The surge in drone deployment to Pakistan since 2005 has stimulated a conscientious effort by artists to portray the plight of the Pakistanis over the past decade. A diverse body of art has developed in Pakistan as a product of the harsh socio-political setting of the nation.
The works of Pakistani artist, Naiza Khan conceptualise an unsettling impression of the Pakistani condition by presenting images of its former national glories alongside the obstructions the nation currently faces. Most notably, Khan’s works ‘In This Landscape There is No Certainty’ and ‘Between the Temple and the Playground’ overlay fading illustrations of great Pakistani landscapes, from city skylines to national landmarks over ominous backdrops. These multi-layered works narrate the experience of foreign intrusion on the nation’s fracturing identity.
Karachi based artist Abdullah Syed tackles the conventional rhetoric on the use of drones. The installation ‘Rug of Wars’ depicts a skyscape covered in drones soaring far off into the horizon. The piece envisions a shift to a broader use of drones where they ultimately become a mechanism for surveillance. Syed provokes us to reassess the detached nature of the drone war. These drones are operated from afar with direct consequences on the Pakistani citizen. He leaves us questioning how long the public will allow for the escalating civilian fatalities to be dismissed as collateral damage by foreign powers.
Other artists produce poignant works which point more specifically to the concerns of the average citizen on the indiscriminate nature of drone attacks. A rising number of civilian casualties continue to surface in Pakistan, whilst the threat of drones has gradually dehumanised Pakistani citizens. Imran Qureshi visualises the impact of the drone war on the individual. In one of his most poignant installations, ‘And They Still Seek the Traces of Blood’, Qureshi compiles a mass of discarded hand written letters which from afar appear to be drenched in blood. The text tells of a sombre Pakistani poem which chronicles the unjust nature of an unwarranted death.
These works are crafted to convey Pakistan’s predicament and they reveal a country that is both controlled and chaotic. These artists tackle the effects of a drone insurgency on the nation and probe the observer to question its legitimacy. They provide an uncensored glimpse into the spirit of the nation which has been altered by a silent drone war waged on its borders.