Omer Wasim (1988, Karachi) is an intermedial artist whose practice queers space, subverting the frames of development and progress that shape human relationships to the city and nature. His work bears witness to the relentless erasure, violence and destruction of our times by staying with queer bodies as they hold space and enact desire. Wasim’s practice and the ways in which he works are often in flux, moving across media, including installation, sculpture, drawing, video, photography and audio. Informed by lived experiences, botanical life forms, and queer kinship, he traces and remembers, gathers and writes, converses and collaborates to generate works that are topical and rooted, yet pervading through them is an echo of silence, which allows them to be grouped and read in multiple ways – and each time they are shown, they morph with space, time and context. His research turns to human and more-than-human witnesses to extend the possibility of bearing witness at a time when the state is intent on erasing and annihilating life forms that are not aligned with its narrative of progress and development. In so doing, he brings to the foreground and makes visible ideas and narratives, which albeit silent on the surface, speak of the world we inhabit in complex ways. He was trained in Interdisciplinary Sculpture and Critical Studies at the Maryland Institute College of Art; and is currently based in Karachi and teaching at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture.
As the Light Turns
The weeds, plants, woods, and gardens at the heart of this work act as insurgents in and through their refusal to be categorised, resisting unitary readings of gender, desire, longing and sexuality. The work develops out of a night-time walk in a forest, in the mountains, where three individuals have a queer encounter; it then cuts to a garden in Karachi brimming with primordial sexuality; and further zooms into the interaction of two trees, communicating an embodied form of desire. Here, turning off the light is significant not only for Cestrum nocturnum (the lady of the night, or night-scented jasmine) to conjure its scent, but for queerness to surface in, around and with trees.