Rashid Rana has coined the term ‘EART’ to describe moments of self-expression beyond the arts: ways of thinking, being and acting creatively in real life. In his far-reaching exhibition at Dantzic, the acclaimed Pakistani artist considers how this concept of EART could be applied everywhere from social media to real estate development. And alongside it, Rana has opened a pop-up shop at nearby Hanover Street, stocking products that turn capitalism inside out and consumerism upside down.
EART occupies the The Dantzic Building in central Manchester exploring how the concept of EART could be applied to a varied everyday situations. Infringed on a new ways of thinking with very idealistic aspirations that Rana presents in different forms. EART joins the three concepts at the festival introduced by Rashid, MINUS Glocal, is a concept store selling essential grocery items he presents quite stylishly suggesting the possibility of a world without paid advertising and there is 1001 Minds Glocal, a concept for a new social media app devised by Rana that provides structure for the democratisation of expression through social media, and Exit Glocal, a housing development that presents a new way of living that celebrates de-compartmentalisation of a various components of urban life as its primary focus. Audiences are invited to take away a copy of Rana’s manifesto.
MINUS Glocal grocery shop is physically realised in Manchester on 10 Hanover street. The subversively unbranded designs highlight the powerful role that branding plays in consumer choices. Through the shop, Rana aims to eliminate this power and save on publicity associated costs, transferring this benefit eventually to the consumer. ALT spoke to Rashid prior to the MIF.
Can you tell us about your practice and how you describe your works?
I was trained as painter, many years back, but I remain open to the possibilities of where my practice can take me and if it can be a learning process for me. Its became mostly idea-driven later and therefore I left painting behind, and I began using mediums and formats best suited to an idea in a given time. It happened so that my interest in age images and you know, this overload of the image information became kind of a focus and I assumed the role an image editor of images in a way for quite some time. I thought that I let go this obsession with the originality and I thought that one doesn’t have to indulge absolute originality and the images that are already existing, they can be utilized, and brought together in different ways, to form new meanings and new associations.
And so, from within that interest, then other possibilities emerged, but what connects all my works, and then this is not artistic practice only because I have also curated three shows and I also, you know, teach and I deal with curriculum making. So, I see curriculum making exhibition making, and art-making as all of these, all of these forms of production and they all inform each other and they are all means of my, manifesting my ideas or expressing my ideas in different ways. So it is this openness to not conform to any particular discipline or the institution of art for that matter is that I’ve been thinking of some ideas. I let my mind, you know, into all sorts of directions. And I’ve been thinking of ideas, which primarily were business ideas, but I thought they could serve as a vehicle for the 10 minutes of some of the ideas that cannot perhaps as effectively express through my art.
So hence this evolution of you know, what I called this manifesto, which is not exactly a manifesto, it’s more of an invitation to join a discussion or a discourse to identify phenomena parallel to art, which may have always existed, or it can, may exist as an intentional practice to look at creative expression in life itself rather than its limitation. So instead of painting sculpture, storytelling, music dance, or drawing or photography or sculpture, if one can find, ways of manifesting creative expression or politics in life itself rather than its limitation. So therefore, I taught that the Manchester international festival, when I was invited to participate last year, I thought this will be a great venue to share this manifesto that I put together with the help of a few friends, which as I said is not a manifesto in the real sense of the word is because it’s called E A R T
E A R T is the name for this phenomenon that I’m identifying that I’m wanting to discuss or to locate outside of art or parallel to art or separate to art or overlapping with art, something to this fact that we’re calling it art, E A R T a manifesto of possibilities, zero one. So the word possibilities, and it’s a numbering zero one is already self-contradictory even the idea for manifesto. So this document will be shared at this venue at Manchester International Festival alongside the three concepts that I will share, which to me, could be considered as my EART practice and one of those three concepts will actually be realized as a physical actually running business of a grocery store in Manchester for about a month. So this is a kind of a review of my practice over the years.
What connects all my artistic practice that even my curatorial or curriculum making based practice is my, belief in the unfixed ideas of geography and identity, and is my, you know, interestingly non-prescriptive notions of identity, because especially when you belong to global South or Third world countries, or the expectation is that the work you will produce will resemble, you know, your past the stylistic convention of the past, the works that have been produced in those regions. If somebody is born in Amsterdam, nobody expects the works to resembling Van Gogh works and this is the kind of burden one carries if you are from a country which was colonized in the past. So therefore, I kind of oppose or resist this kind of overlapping of geography and identity.
And I think everyone on this planet should have the same kind of freedom to be able to express their individualistic ideas and national identity is only one aspect of multiple identities that one carries. You know, we are not just Pakistani, Indian or South African or American. We may have certain religion, we may have certain gender, we may have so many other multiple identities that we carry so, it’s the whole combination that it comes with, so this oversimplification and often it is to sell your otherness is something I am opposed to, and that is what connects all my practice and if I look at it, this idea of what I’m going to present to Manchester international festival, all three ideas are business ideas.
They were utopian aspiration, but the very feasible and realistic application or outcome and application is very, what I’m proposing is local, It’s like one country, one planet, can be taken through these ideas of mass appeal, where one is not, necessarily indulging in globalization. I’m referring to as locality there is an acceptance of things existing worldwide because we live in a shrunken sort of a planet but at the same time, the local considerations are not necessarily to do with identity or tradition or ethnicity, not necessarily in that sense, but in terms of choices of various units or components . So in retrospect, even this ideas of earth as compared to my art practice are kind of overlapping in terms of defiance of the idea of political borders or cultural borders or borders of any kind and I think, just to answer your question in one line that my practice is all about defining borders of all time.
ALT: What are some of the materials used?
I do not call it as art and I do not want the audience to be visiting it as art. In fact for that matter, we are not going to advertise it as part of the Manchester International festival, we are not going to give an address where it’s located, people who will only come into contact because of its functionality will be the only audience of it. That is the difference between audience of art and audience of E A R T. Art as a phenomenon, as we know it for the last couple of hundred years, one of the key features of the discipline of art is that as we know it in the last 200 years, is it requires an audience, the idea of audience is very new.
It never existed in the history that you would go to listen to a concert or you go to watch a view or painting, it’s a very noble idea. It’s a new idea, only couple of hundred years old and in that regard, I am not saying it good or bad in that regard, EART in comparison to art has no audience only participants; participants meaning people who would come into contact with the activity of the real life activity, is going to be the default audience, if you may want to use the term audience. It has to be a successful business for it to be a successful E A R T idea because that’s the whole premise. What I’m conveying through this is work, I can make a talk about consumerism and popular culture like Andy Warhol or Damien Hirst pharmacy pieces, but I’m making a full circle and taking the white cube aesthetics back to the real world.
And there’s going to be shop, it may appear to be a bit peculiar in its outlook because we want to draw people to it because of it’s a novelty, but then once they’re there, they have to continue being its consumer because of certain awareness.. So, the message is going to be through its visual branding and its name is going to be very loud and clear that you getting quality for less because you’re not paying for advertisement. So, the business, it must be done as a glamorous business, it’s not a corporative store idea, it’s not a socialist or communist idea.
But very much, a very glamorous, international brand all over the world like McDonald’s or Uber or Zara or Ikea, except that groceries is something that all of us use. So this is my pitch I mean, it’s a hypothesis that the idea has to be the complete idea is basically about having stores in every corner of the world, everywhere and they will have some global aspects to it but they will have a local aspect to it and it will give you a grocery and essentials at a cost, which no other store can give you in that neighborhood because there is no advertisement for it. So, the entire brand is brandless so that’s the idea and it has to be realized as a business, as opposed to a white cube deli idea.
So, it’s not an installation, it’s an actual functioning business for a month. If it works out for any investor, for a group of people who realize it as a movement worldwide, it will be a business, but it will be disguised as a business, but it will actually be a movement. So, rather than sitting on the periphery and doing something like an activist, I am proposing an idea which is very realistic, very feasible, very doable, very business feasible in terms of business systems and then presenting a concept proof to Manchester International festival.
ALT: As a result of the pandemic and what has been your experience in the past year?
I have no complaints, I can say that it may have been artificially produced pandemic or you know, whether it’s a real pandemic , the world has a history of pandemics and I only feel privileged to be in a time and era where despite the pandemic there are means for us to fight it. We have better tools to fight with it. I mean, I can say people like us who have the privilege to be able to use Zoom as means of virtuality did not go in sheer isolation. So emotionally psychologically, it wasn’t as taxing and as damaging for us to be in this age. Of course, it does have its effects, but it came at a time when the tools of virtual engagement were already there, although very archaic tools, the ones we are using right now I think in 10 years from now, when we meet again so we will realize that how archaic this engagement was because there’s going to be a lot of sophistication and development in this regard,
And the difference between what we call real and physical appeal, or unregular virtual, is it going to be really blurry. So all I am saying is that I think this pandemic came at a time when luckily, we had these tools and it has accelerated that kind of engagement and it has given us tools of adaptability in my view, 21st century, where things are going to change with much faster pace than ever before. So, what you need more than anything else is the tool of adaptability and this pandemic and the survival through this pandemic, has all been all about adapting to the situation. So I don’t have any complaints however, sadly we have to say that lots of people have lost their lives and which could have been much more but compared to other pandemics, worldwide pandemics in the history, I’m just saying that the people like us with the privilege of being able to use the internet as means of virtuality probably have less to complain as compared to those who suffered during this pandemic.
Rashid Rana is widely considered to be the foremost Pakistani artist of his generation, has exhibited extensively worldwide, and his work can be found in the collections of the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and many other institutions worldwide. Some 14 years after he featured in The Rusholme Project at the very first MIF, we’re delighted to welcome him back to Manchester.
Commissioned by Manchester International Festival. Produced by Manchester International Festival and Manchester Art Gallery.