“Art is a creative exercise however it should be exercised with certain responsibility.”
In defense of the poor image is an article written by Hito Steyerl who talks about how art has become the gap between the reality and its meaning, the mechanical reproduction of art has represented multiple interpretations and the essence of art in reality has lost its meaning. Technology is driven by innovations; as mechanical reproduction of any art may lose its own unique existence.
As Walter Benjamin also mentions in his article “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” that even the most perfect reproduction of a piece of art lacks one element which is time and space for example architectures that have been replicated by modern architects have not been able to replace or have been able to reproduce the original form of history. Similarly films, ripped, copied re- edited in to various forms lose their value of originality and resolution.
This is to response one of the film clips that we watched in class, i specifically don’t remember the name of the film but i do remember the film’s narrative leaving an impact on me.
The film opens with a woman seen in a white dress curbed with a lot of different emotions, i noticed pleasure conforming in to pain.
The idea of pain and the visuals of that film gave me another angle to see and feel pain, recently when i read a book ‘The Body in Pain’ by Elaine Scarry. She defines the idea of pain very similar to what i felt while watching the film, the woman dying in the end of the scene, was the most absolute definer of reality as the writer also discusses in her book, that there is no reality besides pain especially for the person who is going through that pain; if it hurts, it must be real. However if one sees pain in a fictional pictorial form, it suggests torture is used to show politically power and command in physical forms in films..
Elaine also explains in her book that the reality of the one who is being tortured is reduced to an awareness of pain, while the torturer’s world remains fully present. This is realized most emphatically when the need of information is in the motive, for physical torture. The torturer insists on questions that for the tortured are no longer of any concern and body becomes a prisoner of its fate where there is a constant war of survival that one notices.
The above shot is an evidence to the idea of torture which i discussed earlier, taken from a famous film “perfume the Murderer” where the murderer tortures women repeatedly in the film, strips down woman’s body naked to preserve scent as a collection of his obsession.
My paper discusses the concept of utopia and dystopia and the two cities that I want to discuss is Karachi and Paris through the lens of “The Utopian Failures of Modernism” and how the promise of idealism creates and disconnects the idea of belonging in the two cities. My research is focused on the notions of development in Karachi, focusing on Bahria Town and the idea of capitalism that is shaping the city in to gated communities.
The research will be based on the basis of theoretical frame work of utopia and dystopia the two binaries. In depth interviews and their analysis and my personal observation as a film maker on the concept of Bahria Town, building cities with in cities with enclosed environments. The paper will also discuss how the concept of free market and capitalism is the subtext behind development of projects like Bahria Town, why is the media not discussing the impact over all? Why the city’s development is is given more priority rather than the local businesses which have been affected significantly.
My paper also discusses that the promise of providing the best life , Bahria Town is taking away the sense of belonging from an individual and will further create divisions between class culture and ethnicities giving the idea of the utopia.
As a film maker, I believe every dream comes true with a price tag, for some “Karachites” their dream is to see Karachi secure, tall buildings with more work opportunities and less inflation. However I see Karachi, the country’s most ethnically diverse city, divided by real estate capitalism, with large investments setting new development to fulfill the dreams of millions.
Pakistan’s largest city, once known as the Paris of Asia, culturally vibrant, always known as a city of migrants. Karachi was a small fishing village that became a medium sized trading post in the 18th century which was further developed by the British colonists established as a hub of business and trade.
Karachi is an ever-expanding metropolis with an estimated population of about 21.2 million in 2011[i] people reflecting clustered diversity of multiple groups. Since the last three decades these groups have further giving an impression of city holding various small cities in the form of communities which mostly reside in their own areas of influence and majority.
According to Weber (1978) ethnicity relates to group feelings developed by
then members of the group consciously for group solidarity (p.389).[ii]
Further examining some parts of the city also hosts people belonging from different religions and various Muslim sects and sub sects, some pocket of areas are dedicated only to minorities which only come out of their areas when they have to trade as to avoid conflict between the groups of ethnic and sectarian violence mainly due to accusing each other encroaching upon the area of the other.[iii]
Areas which are somewhat conflict free zones are neutral spaces owned by the city’s private multinational, state owned factories, bazaars, shopping malls and recreational spots. These areas are the ones which generate economic capital hence criminal activities such as mugging and kidnapping are also targeted these areas the most.
The most prevailing issue of the city has always been security, ethnic violence and sectarian target killings which makes desirable the idea of living in scrutinized developments like Bahria Town.
Bahria Town, a project started by Malik Riaz has become one of the main real estate highlights of the country and a popular business scheme in Karachi. A wide range of investors are very keen on being a part of the project as it promises to provide the city some very dynamic infrastructural development. However the project also urges to make new environmental changes based on new social theories. Nevertheless the promise of such a capitalist development such as Icon Tower in Karachi causes a lot of issues for the general public who cannot afford such an idealist space for an residential purpose are displaced through a major crises traffic issues and loss of local business.
Environmental impact assessment 2014 (EIA Study) report states that, urban development, where underpasses of entry/ exit movements to/from Bahria Town icon tower and Clifton fun land has been under assessment.
Interchange between Shahra-e- Iran and Shahra-e Firdausi near Pak tower intersection leading to Do talwar intersection has also been restrained under the law of environmental examination.[iv]
The report also states that the due to these urban development projects the local businesses had a significant deep impact. Shopping areas are found deserted and the business has been affected.
According to an article from Dawn News, The Icon Tower Bahria Town project was held on a law suit in April 2014, an order was passed through Sindh High Court by Pakistan Defense Officers Housing Authority stating that the project was allegedly being built without compiling mandatory requirements of environmental protection laws, further seeking approval from the concerned authorities.
According to few locals there Pak towers and Clifton fun land have been affected the most and have been left deserted. The shop owners/ business operators are particularly worried because their business is further going to be effected in the coming peak season of Ramadan, a huge crises can be predicted for the people especially those who earn on daily wages. Ahmed, a Pan wala, situated opposite to Pak towers speaks in Punjabi states, “I don’t want to leave this place I have been selling pan here since 15 years but I don’t think I have a choice, earlier my customers used to come here from different parts of the city and I used to sell 200 pans a day. Now I only sell 50 maximum, I have not paid rent of my house since three months.”
While speaking to an official in the sales and marketing team at Bahria Town’s Clifton office, I stated these problems and the loss these locals are facing; I was told that the “Bahria town project is a need for a segment of population, seeking safety, security and improvement in quality of life. Local businesses affected are a temporary issue which will be solved in couple of months through the government.”
According to Walter Benjamin’s article, Paris also faced a huge development phase (similar to Karachi) where Haussmann under Napoleon III’s era 1851-1870 ran a scheme to rebuild Paris. A new modernist form, he wanted to save Paris from civil war.[v]
Haussmann’s idea was to structurally change the city itself in to a modernist plan where he would bring Bourgeoisie and Proletariats together but he was unsuccessful and they grew further apart.
“The mechanisms of capitalism kept the poor disparaged and locked in their class. The fact that they could traverse the city easily agitated the upper class which was happy keeping them out of sight.”[vi]
The growing population of Karachi has created severe inter-ethnic problems as we speak but the idea of closed and gated communities and projects like Bahria Town will further create crises of identities. One can only predict that the local shop owners will not be able to sell their goods to the general people and their business will further fall in to crises as Bahria town offers everything that one needs in an idealistic form with a promise of leisure.
Sukaina Ali Raza, a house wife, mother of two children resides in block 2 Clifton also believes that security is a major issue in Karachi and this is why she wants to invest in Bahria town. She wants to see a secure future for her family where she is not stressed or worried about her kids playing outdoors. According to her Bahria Town can provide her family with a good secure housing facility which is a dream come true.
Abdul Rafay, age 25, business man said, “Bahria Town is a complete gamble, that suggests it’s risky and to me I see making money in the long run. It’s a great idea for people to invest and generate more business out of it.”
The notions of development and re creation of the city Karachi just based on the idea of providing business and security to a segment of population who can afford it is a concept of utter dystopia in my opinion as it also dysfunctions the society.
After analyzing the adverts that are shown on Television on Bahria Town Karachi, it is evident that security is the major cause why people want to invest in gated communities. However as discussed earlier, as witnessed in Paris it will further create identity crises, bring divisions in public spheres causing colossal social failures.
Utopianism was a central motivation for the Modern Movement in architecture and design; Technology gives rise to modernism and modernism promised a better future but in the case of Karachi my analysis states urban dystopia is forged by capitalism and it is a false promise to provide a perfect society. The concept of a planned city, Bahria Town is dangerous because no single plan can anticipate the needs of millions; real cities have grown progressed organically with providing solutions on a universal level.
A single anticipated solution of development like Bahria Town and enclosed gated communities, segregating people from their identity with a modernist point of view building cities with in cities cannot reflect the variety and complexity of society.
Recently in an interview with the Economic times Malik Riaz spoke about signing a multi-billion dollar deal with Abu Dhabi to build the world’s tallest building in the country overtaking Dubai’s Burj Khalifa.
Now the question is does Karachi really need this investment? When there are perhaps other basic fundamental issues that need more importance. Karachi needs enormous planning where it provides an even ground to every class and each individual. Where the city’s identity is also taken in to consideration; High rise buildings and development for the sake of development will provide further issues in the system in terms of capitalism.
Moreover Bahria town which is developing near super highway is also going to be a risk in my opinion as it is situated far from the city, not everyone can afford a car and the public transport system is not that effective. Before building such mega projects and investing in them, the government needs to invest and improve the public transport systems, which needs to be centralized, quick, cheap and efficient.
[i] Laurent Gayer(2014).Karachi, Ordered disorder and the struggle of the city; pp.2-321C. Hurst & Co. (Publishers) Ltd.
[ii] Umbreen Javaid and Rehana Saeed Hashmi.pp.58-77.The case of Karachi i Journal of Political Studies, Vol. 19, Issue – 1,2012, 57:77Contending Ethnic Identities: An Issue to Pakistan’s Internal Security
[iii] Umbreen Javaid and Rehana Saeed Hashmi.pp.58-77.The case of Karachi i Journal of Political Studies, Vol. 19, Issue – 1,2012, 57:77Contending Ethnic Identities: An Issue to Pakistan’s Internal Security
[iv] Environmental Management Consultants. Final report June 2014. Environmental Impact Assessment Karachi Grade separated Traffic improvement Plan from Pak tower intersection to A.T Naqvi round about Metropolitan Corporation.
[v] Walter Benjamin Paris – Capital of the Nineteenth Century published in Illuminationen by Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt.
[vi] Tim Wyciskalla, Marian College (2010).The Utopian Failures of Modernism;pp.53-57 Journal of History and Social Science. B.A European study.
Learning to look beyond the frame: reflections on the changing meaning of images in the age of digital media practices written by Paolo Favero shares an insight on the concept of being in the world with the growing nature of technology I as a freelance photographer do agree that the age of digital media has changed the way we perceive reality in this age of digital era .At the pace that we produce, store and share information via internet visually has created a emergence of visual discourse in the popular culture.
The sense of identity has also been challenged through such a medium, Face book, Twitter and other online spaces dictate who you are and where you stand in the world today creating your identity. This article also reflects what Walter Benjamin talked about in his book “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (1935)”.
Where he mentions that technology is driven by innovations; as mechanical reproduction of such art may have their own unique existence, for instance films as a medium of expression is produced as a work of art to express emotions visually. Whereas Photography has always been a debate in account whether it should be considered as a work of art or not?
The term digital culture has a lot of importance when we see people taking selfies in different spaces it also projects the idea of how one should act with their friends and their loved ones in an environment private/ public. This act narrates how reality is reflected through the digital media practices
This journal ‘Why loiter? Radical possibilities for gendered dissent’ written by Shilpa Phadke, Shikpa Ranade and Sameera khan, talks about women and their right to feel safe in public spaces and the concept of loiter is only given to the males of the society. However the writer also talks about that loiter itself is not considered being something good as according to its definition it means wandering on streets aimlessly but here i suppose she demands that the right should be given to both men and women equally.
There are number of things I find interesting in this article which is also related to our society. The class difference that the writer mentions here is related to an aspect that we notice in our society as well where women considered subaltern travelling in public transport such as rakshaw or roaming around streets are looked upon and are under constant surveillance and harassed by men compared to women who are travelling in their own private cars or loitering outside stores or in the malls.
The issue that the writer brings to light is the fact that as we notice women all over the world raise their voices for violence against women, rape, equal rights abuse and harassment but no one speaks about the simple aspect of day to day activities where women are deprived of such as loitering to have a sense of belonging in the city.The concept of loitering creates a question of binaries who is allowed to loiter and who is not? as we speak. This article sums up and negotiates issues that women from different classes and communities encounter on their daily basis.
Why Loiter? Also argues that loitering should be celebrated, not criticized as a norm or as an act that offers possibilities for a more inclusive city where all people have a right to feel free in the city public spaces.
The writer also mentions in the end how there is gender discrimination and hypocrisy found in our society where men who are seen loitering are labeled as Tapooris often seen in Indian cinema as heroes but in the case of women loitering around the city without a peculiar desire are noticed and are labeled to be as bad character women or prostitutes.
Metropolis is a science fiction movie directed by Fritz Lang in 1927, the movie is set in context to the German expressionism narrating the visual psychological effects that people of Germany went through during that time. The film talks about layers of issues being a silent piece, mostly related to cultural and political agendas, for most philosophers the film served as a warning to the world as to where Germany was heading in the future. I believe the warning is still relevant to us in this current era where we see technology is used as a political agenda to control human beings and making them as a product of modern science.
Metropolis is set in the year 2000 where the city is constructed in a futuristic space with stylized huge buildings which to me they were used as a metaphor to convey the message of power, greed and misery of the humans who were used as machines. Throughout the film the labor class is shown being physically and mentally exhausted being under the rule of modern capitalism where the workers are treated as slaves programmed to do certain things in a certain way mechanically, the repetitive shot of the huge clock in the film is an example of control where the worker is attached to the machinery constantly moving it without taking a break.
Karl Marx was always curious about how capitalism affected the societies to grow when the labor class itself never gets to enjoy the fruits of their own hard work and creation. Karl Marx mentioned the ‘socialist man’ which leds to the theory of secularization. Marx said that ‘the new man will be content with his functional role in society, probably something like well-fed cattle’s.’
While analyzing the film, Lang also constantly puts us through the struggle of class divide where the technology plays a vital role in the narrative being the dictator promising the workers a better future and modernity treating workers like cattles who constantly sacrifice their lives in the struggle of saving the monstrous machine which keeps demanding more work from them.
I believe that the film maker is making us aware of the idea of technological determinism which was later explained by Martin Heidegger a German philosopher, who critiqued technology and explained that the promise of technology of bringing a better future should not be treated as the idea of control. As human beings we all look forward to a world where our weaknesses become into our strengths and we are all flawless however its not the way that we think technology is no longer just a medium of convenience to us all or just a tool to progress faster but has now become an intact, irreplaceable part of us all.Cellphones are one of the example.
Technology should be treated secondary to human values and systems and we should not be dependent to it to an extent that we are unable to function without it. Everywhere we go, everything we do, every idea we believe in is along the lines of technology and how we evolve from it. I believe to a certain extent technology has brought us far away from our slow paced, cultural dependent past, into a future filled with opportunities with fewer human limitations.
Faiz’s writing depicts a visual image of Karachi (1965), where he speaks about how the city was effected through massive depression and chaos in that time and era.What intrigues me the most about this piece is that the chaos he mentions still prevails in the city we live in today. His writing inspired me write something myself on the city. Hope you guys like it 🙂
Ek aur raat guzarne ko hai..
Ek aur baat kehni tu hai..
Yeh kesa shehar hamara hai..
Bebas ghum ka maara hai..
Pehle roshan tha ab andhera hai..
Kahin loot machi kahin dhoka hai..
Har saaans ko kisne roka hai..
Yeh daur bahut harjayee hai..
Har moor moor ruswayee hai..
Yehin jeena hai..
Yahin marna hai..
Har ghoont zehar ka peena hai…
Yeh daur bahut harjayee hai..
Har moor moor ruswayee hai..
Ek aur saans bikharne ko hai..
Ek aur baat kehni tu hai..