The Artist as Translator

Conversation between Fatima Hussain & Ayesha Kamal Khan
by Second Practice

Monday, October 24, 2022

The Artist as Translator is a practice-led research project that aims to stretch visual vocabularies and find systems to address the materiality specific to a location. This research is an extension of the assumption that at the core of any creative practice lies first, a sincere translation of observation in the producer’s choice of medium. This makes the producer or the artist primarily a translator before anything else who truly believes in the impossible translatability of in/tangible materials that they interact with.

The design of the project invites creative practitioners to initiate a chain of translation by sharing with the rest, an object/ image/ text/ sound so entrenched in their location, that they deem difficult to translate. This material is then responded to, by the translators with an object/ text/ image/ combination that translates as accurately as possible in their proximity. Each material that is initiated is archived with as much description and information as possible to facilitate the following translator.

Through these chains of translations, the project aims to identify the untranslatable nucleus in materials brought forth, to be able to give form to it and to extend its knowability. Uncovering the untranslatable in material culture is a task that stretches the legibility of materials. Admitting the untranslatability but still attempting to grasp it as the most active/ intimate act of reading a material (Spivak, 1992). This digital tool maps the chains and translations within while also becoming a window to the thoughts, conversations, and musings that have brewed over the course of the project.

All participants in one way or another draw connections from literature, scientific research, natural observation, domestic settings, sound, memory, etc. and collect material that in their response is the truest translation of all the material that comes their way. The project collectively attempts the stretching of language(s), to look for its permeability as a task of the Artist as Translator.

This project has been realised in collaboration with Vasl Artists’ Association and generously supported by Living Arts International under the South-South Arts Fellowship 2022 and Karachi Biennale Trust.


About Second Practice:

Second Practice is a collaborative research practice by Fatima Hussain, Abeerah Zahid, and Ayesha Kamal Khan unpacking knowledge production and dissemination within postcolonial geographies and diasporic contexts. Exploring trans-disciplinary methodologies in artistic practice, critical inquiry of how the local is often flattened in the global art world, and participatory ways of disseminating knowledge, second practice draws out considered positions in formats predisposed to sharing and circulation.

In the recent past, they did a year-long research project ‘Access Audience / Audience Access’ supported by LBF-AAN, the project acquired the format of a live archive and a publication in response to locating audiences for contemporary arts in Pakistan. Second Practice is currently working with an ERC-funded project based at the University of Delft, NL as part of which they are analysing the temporal experiences of migrants. Through discourse analysis of the research produced, Second Practice is developing a visual method for mapping these experiences of time. The work is currently showing at the 17th Istanbul Biennale.

They have collaborated on various projects previously that have been shown at Richmix UK, Zahoor-ul-Akhlaq Lahore and SAVAC, Toronto. All three have taught at National College of Arts, Pakistan and have participated in various artists’ residencies. They have been working together in various capacities for a decade, and formally came together as second practice in 2018 as an extension to their individual practices.




Gasworks International Fellowship Programme

with Peter Ibberson

Friday, December 6, 2019

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.


About Peter

Peter Ibberson is a sculptor based in the UK and working internationally. Employing a variety of materials and techniques, Peter’s evolving practice centres on belonging: as an emotional connection with place, through action, knowledge and control.

Peter studied his MA Fine Art at UAL Chelsea and recently completed a residency at the Academy of Visual Arts, Hong Kong. In addition to works in steel, other recent projects have involved satellite transmission, co-performance and digital interfaces.

‘I grew-up in rural England. My family were engineers and scientists, and it seems we were constantly making, breaking or repairing our house or the landscape around us. I still prefer simple materials like earth, wood and metals for my work, and I always feel closer to home when I am making.’

Jamming in Karachi

with Carolijn Terwindt

Friday, December 6, 2019

Jamming in Karachi, a performance, talk and exhibition by Vasl resident Carolijn Terwindt, where Carolijn discussed her practice and played a piece composed by her fellow musicians from NAPA, Amoon Dass & Robinson Rafique. 

About Carolijn

Dr. Carolijn Terwindt is an author and activist. After studying law and anthropology at Utrecht University, she received her JSD at Columbia Law School. From 2012 until 2019, she joined the Business and Human Rights program at ECCHR, where she worked closely with workers and their families in Pakistan and Bangladesh on cases of corporate liability in the textile industry. She further developed novel litigation on socio-economic rights in relation to the agribusiness in India. Dr. Terwindt has published on a wide range of topics, including identity politics, anti-terrorism legislation, supply chain and auditor liability, as well as the liability of pharmaceutical companies off shoring their clinical trials. She has been invited as an expert to the United Nations and as a public speaker on conferences around the world. She extensively researches and writes on issues pertinent to her work. Together with Chris van der Borgh she co-authored” NGOs under Pressure in Partial Democracies” (Palgrave, 2014). Her newest book is upcoming: “When Protest Becomes Crime: Politics and Law in Liberal Democracies” (Pluto Press, 2020).”

All the Lives (Never) Lived

with Noorafshan Mirza, moderated by Hira Khan

Saturday, January 12, 2018

On Vasl’s rooftop on a balmy October evening during the KB2 festival, Hira Khan (Project Coordinator at Vasl) opened a conversation with Noorafshan Mirza about her practice, process and forthcoming collaborations.

On reflection:

I was grateful for this opportunity to look forwards and backwards in time. To share lessons learnt, experiences, and artworks embodied. I felt it an opportunity to reflect on work and practice rooted in my experience of the city of Karachi, and the legacies of a period in time which gave birth to “The Museum of Non Participation project 2008-2016. I talked about returning to the city as if she was a good old friend, which was to say that nothing much had changed between us and yet nothing looked the same.

At the same time, I wanted to represent the present by imagining the journey of being “of but not from” & “from but not of” the sub-continent. This led to the talks title: All the lives, (n)ever lived. I had found myself in Karachi this trip after months of travel through the sub-continent with friend, artist, collaborator, Priya Panchalingam. A journey also through our experiences of growing up in western anglophone speaking cultures (UK & Australia respectively) and having our roots in South Asia. We in turn took each other to ancestral parts of Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan and explored the multitude of intimate encounters and conversations unfolding the plurality of all our lives. What does it mean to travel through parts of yourself imagined in a parallel universe? for example experiencing growing up as a Hyderabadi, being a musician, or researching textiles for a new fashion collection? Simultaneously Priya and I were both researching and scripting a collaborative intersectional feminist film of a journey through the artery of our imagined sub-continent.

The final part of my talk took the form of an in-depth discussion of my recent collaborative exhibition project “The Scar” and my first artist collaborative feature film for the cinema: “Ruptures”. This body of artistic practice has been produced with my long-term collaborator Brad Butler over the duration of 4 years (2015-2019) on the subject of state enforced disappearance and structures of patriarchal violence. I plan to return to Karachi soon, if so I will bring this work with me to share with you.

Noorafshan Mirza’s practice is founded on long term collaboration and collectivity. As a co-founder of the London-based centre for artist film production, no.w.here, she creates work which spans the moving image, installation, sound, text and performed actions. Her practice explores themes of resistance, inequality, power and privilege, and (non) participation. Along with her long-term collaborator the artist Brad Butler they have currently finished their first fiction feature film Ruptures (2019), accompanied by an exhibition project The Scar (2018) on state enforced disappearance. Between 2009 and 2016 their art practice was framed as a fictional institution. This ‘Museum of non Participation” which sought to confront (non) participation as a neoliberal condition and a threshold – between forms of resistance and forces of oppression.


Biennales Worldwide; Chances & Challenges

with Ursulla Zeller, curator of Art Space, Germany in coversation with Amin Gulgee, Chief curator KB17, moderated by Stefan Winkler, Director Goethe Institut Pakistan

Saturday, January 12, 2018

Ursula Zeller is a director at Alimentarium in Vevey, Switzerland and was the director of Zeppelin Museum in Friedrichshafen, Germany. Dr. Zeller was also the head of the Visual Arts Department at the Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations in Stuttgart, Germany. She has written in depth on contemporary art practices and biennales.

Amin Gulgee is an eminent sculptor and performance artist and has extensively performed and exhibited his work nationally and internationally. He was the Chief Curator of the first Karachi Biennale in 2017.

Stefan Winkler is the Director of Goethe Institut Pakistan. He was the moderator for the talk.

All That Perishes on the Edge of Land

with Hira Nabi

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Hira Nabi’s latest work is part of Vasl’s residency, the artist explores Gadani’s shipwrecked yard as a site of fractured stories and contesting truths. Her research and work derive from an ongoing preoccupation with labour, networks of capital and movement, human vulnerability and a focus on the environment as a primary site if investigation. This work revisits various and often, contrasting narratives regarding accidents, ownership of ships and ways of existence. Her work contemplates surrealist surroundings in par with quotidian workplace occurrences that remain universally concerned.

Protektorama Narrates Identitecture [5.4.8]

with Johannes Paul Raether

in collaboration with Goethe Institut Pakistan

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Vasl’s resident artist Johannes Paul Raether hosted a performative lecture through the collaboration of Vasl Artist’s Association with the Goethe-Institut Pakistan on the Vasl rooftop. Raether lives and works in Berlin, Germany. His works are constructed identities (Avatars, Alter-Identities or Self Sisters) emerging at various sites in public spaces in order to research, educate and story tell. As colourful beings made up from everyday objects, they discuss complex topics as bio and reproductive industries, globalised tourism or occult substances in regard to contemporary technology. Raether’s works and performances have been showcased at numerous public spaces and eminent art galleries, globally. Raether publishes in Texte zur Kunst and is currently a professor at the arts academy, Kunstakademie in Dusseldorf.


David Alesworth in conversation 

with Dr. Asma Mundrawala

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

‘David Alesworth in conversation with Dr. Asma Mundrawala’ had taken place at the Vasl residence. Internationally acclaimed artist, David Chalmers Alesworth discussed his previous works with visual artist and theatre practitioner, Dr. Asma Mundrawala. The talk had received positive public attention and was attended by not only friends and colleagues, but many art students from universities all over Karachi. Alesworth discussed his interest in botanical studies, his research in gardens and the confluent inspirations from surrounding natural and urban environments. Both artists discussed and focused on Alesworth’s progression regarding his projects while sharing images of some of his statement pieces which were included in the Karachi Pop Art movement.

The Hospital and the Cinema 

Althea Thauberger in conversation with Zarmeene Shah
with Syed Ammad Tahir, Momin Zafar, Vajdaan Shah & Zehra Nawab

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

As part of the Vasl Rooftop Series and in support of Karachi Biennale 17, Vasl Artists’ Association hosted a talk titled ‘The Hospital and the Cinema’. The talk included Vancouver based artist, Althea Thauberger who spoke about her previous works in Prague, Czech Republic with Karachi based curator and art critic Zarmeene Shah at Vasl Artists’ Association on September 6, 2017.

In the first half of the talk, Althea and Zarmeene discussed theatre, film and the role it has played in Althea’s work. The second half of the talk brought together Althea and her Pakistani collaborators for a film which they were directing as part of Karachi Biennale. The film explored the history behind a popular cinema on M.A. Jinnah Road in Karachi called Capri Cinema. The directors and collaborators for this film were; Syed Ammad Tahir, Momin Zafar, Vajdaan Shah and Zehra Nawab.

‘This Could Go On For Awhile..’

with Stephen Sheehan for KB17

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Vasl Artists’ Association launched our first volume and series of Artists’ Books – ‘Conversations with Contemporary Pakistani Artists’ at Vasl’s rooftop. The book launch included a brief yet informative discussion between the four selected artist contributors for Volume 1; Aamir Habib, Madiha Hyder, Seema Nusrat and Seher Naveed

These series of publications were one of Vasl’s many initiatives of 2017 in effort to connect a wider amount of the community through extensive research and publications involving contemporary art practices. The book launch provided a supportive backbone for Vasl, giving us the opportunity to discuss the fundamentals of creating publications such as these artist books, in close collaboration with various artists. During the discussion, each artist reminisced about their personal struggles and journeys in the art community. They even chatted about certain obstacles and personal challenges they overcame. References made in the books were utilized to highlight each artists’ individual approach as well as their interests in various spectrums of contemporary art and research.

Pakistan-German Salon | Music, Fashion and Art

in collaboration with The Goethe-Institut, Pakistan

October 25th, 2017

Vasl Artists’ Association in collaboration with Goethe-Institut Pakistan, hosted the Pakistan-German Salon | Music, Fashion and Art on as part of the Vasl Rooftop Talk Series.

German fashion and social designer Miro Craemer in collaboration with Pakistani designer, Waqar Khan, introduced his new collection ‘Sky over Karachi’ which was complimented by Pablo Lauf’s music. The garments were tailored with leather outsourced from Munich, while different forms of silk and cotton used were made locally in Pakistan.

Curators, Sara-Duana Meyer (Cairo, Egypt) and Dr. Bernhart Schwenk (Munich, Germany) focused their discussion around, ‘25 Years of Contemporary Art in Germany’ with Simon Otto (Munich, Germany). Schwenk specified about his work at the Pinakothek der Moderne while Meyer explained the ‘Urbanities’ project which brought the German artists together, through the context of cities and their ever-evolving forms.

 German performance artists, Simon Otto designed a short performance consisting of a dance piece for the Vasl Rooftop event as they were attending Karachi Biennale for a specific project, (OVERxCOM) “Moves”.

Karin Kasbock was Vasl’s resident artist at the time, and was part of Berlin based artist duo, ‘Bankleer’. She presented her work and previous bodies of performances on the Vasl rooftop and was one of the performance artists for the Karachi Biennale 2017. She performed her piece, ‘The Thing’ which was held at the NJV School for a week’s duration.

The evening ended with a productive feedback session regarding the “Cord of Desires” which was a project facilitated by the Vasl Artists’ Association for Miro Craemer, the resident artist in 2016, in response to the Baldia Factory Fire of 2012 which happened in Karachi. Craemer and his fellow collaborators, Manizhe Ali, Hira Khan (Project Coordinator at Vasl Artists’ Association) and Mahwish Ali spoke about their contributions to the project and its extensions which resulted in a seminar and exhibition at the Textile Industry Museum of Augsburg, Germany in 2017.