On the 7th of December, 20222, the Exeter South Asia Centre hosted an event titled ‘Facts, Fiction and the Factory’, a presentation by Rameesha Azeem. Rameesha is a Visual Artist and Curator working in Lahore, Pakistan and the founder and director of “The Factory Project 01”. Rameesha combined the multiple goals of bringing creative people together, providing a healthy environment to create new kinds of works and being able to use the resources to their advantage. She brought a team of 18 artists, 9 writers and filmmakers to visit a revenue-generating Shoe Factory in Lahore, which covers an area of 30,000 meters or 9 acres, with 900 workers and more than 1000 machines. The factory produces more than 50 types of shoes. The Factory project brought the art world into this industrial space and was the first project of its kind in Lahore which brought these two distinct worlds together
The Factory Project consisted of 3 segments. It started with an art exhibition consisting of 18 artists, who worked at the factory for a year engaging with people, resources and technology. The Project continued with the launch of the official publication where, the editors, Emaan Maqbool and Rameesha, worked with 8 literary writers to engage with the exhibiting artists, from the beginning of their process. In the last segment, everything came together in a documentary film directed by Muhammad Usman, in collaboration with the Vasl Artists Association, Karachi, part of which was screened at the event.
At the event, Rameesha gave a talk which focused on Pakistani contemporary art and how The Factory Project aims to allow the creatives to experiment, research, collaborate and evoke the boldness of interdisciplinary concepts, ideas and their execution. She took us through her curatorial vision and spoke on the installations of the exhibition, showcasing how artists developed ideas by taking inspiration from the work done at the factory. They also creatively used the Factory’s space and converted the equipment at the factory into the focus of their installations. The entire staff, from the CEO to the management and heads of departments to the skilled labourers, had witnessed the making, process, and installation of the artworks. Their patience and support helped this project succeed. Its success was that the 900 workers not only contributed to the making of the art but also emerged as a new audience. The talk was followed by a group discussion where we discussed the experience of the workers in the project, the visual vocabulary used in the exhibitions as well as explored the current state of contemporary art in Pakistan and South Asia in general.
The Project aims to move on to the next segment called ‘The Factory Project International’ where curators from Portugal and Wales collaborate in a cross-disciplinary project that will be presented in Lisbon, Swansea and Lahore.
We are grateful to Rameesha for having shared her experience of curating this project with the members of the South Asia Centre. Our gratitude also to Qaiser Abbas, for having arranged this event.