Is Violence Sexy?

Violence has captured the imagination of artists in Pakistan as a dominant narrative, instructed by the unceasing acts of violence that is reported and analyzed daily in the media suffusing the air waves, the newspaper columns and late night drawing room chats, almost like a tide that refuses to ebb. But after so many years of endurance and the opportunity to evolve from under the subjugation of this narrative to a more detached and analytical portrayal of the psychological and emotional fallout from violence, artists continue to use the theme because, eventually, violence is titillating and exciting.

Blood and gore are thrilling! In American cinema the genre of the horror film has a long history and tradition, but in recent times, with monsters becoming ubiquitous and unbelievable as a result of the marvels of CGI, producers have turned to the depiction of ripped limbs, bone crunchings, hacked organs and copious amounts of blood in order to satiate the hungry horror movie aficionado. Violence then replaces terror of the unknown as a viewing stimulant.

Imran Qureshi, Midnight Garden 2015
Imran Qureshi, Midnight Garden 2015

But artists in Pakistan revert to the theme because they are fulfilling their role as archivists of their zeitgeist. And it has to be documented that in this time in Pakistan’s history, much innocent blood was shed. But surely, there are limitations to depicting blood. Imran Qureshi seems not to think so. He created his now familiar blood splattered panoptic installation in Sharjah in 2011, where an entire courtyard in Bait al Serkal was painted in splotches of blood, like the scene of a carnage after a suicide bombing in a busy square. He painted it again for the Met’s Rooftop Commission in 2013, in New York to rave reviews not jut from critics but from music and movie celebrities who all wanted a selfie of the blood splattered floor.

Qureshi then took the theme to Paris in 2014 at the Sainte-Geneviève Library where viewers were invited to crumple sheets of paper with the same blood splatter and throw it on a growing mound of paper which eventually reached monumental heights. He has presently installed the splatter in San Gimignano in Tuscany.

It can be said that a singular theme carried through a space of six or seven years is hardly too many for an artist. The question remains as to how long and far artists will linger on the subject.

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