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Life in Ruins: Materiality, the City, and the Production of Critique in the Art of Naiza Khan

  • Karin Zitzewitz

Naiza Khan's The Manora Archive (2007–), the product of her long-term engagement with a small island in Karachi's harbor, is exemplary of both Pakistan's vibrant contemporary art and its burgeoning discourse of urban space. Dominated by a naval base and port rejuvenation project, nearly all of Manora's civilian population was bought out by investors in 2006 for a now-abandoned real estate development. Khan has recorded the island's abandoned architecture in photographs and video, documenting its descent into ruins. Her visual archive, which also includes drawings, prints, and paintings based on the photographs, presents Manora's ruins as metonymic of Karachi's colonial and postcolonial histories. This article makes two interlocking claims: first, that Khan's artistic work supplements scholarship on the relationship between violence and urban development by highlighting issues of temporality and bodily experience, and, second, that her work productively exploits the tension between the documentary mode and more traditional artistic media.

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