From The Brooklyn Rail:
Since moving to the U.S. from Pakistan in the mid-’90s, Shahzia Sikander has pushed through boundaries corroded by decades of multiculturalist rhetoric with an artistic practice that reimagines the connections between Eastern experiences and Western perspectives. Sikander is best known for her early mastery of Indo-Persian miniaturist painting—a radical appropriation of a craft formerly considered kitsch—but her recent work in video is immersive, animated, and monumental in scale. She sat down with Sara Christoph to discuss the paradoxes of colonialism and translation, and the narratives that frame history, in the context of today’s charged atmosphere of divisive polemics.
Sara Christoph (Rail): I’d like to begin by touching on a theme that runs through your work as an artist: the imperative of imagination. You’ve said it is something that drives you, that “art is an instinct to imagine the future.” Let’s start there: imagination as instinct, as something that even in times of great divisiveness, binds us all. How would you articulate the role of imagination in your work?
Shahzia Sikander: When I think of the idea of the postcolonial, the rhetoric of imagination seems so much more buoyant, so full of visual possibilities, specifically as a foil to the notion of the exile. I think of it as a soaring and empowering space that is free from constraints. And if you’re thinking in terms of inter-connectivity, imagination is what ties all of us together.