ARTIST: The Tentative Collective
ARTWORK/YEAR: Mera Karachi Mobile Cinema (2011-2015)
REGION: West, Central and South Asia
RESEARCHER: Eve Lemesle
Mera Karachi Mobile Cinema (MKMC) is a series of film projections across the city of Karachi, Pakistan, working with ethnically and economically diverse residential colonies across Karachi. The project involves collected mobile camera videos and shorts about everyday Karachi life made by the residents of the colonies involved, and projecting them in public spaces within those colonies with the help of the MKMC rickshaw – a jazzed up version of the ubiquitous rickshaw – which is fitted with a projector, and drives around the city to set up MKMC at various places. Karachi, the capital of the Sindh Province, is one of the largest cities in Pakistan – especially in numbers. Being a port city, it is also home to various communities that have settled here over time. Over the last few decades Karachi’s reputation as a dangerous city with high crime rates led to the building of numerous walls all over the city – especially around public spaces. The various forms of walls aimed to privatise a space, keeping out “unwanted” elements, leading to segregation and separation in the various communities that lived in Karachi. In response to this, Yaminay Nasir Chaudhri, an architecture graduate from Cornell University came up with the idea of ‘Mera Karachi Mera Cinema’. The aim was to introduce pop-up open air cinemas as a way to re-connect the various separated people of Karachi. Chaudhri set up ‘tentative collectives’ (where the Tentative Collective gets its name from), to work within various colonies – and each collective helped the diverse range of people they worked with to create the amateur films that would eventually be screened by MKMC. Additionally, the team chose to focus their sites outside the popular architecture of Karachi, going to forgotten, ignored localities.
The MKMC project focussed on desegregation of communities in various ways. From moving art outside galleries to bring its concerns closer to people to creating interactions between communities through their everyday videos. The act of making the videos itself was a way to engage people in actions and thought processes outside of their everyday life, allowing for creativity, imagination and empathy. It not only opened up the residents’ perspective of other colonies and communities of Karachi, it also gave them new ways of looking and understanding their own actions and those of their communities. In specific high-crime areas, the focus was on films made by children from the area – the making and screening of these films allowed residents to understand the immediate effect of crime on children. The focus on far-flung, non-art spaces was especially interesting, especially in marginalised neighbourhoods or for people such as the porters at a railway station where one of the screenings was held. . The project reached its specified goals, and has created space for public art in Karachi.
Upon her return from studying in the US, Chaudhri was particularly concerned with the increasing privatization and class segregation in Karachi. To break this seegregation, which can also be found in art galleries - spaces that cater to elite classes, and architectures that divide Karachi by class, ethnicity and gender. To counter this, Chaudhri and her team - the 'Tentative Collective' - created a program that would depend wholly on local interest and interactions. The project was variously funded through crowdfunding, and through the 'Artspire' program of the New York Foundation for the Arts, and additionally funded by the United States Institute of Peace, National University Singapore, and materially supported by local outfits and individuals such as Sazgar Rickshaws, Raja Sabri and Shafayat Bhai who constructed the MKMC rickshaw projection unit.
All copyright belongs to Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, Shanghai University.