Gasworks International Fellowship Programme

October 26 – December 6, 2019

Supported by Triangle Network & Arts Council England

with Peter Ibberson, UK


‘I am buried in all this dust, compressed and stacked and crushed, turned inwards and down. The stuff of the city, grain on grain, brick on brick.Smashed and rebuilt, the city spreads endlessly to the dry horizon.’

During the past 14 years, Gasworks (UK) and Vasl have exchanged Pakistani and British artists for residencies under the Triangle Network umbrella enabling cultural dialogue through the contemporary arts. In 2019, Gasworks and Vasl selected British artist, Peter Ibberson for the International Artists’ Residency funded by Arts Council England.

Vasl hosted Peter for six weeks, coincident with the extensive cultural programme of the Karachi Biennale. This provided opportunities to meet Karachi art communities and experience the diversity of art activities in the city.

Never having visited the sub-continent before, this was a new and challenging context for Peter’s research and sculptural practice. The entry point was his interest in the unregulated land use peculiar to Karachi, driven by its rapid population growth and the complexities of urban politics. Having recently completed projects in London and Hong Kong on related lines, Peter sought to push his practice to the edges of Karachi’s dynamic urban terrain.

‘I began with maps and texts about the city’s origins, then went looking for the edges. I explored river marshes, burial areas, salt plains and abandoned buildings. Uncertain places, where human effort finally yields to something older.’

With Vasl advice and introductions, Peter explored the historic buildings and markets of Saddar and learned about current challenges presented by migration and city development. Vasl also arranged an excursion to the historic city of Sehwan and the ‘turned town’ Ulti Basti. Exploration, research and encounters with precarious communities led to a period of reflection and experimentation. Peter engaged energetically with local material culture and worked with merchants and craftspeople to develop a sculptural project.

‘I want to act through the immediate material. Concrete, waste and steel; a sea of people, the noise of machinery, the smell of dust and fumes in the air. A frenetic energy of activity and commerce, ritual and industry. I want to work with that.’

Translation between creative intentions and materials and labour presented both opportunities and challenges. Following material trials and lengthy discussion through Vasl translators, the final project comprised sculptural ‘encroachments’ at three locations to the west, north and east of the city, up to 30km apart. Together, the selected sites bounded most of Karachi’s developed areas: urban peripheries certain to be built upon as the city grows. As with earlier works, these sculptures were designed to fail. By limiting them to concrete and steel components, these forms might be sculptures or building material, obliterated by the indifferent city or persisting forever incorporated in its structures.

The residency concluded with a public talk at Vasl where Peter discussed his practice and the ‘Foundation’ installations. The sculptures being in remote locations and in some cases already repurposed by local residents, discussion touched on the creative role of an audience and the narrative value of physical artworks one will never see.

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