions of space, imagery and time, the video conflates nature and culture, idyllic land with urban detritus. In this uneasy coexistence of elements, “A Meditation” reveals the inherent contradictions in our thinking about the natural world.

Asma Mahmood is a Mississauga based artist and curator with an international practice. Mahmood will present her essay exploring the work of Canadian Indigenous artists and their response to climatic and urbanization challenges during one of the discursive sessions. In this presentation she will consider the relationship between historical practices of biodiversity by indigenous planters, and the desire of artists to invite reclamation of nature. Mahmood is the artistic Director of Canadian Community Arts Initiative and presents the Canadian artists through “Cross Pollination”, a project aimed at introducing Canadian artists to South Asian markets.

The curator of the second iteration of the Karachi Biennale is Karachi based, Muhammad Zeeshan. The theme for KB19 is inspired by the ecological consequences of dense urbanization, underscoring the annihilation inflicted on ecosystems by man’s war of ambition with nature and the myriad of detrimental reactions by nature. Karachi has an exciting, double-sided form. Approaching her from the sea, the coast, the lungs of the city were once lined with mangroves but are now a harbinger of habitat loss and ecological disaster. Moving inward, land that miraculously supported life on the edge of the desert has been stripped and transformed into a new sort of jungle: one of tar and concrete, ruled not by the laws of nature, but the toxins of industrial might and greed-based urban planning. Even the sustenance of life, water, is as scarce as it is polluted. Most analyses of this situation focus on the economic, ecological and social dimensions of this crisis. In this current biennial, KB19 has invited artists to explore these avenues but also to unpack the cultural dimension of the contemporary crisis of unsustainability, including its cultural roots and the origins of this narrative.


Libby Hague would like to acknowledge the generous support of the Ontario Arts Council in the making of this project.

Lyla Rye would like to acknowledge the generous support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council in the making of this project. Lyla Rye is represented by General Hardware Contemporary.

Karachi Biennale:

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Asma Mahmood

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