Sagar Theatre on Queen’s Road

Foundation Art Divvy is delighted to present Sagar Theatre on Queen’s Road, curated by Zahra Khan. The exhibition is a collateral of the Lahore Biennale LB02 and is in collaboration with the Art Plaza.

Zeerak Ahmed | Komail Aijazuddin | Ali Baba | Affan Baghpati | Sophia Balagamwala | Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Malcolm Hutcheson | Amra Khan | Saba Khan | Hira Nabi | Seema Nusrat | Abdullah Qureshi | Aroosa Rana Sahyr Sayed | Mohsin Shafi | Masooma Syed

Films by Anam Abbas | Madiha Aijaz | Umar Riaz | Saim Sadiq

The Plaza Theatre, 6 Queen’s Road, Lahore
Tuesday – Sunday, 11 am - 6 pm
Saturday 25 January – Saturday 29 February 2020

Lahore's Mughal, Sikh and Colonial history is embedded throughout the city, particularly visible in its architectural legacy. The city is an amalgamation of modern glassy constructions, colonial art deco structures, and monuments from the Mughal era. Lahore’s vibrancy is steeped in its unique cultural endeavours which are a testament to the eternal relevance of the city.

The Sagar Theatre on Queen’s Road was built in 1933 and is one of Lahore’s oldest theatre houses. The life of the space has moved through different transitions and iterations. In the 1950s ballroom dance classes were held on the first floor. The building was home to the popular Plaza Cinema from the 1970s onwards, and flourished, showcasing English films for the cinema goers of Lahore. In recent years, the owner of the Plaza, Mr. Jahanzaib Baig, has created the Art Plaza, a space within the Plaza Theatre for the promotion of creative arts. The Art Plaza reignited the theatre house on the ground floor and welcomed The Colony, a performing arts and modern dance initiative, into the original ballroom.

Dance, theatre and cinema are means of accessing untapped states of being and new realities for individuals to embody. The exhibition seeks to explore the impact of surrounding environments and the passage of time upon human consciousness, by creating alternative installations for audience members to delve into and discover. The 16 artists, selected by the curator Zahra Khan, have responded to the rich cultural heritage of the building, of Lahore and of their place within the city. Audience members embark on a journey as they move from space to space, exploring the individual artist installations.

The works in the entrance comment upon the effects of time on structures and objects. Ali Baba’s sculpture Erosion I, investigates inevitable decay as it welcomes the viewer into the exhibition, creating a meditative environment. On an adjacent wall, Affan Baghpati revives archaic objects by changing their purpose and their presentation. While, Hira Nabi’s Single Screen Shaadi, 2018 is a photograph of an iconic theatre house on the day of its transformation into a wedding venue.

The former Ballroom contains artworks connected to the Sagar Theatre and South Asia’s colonial history. Miniature stage sets by Masooma Syed are spread through the centre of the room. These works imagine the theatrical life of a fictional actress who performed on the Sagar Stage. Saba Khan presents a series of photographs of Mr. Moti Sagar’s original home and garden which has since been torn down leaving no trace of its previous inhabitant. Sophia Balagamwala’s sculptures depict a satirical view of past leaders and their stubborn allegiance to a colonial past. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s fabric wallpieces refer to revolutions fought across South Asia and the Middle East against the yoke of oppressors.

The artists entice the viewer to enter into their individual private spaces. Aroosa Rana, Komail Aijazuddin, Abdullah Qureshi and Amra Khan each have created sanctuaries for the viewer, adjoining the main ballroom. Aroosa’s View Within, comments upon spaces within spaces, and questions the separation between the viewer and the viewed. Komail invites the audience into Chapel of the Gilded Rage, which contains remembrances of his childhood in Lahore. Abdullah’s Journey to the CharBagh is a film steeped in Sufi mystical and mythological symbolism and imagery relating to love and equality. Amra invites you into The Red Room, a private boudoir she has created within which vulnerability and gender fluidity are accepted and protected.

Seema Nusrat’s Future Facades, installed on the lower landing of the stairwell recreates the artist’s creative studio. Zeerak Ahmed’s Aloud activates the stairwell as the multiple selves of the artist merge to create a meditative sound reverberating through.

The presence of the individual within this bustling city of ancient communities, rituals and heritage has been the driving force behind some of the works. Malcom Hutcheson exhibits photographs of the transgender community in Lahore, while Sahy Sayed’s Fashioned Nostalgia is a tribute, through the accumulation of found objects, to the city within which she has built her family and her home. Mohsin Shafi’s Okhay Lafzān da’i māe’nay (Difficult are the meanings of words) is a visual diary of footage and images from his personal journals (2009 – 2019), vignettes creating an ode to the city and the identities of its inhabitants.

Five short films by four acclaimed Pakistani filmmakers are being screened in the upper balcony of the original cinema. Each film deals with the different themes the exhibition is exploring. Saim Sadiq’s Darling is set in a dance theatre in Lahore and explores the journey of a young transgender girl. Anam Abbas’s Lucky Irani Circus examines the now disbanded but renowned Pakistani circus and its inhabitants. Umar Riaz’s Gul-e-Daudi is a love story spanning generations, set to the music of Madam Noor Jahan, while Madiha Aijaz’s These Silences Are All the Words, is a remembrance of libraries and lost languages. Set in 1947, the final film, Umar Riaz’s Last Remarks presents a deep-rooted consequence of Britain’s colonial rule upon South Asia.

The artists have diverse and individual practices, and work in varied mediums. This was a deliberate choice in order to further the scope and depth of the exhibition, yet their practices are linked by a thoughtful and powerful analytical approach. The artists have each conducted a series of site visits. It has been particularly fascinating to observe in what way and to which aspects of the building each artist has responded.

Image Gallery