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Arts Seminar

Basir Mahmood, Visiting Artist, SAI Arts Program

Chair: Jennifer Leaning, François-Xavier Bagnoud Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights; Director, FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, Department of Global Health and Population, Harvard School of Public Health

Basir Mahmood, recipient of South Asia Institute 2015 Emerging Artist Award, will be offering insights into his practice as he has developed over the last few years, and will attempt to meaningfully engage audiences to mutually construct new narratives around his works. Using video, film or photographs, Mahmood’s work weaves together various threads of thoughts, findings and insights into poetic sequences, building various forms of narratives. In order to engage with situations around him, he ponders upon embedded social and historical terrains of the ordinary, as well as his personal milieu.

In “My father” 2010, an upright sewing needle appears in sharp focus as the blurred image of an old man attempting to thread the needle fills the screen. The agonizing process evokes a sense of humility and empathy through a personal connection suggested by means of the work’s title, as the man fails each attempt at the task. His work titled “Missing Letters” revolves around a collection of ashes from Returned Letter Office (RLO) at Pakistan Post Office, Lahore. Prior to Pakistan’s independence, and during the British Raj era, the RLO was known as “Dead Letters Office”, wherein undelivered letters were kept for thirty days before eventually being burnt. In this work, Mahmood drew some of the ashes of burnt undelivered letters, and reduced these ashes to the point where they cannot be burned anymore.

Basir’s work is currently on display at the SAI office on the 4th floor of CGIS South, 1730 Cambridge Street.

Q+A with Basir Mahmood

The Arts at SAI initiative connects South Asia’s curators, museum administrators, artists, and art educators with Harvard faculty and students to support activity and research that advance understanding and appreciation of the tapestry of South Asian art and the heritage that defines its voice in the world.