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Khoj x TBA21 on St_age Safarnama

Khoj collaborated with Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21) to curate two projects that engage with the idea of air and toxicity to be showcased on their digital platform.

Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21) is a leading international art and advocacy foundation created in 2002 by the philanthropist and collector Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza.

About this edition

A sound piece tracing the textures and toxicities of air.

Invoking the presence of jinns to explore the textures and toxicities of air, Safarnama (2020) activates natural and sacred worlds to pay attention to the intimacy of toxic colonialisms. Borrowing its name from and referencing the history of travel literature produced in the Islamic world, Safarnama traces the journey of a jinn traveling through the emerging, extractive infrastructures of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. We turn to these otherworldly beings of air and fire to disrupt colonial protocols of seeing and knowing, to rewire our experiential modes, and to stretch open the possibility of witnessing at a time of heightened policing and repression. The jinn that we seek challenges the state project of erasure. Subsisting below the threshold of official state narratives, the jinn attunes us to the entanglements between sacred, human and ecological worlds.

The narration in Safarnama references the following sources: Anand Taneja, Jinnealogy: Time, Islam and Ecological Thought in the Medieval Ruins of Delhi (Delhi: Stanford University Press, 2018); Nishat Awan and Zahra Hussain, “Conflicting Material Imaginaries,” New Silk Roads, e-flux (January 2020), online; David Abrams, “The Remembering and Forgetting of the Air,” Storytellers before Dawn: An Anthology, eds. Juddha Su and Mi You (2018); an interview conducted by Dr. Hasan Ali Khan who generously shared it with us; and Robert Lebling, Legends of the Fire Spirits (New York: I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd, 2010).

The Myth of Infrastructural Utopia: Development, Displacement and Desolation

To contextualise the works, Khoj also produced The Myth of Infrastructural Utopia: Development, Displacement and Desolation, a podcast hosted by anthropologist, Heba Islam.

This podcast takes the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor as its starting point to talk about the messy contradictions and tensions between ecological considerations, economic aspirations, and the realities on the ground for marginalized Pakistani communities who find themselves in the way of ‘development.’

Urban planner Nausheen Anwar contests the myth of infrastructural utopia which frames such projects as eventually benefiting the public by posing the question: which publics? Anthropologists Tariq Rahman and Naveeda Khan discuss respectively the tactics used by land realtors to force evictions, and how Islamic theology and mythology can help us find a language to think through the alienation and unease caused by displacement.


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