9/11 and the Politics of “Othering” in Text-Based Art
9/11 and the Politics of “Othering” in Text-Based Art

In 1990 Arjun Appadurai wrote a seminal article called “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy”; expanding upon the ramifications of a global village within a cultural context, Appadurai introduced readers to the dynamic diasporic strands of globalization that comprise of what he calls global flows1. Appadurai described the world as an arena in which people, images and ideas move and operate, reassemble, reinvent themselves, but one that also causes tensions and conflicts that he called “disjunctures”.2 He introduced the terms Ideoscapes, technoscapes, mediascapes, ethnoscapes, finanscapes.3 Each “scape” defines a perspective that relates to how these cultural economies function in globalization.4 As the events of 9/11 unfolded, some of Appadurai’s disjunctures amplified their presence and manifested themselves in the aftermath of 9/11 for example through the role of the international media as it castigated Muslims and Islam as an ideology across the world. Global mediascapes of imagery saturated in violent depictions of Muslims faced off local Ideoscapes of host countries (where many diasporic Muslims resided) that promoted themselves as the “self-declared civilized world”. 5

In the media frenzy and political rhetoric that was telecast and followed the events of 9/11, the lives of Muslim diaspora were transformed. Since the hijackers of the plane that crashed into the Twin Towers were presumed to be Muslim or Arab and reductive media saturated narratives perpetuated these stereotypes, islamophobia, surveillance, thinly veiled racial profiling, stereotyping all became normative practices in the decade that followed 9/116.  Many in the Muslim diaspora underwent an identity crisis of sorts and since then have begun to question their relationship with their host countries, reflecting upon ways through which they can mediate between modernity and religion. In addition, the “deterritorialiazation” 7 or the breaking down or separation of   cultural, religious, links from places of origin as elaborated by Appadurai has also compelled Muslim diaspora to consider imagining other ways of linking themselves to Muslim identity8. Diasporic artists to date must navigate between the global and local, center and periphery and constantly question their representation as they intervene artistically and move between various intersecting worlds as they attempt to counter the reductive binaries promoted by international media9 that either demonize or valorize entire belief systems and ideologies.

The essay foregrounds itself in this scenario and explores the text-based works of contemporary diasporic artists of Pakistani origin. It reflects on how their art practice may have been transformed in response to dilemmas posed by the unfolding of these events.  The discussion will also dwell on how the meanings embedded in some of the text-based works of these artists are inextricably linked to a dialogue with medium and materiality that emerges out of their validation of technology, globalization and its disjunctures as elaborated by Appadurai. These works can also be interpreted as a response to the cultural hegemony of the West that is tied to economics and globalization and the antagonism that dominated the discourse on 9/11 at the time in the relationship of the US with Muslim diaspora. Some of the works featured are politically charged or subversive, others attempt to reference a more pluralistic past while mulling their place in history and society. What is common in all these works is the fact that in the wake of 9/11 these artists responded to the binaries and narratives of “othering” generated by global media whilst highlighting the identity crisis that emerged amongst Muslims living in various parts of the world at the time. Discussion on text based art in particular that was produced in this time is much needed and significant. The intention stems from the idea that the artworks discussed in this essay are by products of a certain world view, one that emerged from the rubble of a seminal event that, according to Brown, Gallego and Baudrillard questioned whether post modernity had been periodized or revitalized, whether history had ended or resuscitated10. Baudrillard describes 9/11 as an “image event” since it was transmitted globally and instantaneously through the media. He questions the systems and structures that helped disseminate information about this pivotal moment in history and the perplexing way in which reality was electronically transmitted and beamed across the world. Ruminating upon this phenomenon he was ultimately compelled to consider the nature of truth and reality as he wrote “How do things stand with the real event, then, if reality is everywhere infiltrated by images, virtuality and fiction?” 11 Some of the artists discussed in this essay therefore respond in kind by using language to contest the hegemonic power of mass media that enabled it to obscure and manipulate the truth in the aftermath of 9/11.

The exploration of a paradox between reality and fiction is something that art history is quite familiar with. The exploration of discrepancies between reality and illusion had already been initiated in Western art by path breaking works such as Rene Magritte’s “The Treachery of Images” and Joseph Kosuth’s “One and Three Chairs”. Text based art which considers text as an object or image unto itself emerged in the 60s and 70s with the advent of Conceptual art and its discursive practices; the Dadaists can also be credited with dismantling the structure and function of language as a means of communication and establishing truth with their infamously nonsensical approach to art12 that overlapped with activism and political critique gave a certain kind of currency to artists, one that lent them the tools to battle with what one could call “the language of society”. The Dadaist had sought to critique the senselessness of war; one of their defining characteristics was the obliteration of structure order and function in response to violence and so they turned to deconstructing language which seemed irrelevant in the midst of this chaos. This sentiment is also echoed in the works of some artists of Pakistani origin discussed in this essay who draw parallels with the senseless acts and invasions that followed 9/11. They draw from the ethos of the Dadaists when some of them use humor, wit and sometimes even benign pacifism to counter the binaries imposed by the vitriol and hatred that was embedded in the speeches that were telecast after 9/11 that13 promoted “the civilized/barbaric, good/evil”14 paradigm.

Post 9/11, Muslim diaspora found themselves under siege and endured a relentless mass media generated blitzkrieg; one that vilified and alienated them. To battle with the language of what was now a globalized society, artists began to experiment with text- as- image using a certain vocabulary that was steeped either in the materiality of mass mediated images or it tangentially derived from its aesthetics. It is also worth mentioning that the works of these diasporic Pakistani artists should not be treated as mere examples of derivative art that borrows tropes from western art movements; their use of text embodies the complexity of deterritorialization and the ambivalent relationship between the majority and minority as exemplified by the writings of Appadurai in his book “Fear of Small Numbers”. Appadurai explains how predatory identities are bound to emerge as ideas of national sovereignty are contested in the face of disparities that are caused by global flows and the gradual dissolution of the ideas that formed the basis of a sovereign state. In particular he explores the factors and dynamics that reduce society to binaries of majority and minority15 which is problematic in a globalized world. Many of these artists are in fact questioning these binaries and highlighting their complexity. They also question and deconstruct the binaries imposed by the media in the wake of 9/11 when it essentialized and stereotyped entire communities on the basis of their appearance or faith. Iftikhar Dadi & Elizabeth Dadi have collaborated in their art practice for over twenty years. Iftikhar Dadi is an artist, academic and Professor in Cornell University’s Department of History of Art. Elizabeth Dadi is a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI). In Fig. 1 The Dadis’ work titled “Clash of Civilizations” (2002-2005) features text, as the title of the series suggests, with the words “Clash of Civilizations” sitting firmly in gigantic block letters. Hordes of minuscule men on horseback that resemble Turkic warriors gallop across and dot the hazy, dusty horizon line. The font style of the text has been drawn from cinematic posters of epic films from Hollywood as well as historical and action films from Bombay and Lahore cinema. The phrase itself comes from the title of Samuel P Huntington’s controversial book by the same name which posits the West as the bastion of all that is liberal and democratic as opposed to other civilizations, particularly Islam 16. This simplistic notion of civilzations is also mirrored and mocked in another one of their works that features the text “The West and the Rest.” (Fig. 2) In this work, the letters are set in a desert landscape, in which a stereotyped camel caravan of Arabs traverses behind the monumental text.

Overtones of this flawed argument by Huntington were visible in the speech by President George W Bush which was telecast on international media nine days after 9/11. Addressing a joint session of the US Congress the president of the United States seemed to mirror Huntington’s tone with his use of the phrase “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists” 17. The speech was underscored by a narrative that cast other countries as being part of “the axis of evil” and “the civilized world”. The Dadis foreground both works as shown in Fig. 1 and Fig. 2 in this politics of language: do such statements call into question the intermediary role of language and how it can, conversely, be manipulated to implicate one in ideologies that instead, seek to alienate?

Fig. 1 Iftikhar Dadi and Elizabeth Dadi, Clash of Civilizations, 2002-2005, installation on billboards, dimensions variable
Fig. 2 Iftikhar Dadi and Elizabeth Dadi, The West and the Rest, 2002-2005, installation on billboards, dimensions variable

If language and its interpretation is subjective18 then the graphic effect of the phrases uses by the Dadis say otherwise. The surface of the text mimics the texture of a rugged landscape or mountain cliff in the midst of what could reference a desert landscape. The hard solidity of the text itself- its aesthetic quality- belies the claim of subjectivity and denotes a paradox. An absurd absolute claim transforms into a self-evident truth. In “The Gulf War did not take Place” Baudrillard writes that the Gulf War was the first war that was relayed “live’ from the battlefront. He contends that:

“…selected images were broadcast worldwide provoked immediate responses and then became frozen into the accepted story of the war: high-tech weapons, ecological disaster. The liberation of Kuwait.” 19

Baudrillard also goes on to draw parallels with how the manner in which the events were relayed more than anything, had entered the realm of hyperreality and resembled a movie script20. This is an argument that he carries through in his book on 9/11 titled “The Spirit of Terrorism”. Baudrillard’s “spectacle” was brought full circle as the events of 9/11 unfolded and culminated in the supposed elimination of Osama Bin Laden in what was purported to be his compound on the outskirts of Abbottabad, Pakistan21.

Referencing and literally mimicking Baudrillard’s “movie script” and hyperreality hypothesis of the Gulf War and 9/11, the Dadis use sardonic wit to merge the illusion and spectacality of cinema with Huntington’s simplistic deductions. In their works the Dadis reference Europe’s paranoia and fear of the Mongols followed by the Ottomans through the archaic depiction of horse riding invaders. Although they are inspired by South Asian film posters for their works, the distinct use of colour, style and font also connects them to the cowboy film genre and its poster designs. It is, after all Appadurai’s global flow of media images, capital and goods that has enabled this proliferation of aesthetics and styles that mimic Hollywood film posters. Read this way, I contend that in a post 9/11 context, the Dadis’ works can be interpreted in other ways.  They embody the gun slinging rhetoric of the Bush administration which seems to derive from Spaghetti westerns (a sub-genre of the Wild West genre) whose mainstay is excessive violence, blood and bullets. Political critique is coded in the dual language of the historical epic/ Wild West genre of film whilst situating the text in a desert landscape which is a common orientalist trope22 and references the Middle East. Time and space is irrelevant in this pastiche of style and aesthetic, the lines between cinema and reality are blurred.

Given the reductive nature of Huntington’s thesis, the choice of film and typography that is referenced is deliberate in other ways as well; the font style and layout of the “The Clash of Civilizations” and “The West and the Rest” is similar to posters of epic, historical and action films from Hollywood, Bombay and Lahore. Certain films in the 1950s, as one film critic, put it in his review of Ben-Hur “…had shown that a lurid mixture of cruelty and spectacle wrapped up in reverent Christianity could work box office magic.” 23

The events that unfolded after 9/11 were no less lurid or cinematic in the way that they were electronically beamed into homes, sensationalized, repeated, rehashed and replayed all over the world. They also included the witch hunt for Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) that became the precursor to the invasion and consequently destruction of Iraq and its economy, infrastructure etc., countless suicide bombings and right wing evangelicals in the US railing against Islam, rhetoric that fueled a dangerous wave of prejudice and discrimination against Islam24. The desert landscape in “The Clash of Civilizations” then becomes the backdrop for the unfolding of these events or a “show down” of sorts. In its borrowing of various cinematic vocabularies and in its artifice and deliberate posturing of the text, the images also uncover the myth of the Wild West and cowboy genre films which in turn has a history of misrepresentation of race. Historically, none of the first cowboys were white. The first cowboy ranch owners were Spanish as this was a style of ranching introduced by Spanish colonists. By the 19th century many cowboys were Mexican therefore the recognizable elements in costume/fashion that are synonymous with cowboy films such as the hats, bandanas (and more) are all Latino inventions. These men, followed by black slaves and Chinese immigrants did the hard labor and contributed to the development of what is called the American Frontier25. This genre of film then is also an invention of Hollywood. Misrepresentation, through the lens of Dadis’ images, seems to be the crux of their argument. It might also shed light on the possible disjunctures that are created as mediascapes and ethnoscapes collide. How did diasporic Muslims feel and respond when they were reduced to stereotypes that were demonized through the transmission of international news channels and speeches telecast by the then President of the United States, George W. Bush?

Appadurai states that “the unleashing of the imagination links the play of pastiche (in some settings) to the terror and coercion of states and their competitors. The imagination is now central to all form of agency, is itself a social fact and is the key component of the new global order.” 26 So are the Dadis challenging the absurdist claims that created these binaries and concocted a theatre of war through mass media by erecting an equally fictive mockup of this scenario using the same coercive tools? Rather than mere appropriation of the syntax and vocabulary “The Clash of Civilizations” is subversive in its choice of text and medium; the functionality of the billboard format is used to instigate debate rather than to merely seduce with escapist imagery. Shezad Dawood is a multi-disciplinary artist of partial Pakistani origin who was born in London where he lives and works. Much like what I contended about the Dadis, 2007 series, “If I Should Fall from Grace with God” also borrows aesthetic elements of the Wild West film genre but turns what appear to be recognizable representations of the East and the West on their heads by juxtaposing Arabic text with elements taken from Spaghetti westerns. The face-off between image and text highlights the absurdity of clichés. Encased in plexiglass cubes and placed on pedestals in a dimly lit gallery space as shown in Fig. 3, the ninety nine names of God are presented as three dimensional textual sculptures in neon. Tumbleweed, a staple element of the desert landscape in Spaghetti westerns is placed with each sacred name encased in plexiglass. The walls feature gore infested illustrations depicting decapitated head of animals, cowboys about to shoot (Fig. 4) and soldiers. The connections between these disparate elements are meant to be decoded within the same ambit as that of the “the west and the rest” argument which then unifies them in their intent;  the tumbleweed in particular functions as a metonym for the Spaghetti western and its trademark violence which is accentuated by the paintings on the wall27. The use of neon for the names of God also contains a paradox. Neon has embodied modernity, technology and most importantly speed because of its connection with the machine age but physically the thin tubes in themselves embody fragility; they bend and curve easily giving cursive writing a delicacy that softens the contours therefore the text appears to be unusually curvilinear. Neon also has the ability to shine and therefore carries a transcendent quality which lends itself to the sacred names chosen by Dawood. Yet the medium is also inextricably linked to the cornucopia of shop displays and signs that dot city skylines and embody the age of commodification. Are the majestic qualities of the divine  now subsumed under capitalist ideology. This begs the question: what is the link between consumption, religion and culture? The religious consumption of goods in this era of globalization, particularly Islamic goods is linked to a wide range of goods that are not  linked to any form of worship but they do foster a sense of muslim identity. These can include anything from “ Islamic video and board games, storybooks, and Islamic dolls for children, Islamic ringtones for mobile phones in Pakistan, and the growing Christmasization” of Ramazan” 28. This consumption has been fostered by muslim diaspora who look for ways to link themselves to their muslim identity whilst maintaining the notion of being “modern”, something that Appadurai expands upon when he talks about his” five scapes” and global cultural flows29. The West on the other hand, if we go by Dawood’s depictions of  cowboy gore and violence, continues to imbricate them within the binaries espoused by Huntington’s argument. This hypothesis can be extended and applied to Appadurai’s “scapes” and in this case it is the disjuncture between Ideoscapes and Ethnoscapes that is being underscored in Dawood’s use of neon light. Even as muslim diaspora seek to reinvent  and recalibrate their identity within this global flow of goods and people, they are pigeon holed and thrust into a different arena that comprises of stereotypes, intolerance and violent confrontation. This is elucidated in Appadurai’s analysis wherein he explains how lack of understanding and tolerance can fuel hatred. “Large-scale violence is not simply the product of antagonistic identities but that violence itself is one of the ways in which the illusion of fixed and charged identities is produced, partly to allay the uncertainties about identity that global flows invariably produce.” 30

Interpreting these disjunctures through Dawood’s art could also occur in other ways: how would non-Arabic speakers “read” Dawood’s sacred text? While they may not be able to understand the text, some might be able to recognize it visually and their opinions would be informed by the vast repertoire of damning images of Islam disseminated across the world through mass media. Their assumptions and analyses which Irvine calls “ideologies” would be informed by their “social position…. and the viewer’s baggage of history and partiality” 31. Perhaps Dawood aims to turn the tables and challenge such partialities that may occur in the form of possible xenophobic reading by presenting it in a more familiar medium of neon.

Fig. 3 Shezad Dawood, If I Should Fall from Grace with God, 2007, installation view.
Fig. 4 Shezad Dawood, The Blind Preacher, 2007, oil and gloss on canvas, 25.4 x 29.2 cm, installation view.

Abdullah M. I. Syed is based in Australia and examines the complex relationship between the East and West in his works. In “FunDADAmentalism” as shown in Fig. 5 his use of neon involves playful reference to the historical art movement Dadaism as he plays with the syntactical aspect of text. The word “fundamentalism” came into vogue with the rise in suicide and bomb attacks which culminated in 9/11. The sum and its parts along with their meaning are examined as the word “fundamentalism” is broken down into four parts namely “fun”, “DADA”, “men”, “talism”. The square shape of the diptych, the contours and structured, geometric flow of linearity echo the structure of circuit boards.

Fig. 5 Abdullah M. I. Syed, funDADAmentalism, 2013, flashing neon, 76 x 68.5 cm.
Fig. 6 Abdullah M. I. Syed, For Sale, 2013, neon. 76 x 76 cm

Is Syed commenting on and calling for the dismantling of the complex network that enables the production and supply of media images and information that constructs, manipulates and subsumes under essentialized categories?

In 1977 Paul Virilio wrote “Speed and Politics”, a book that gave a prescient warning of how technological advancement and the manipulation of information could impact society in the future. He was critical as he explained that the world only seems as if it “a frictionless landscape” of interconnected objects and subjects32. Perhaps Syed is asking his viewers to look beyond the gloss and excess of technology, speed and images that constructs these ideologies. Virilio’s description of cities is echoed in the image of ““FunDADAmentalism” as he writes that “Just as diagrams become interfaces, computation also transforms physical urban interfaces by making them in turn increasingly diagrammatic.” 33 Virilio uses this description to comment on the increasing surveillance and manipulation of information by the State. Syed presents a visual/literal “diagram” of such a “structure” and intervenes by deconstructing its efficacy by referencing an artistic movement, Dadaism that was not only antiwar but also critiqued mass media, the futility of language and its ability to fabricate truths. It also questioned the absurdity of war, a sentiment that is also manifested in Syed’s use of the words “fun’ and “mental” which contradict the gravity and meaning of the whole word. Dada artist Raoul Hausmann had explored the potential of sound and language in his opto-phonetic poetry when he combined visuals with sound i.e the use of large or different fonts indicated the varying volumes of sound34. Syed also uses varying font sizes but combines it with colour and medium to amplify or heighten its meaning; in this case it is a saturated red one is likely to find in neon signs outside shops; a medium used to attract the attention of consumers. The colour, varying scales and fragmented nature of Syed’s text therefore creates new meanings that can be interpreted in a variety of ways. The “visual noise” could refer to the nexus between mass media and consumerism. The way the lines of red text “drip’ down perhaps like blood? but within a modular, circuit-like fashion also question the veracity of “truth” produced by a corporatized media that “sells” rather than presents news. Perhaps this is the phenomenon that Baudrillard is really alluding to in “the Ecstasy of Communication” when he writes about the effect of digital technologies. Baudrillard comments on our contemporary era as being made up of “contiguity, feedback and generalized interface that goes with the universe of communication.” 35 If we go by Baudrillard’s definition then is this era where speed, control and half-truths are presented as “real” being inscribed in the body and layout of Syed’s text? Is he exposing the flaws of digital technologies that create the illusion of a “smooth, operational, surface of communication? 36

Syed also elaborates on this in his work shown in Fig. 6.  A similar diagrammatic mimicry in line with Baudrillard and Virilio’s description can be seen in the neon sign where the Squared Kufic used to write qur’anic script is fragmented and no longer legible. It transforms into a sort of “freeplay” 37 as delineated by Derrida where this image can be interpreted in multiple ways: a circuit board? The grid map of a city? An alien language? Implicit in it is also the assumption that this signifier of squared kufic is perhaps is no longer decipherable: the illegibility of the earliest qur’anic script and its visual intertwining with the resemblance to circuitry i.e modes of transmitting digital information, calls for a revisiting of a past and an acknowledgement of what it has transformed into.  The full meaning and presence of this text based work has been challenged by the use of a medium that lends itself to consumerism or perhaps because of its title. Appadurai comments on the emergence of what he calls “cellular economies” and “cellular-vertebrate” 38 economies that involve the virtual transfer of money, capital, investment and ideas that could fuel anything from terrorist networks to corporate scams and that these disjunctures courtesy global flows produce disparities that accelerate events that destabilize states and economies. Could both these images be interpreted as a visual representation of such complexities that expose the systems that helped perpetuate stereotypes in the wake of 9/11?

William S. Burroughs studies this potential of language as he popularized the act of cutting up and rearranging text in the 50s and 60s as a literary trope and while studying political speeches said that “quite often you’ll find that some of the real meanings will emerge. And you’ll also find that the politician usually means the exact opposite of what he’s saying.” 39 Interpreted through this lens the separate words and their whole in Syed’s  ““FunDADAmentalism”  could even allude to not just dismantling the media apparatus but also a reevaluation of the speeches themselves that produced and mandated binaries and words such as fundamentalism that became synonymous with religion, Islam etc. Referencing Appadurai’s claim that cellular economies are fuelling terrorism one could argue that the tables can easily be turned; David Domke comments on this as he mentions how after 9/11 George W. Bush combined religion and political language in his speeches to propagate a certain kind of “political fundamentalism”40 that would validate and justify his subsequent actions and invasions.

Syed also dismantles binaries that deny the imprint and asymmetrical flows of global economies on geography and cultural production. In Fig. 7 he repeats the phrase “I am Center I am Margin” on paper in a miniscule font in uppercase. The center-periphery model assumes that the structural flow of people, ideas and goods is one-sided i.e it flows from the cultural center to the margins; these are boundaries41 that Syed is asking us to reconsider this idea. Through the manipulation of text, repetition and use of colour, Syed invokes the complexity of his identity as a diasporic citizen that has become entangled in divisions and binaries; he becomes the voice that exists between the center and margins and also attempts to assert his agency as a citizen of the world.  Therefore Syed’s use of fragmented text, play and humour reveal a whole constellation of discourses that counter the binaries that were presented as absolute truths post 9/11.

Fig. 7 Abdullah M. I. Syed, I am Centre I am Margin: A page from Brut-Nama, 2013, charcoal and typed on Canson paper, 25 x 25 cm

The practice of Toronto based artist Amin Rahman examines “how global networks inform the how communities engage and deal with the everyday lives of people. He comments on the discontents of globalization. However his most powerful exhibitions such as “White Wash and “Black hole” emerged as a result of the events that transpired after 9/11. Like Abdullah M. I. Syed and Shezad Dawood, Rehman also uses neon as a medium; similarly he too attempts to highlight similar contradictions embedded in binaries and their entanglements with religion and representation in powerful works such as text in neon that reads “God is on Our Side Allah is on Your Side” as shown in Fig. 8. In his exhibition and installation titled “Black Hole” a portion of which is shown in Fig. 9 Rehman attacks the vitriol and coded language of misinformation perpetuated by the media in an ambitious work where phrases and words in vinyl lettering in grey and black are appropriated from popular media and presented as a never ending scroll travelling across the length of a room on a wall. Perhaps it can also be interpreted as a riff on “moving text”, the kind that our eyes survey as we scan headline text moving horizontally across the screen. While some words are more obvious such as “Abu Gharib” and “Battle of Ideas” others highlight the ambiguity and limitations of language. Certain phrases are reminiscent of the “War on Terror” such as “Final Hours” but others when divorced from their context, tightly packed and sandwiched between a sequence in alternating colours create a new narrative which elides and escapes a singular reading. Read together, the phrases do carry an experience of discomfort, inherent violence and tragedy, for instance how would we read “We will be Forgiven” perched over “Khoon ka Darya”, a phrase in Urdu that is written in English?  The problems and challenges of translation and language, misreading and misunderstanding events, situations and people are exemplified in such works.

Fig. 8 Amin Rehman, God-Allah, 2011, neon with cobalt blue glass, 19 x 53 in
Fig. 9 Amin Rehman, Black Holes, installation view, 2009

Other devices that Rehman uses in his text based works  to counter the dominant discourse created by mass media is the use of multiple voices. In his  series such as “Other Histories” or even “White Wash”  that emerge out of Rehman’s response to popular media and its coverage of  9/11, the invasion of Iraq etc. he chooses a literary device for creating competing narratives that is normally used in novels: “heteroglossia” 42  a term that was  coined by Mikhail Bakhtin is used in Rehman’s works to grant each narrative a space where its presence is affirmed. The use of multiple narratives in Rehman’s works therefore challenges the binaries and “Othering” that characterized media coverage and depiction of muslims after 9/11. For instance in one of his works from the series “White Wash” titled “Whoever Kills a Soul”  as shown in Fig. 10 Rehman culls text from an interview with a suicide bomber who is certain he will be granted heaven. It implies the performing of an act of violence. The text is in blue and overlaid by a verse in gold from the Quran which in contrast decries killing and emphasizes the act of saving. Both narratives present contesting ideas but in accordance with Bakhtin grant each speaker “ the individuality of the speaking subject that is recognized to be that style-generating factor…”.43

Fig. 10 Rehman, Amin. Whoever Kills a Soul #1, 2010, acrylic on board, 25 x18 in

This is also emphasized in his collaboration with activist, novelist, journalist, filmmaker and political commentator Tariq Ali for his exhibition titled “Other Histories”. Rehman says in an interview44 that he looked into “The Clash of Fundamentalisms”, “The Duel”, “Obama’s Syndrome” and  a fictional novel “A Sultan in Palermo” all of which are books by Tariq Ali. Choosing to draw inspiration from his works in particular can be read as a sort of informed response/critique of the popular jingoism that characterized media coverage after 9/11. Of particular interest is the fact that in some works Rehman references excerpts of Tariq Ali’s fictional novels that discuss forgotten histories of coexistence and also reveal “Islam’s history of breaking with past traditions.” 45 In “Why Do I Tell You This” shown in Fig. 11 that features excerpts from “A Sultan in Palermo”, the lines of two separate narratives alternate and are differentiated by font style and colour. One is in red and in Roman English while the second narrative features what appears to be squared Kufic but on closer reading can be read as Roman English script. One narrative urges communities to help each other while the second overlapping narrative is one of resistance and contests this vision of bucolic existence. Through his works Rehman subverts the stability and function of language in order to excavate discrepancies, contradictions and complexities in our reading of history and text.

Fig. 11 Rehman, Amin. Why Do I Tell You This?, 2015, vinyl installation, dimensions unavailable

After 9/11 U.S policy makers attempted to construct and promote Sufi Islam as the face of a peaceful, moderate Islam as opposed to radical islam in a bid to counter the global threat of terrorism46. Various U.S think tanks such as RAND and Nixon centre proposed the establishment of alliances with followers of moderate Sufism. 47 In 2007 the U.N celebrated the birth anniversary of Mawlana Jalal-ud-Din Balkhi-Rumi and declared it as “International Rumi Year”. 48 49Pakistan also began to toe a similar line as it transformed into a frontline state in the “War on Terror”, in an address at the inaugural speech of National Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA), Karachi President Pervez Musharraf not only highlighted the importance of Pakistan’s Sufi devotional singers but linked Sufism to Pakistan’s culture and Islamic tradition. In other words Pakistanis were to be projected as an embodiment of “… a utopian vision of “civilized society” made up of moderate Muslims who visit Sufi Shrines and listen to Sufi devotional music.” 50 The National Council for the Promotion of Sufism (NCS) was also formed in the country with this aim in 2006. The conscious projection of an Islam that is benign, peaceful and loving is also reflected in the text based works of Tazeen Qayyum and Faiza Butt at this time. Amin Rehman’s works take on a more aggressive stance in this regard; they critique the imperialist policies of America, globalization and its impact on the world. However, some of Rehman’s works discussed in this essay demonstrate a stance that is similar to Qayyum and Butt. Perhaps their choice of texts can be attributed to this elaborate effort to generate renewed interest in Sufism that was promoted across the globe after 9/11.For instance the choice of text for Amin Rehman’s work “Who Knows What I am” shown in Fig. 12  is not incidental. The line “Who Knows What I am” is drawn from the poetry of 17th century Punjabi Sufi poet Bulleh Shah as he searched for the meaning of life and God. Bulleh Shah was writing at a time when  communal strife between Sikhs and Muslims was common. Moreover his writing implored people to look beyond religion, class etc. Rehman’s text, even if read independently without the connection to Sufi poetry, still asks an important question at a time when conflict and hatred are being fanned by racial, religious hatred across the globe in the wake of a seminal event that took place in the world’s history51. Bakhtin when he talks about language  says “ Each word tastes of the context and contexts in which it has lived its socially charged life; all words and forms are populated by intentions.” 52 In other words Rehman’s statement “Who Knows What I am” is a response grounded in a socio political context. It also contains a certain intention; one that highlights an ontological crisis being experienced by muslims as they attempt to navigate between an imagined nostalgic past and an uncertain future. The work can be read as a lament that protests the labels being imposed on muslims globally.

Fig. 12 Rehman, Amin. Who Knows What I am, 2014, neon installation, 25 x 190 x 17 cm
Fig. 13 Amin Rehman, Who Knows What I Am, 2014, vinyl installation, 152.5 x 122 cm

Rehman takes on a more critical and activist response to the Iraq war in a vinyl installation also  titled “Who Knows What I am”  as shown in Fig. 13 where he alternates Bulleh Shah’s verses that follow “Who Knows What I am” with Rudyard Kipling’s poem titled  A Dead Statesman”. Both texts are in themselves excerpts from Tariq Ali’s writings. Read together the pacifist search for Bulleh Shah’s God transforms into an admonishment that calls for the accountability of the “Statesmen” that have, if read in the context of 9/11, been involved in the successive wars that followed 9/11 such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also deconstructs the claim that narratives are monolithic constructions shorn from context or agendas; Rehman does this by playing with order, structure and format, by  layering narratives of the East and the West that were the by products of certain socio political events.  Language is not neutral as Ken Giles points out, quoting  and discussing Bakhtin as he writes on Rehman’s works in a catalogue essay.53 Its cultural ownership is also questioned by Rehman as when Bakhtin points out how intention plays a role in transforming how one can generate meaning from a text.“The word in language is half someone else’s. It becomes “one’s own” only when the speaker populates it with his own intention, his own accent, then he appropriates the word, adapting it to his own semantic and expressive intention.” 54 Rehman demonstrates Bakhtin’s claim when he physically rearranges the structure of the text; the jumble of voices and codes  represented through the merging of font styles, alternating bands of colour, a heteroglosssia where we start reading the meanings embedded “in between” the appropriated texts: they become a scathing critique about war, conflict, its consequences and the rhetoric it generates that drowns out other voices.

Interestingly, Canada based artist Tazeen Qayyum seemingly chooses to ask the same question posed by Rehman, and through her performative act also answers it. Qayyum says in an interview55 that she borrowed the phrase “We Do Not Know Who We are Where We Go”  for her performance work from the verses of an Italian poet, Nanni Balestrini. In the early 2000s she was invited by Gervais Jassaud to produce twelve artist books for his personal collection, Collectif Generation that involves a collaboration between an artist and poet both of which are chosen from different parts of the world. Qayyum was chosen to produce work in conjunction with  poetry of Balestrini. Qayyum says about Balestrini’s poetry “… It made me realize that with different geographies and histories, our narratives and concerns were connected….and also selected particular words/phrases from the poems which inspired me, while linking it to my own socio-political concerns in my practice.” 56 It is worth mentioning that many of the leitmotifs of her work that carry into her text based works actually derive from content that was inspired by 9/11 and its aftermath. The use of the circle, pattern and the repetition of a single motif were all centered around the idea of the cockroach which was repeated in various circular patterns amongst other arrangements and settings. The motif of the cockroach for Qayyum was a metaphor for fear and “cultures we don’t understand, or that have ideas we do not agree with… there is this fear, this labeling.”57 In 2012 this changed with a performance where Qayyum replaced letters and words with the motif of the cockroach started. She started writing the phrase “We Do Not Know Who We are Where We Go”  in circular arrangements on large sheets in gallery spaces and outdoor venues. In some performances she would physically position or “place” herself on the sheet while she played music and even qawwali, writing and repeating words till the text ceased to be intelligible and transforming it into a black hole of sorts.The motif of the cockroach was therefore replaced by text, either phrases or singular words that denote abstract ideas, emotions or binaries.  Qayyum denies any deliberate attempt to bring Sufism into her work stating that she has neither the knowledge nor understanding of Sufism but also adds that “  some of those concepts come very close into my work in a very honest and heart felt way.” 58

The tense socio political milieu in which a more humane version of Islam is being “constructed” 59 vis a vis radical Islam as projected by media form the backdrop for Qayyum’s  humanist shift; her search for identity is  still foregrounded in this scenario even if her leaning towards Sufism is not deliberate.This shift, as she embraced ideas of common geographies as a means of transcending the othering coupled with the validation of the idea that the language of objects is no longer adequate in the face of an absence of dialogue engender this change in her artistic strategy and in the questions that Qayyum begins to ask regarding identity and the stability of language. Qayyum’s performances of repetition enacted in public spaces and outside her country of origin as shown in Fig. 14 and Fig. 15 where her language and words are not understood become a transcendent experience. As a practitioner she has also found a way of transcending binaries posed by “labeling”; the act of  writing the same phrase consistently and constantly, overlapping it until repetition obliterates all language in the process becomes emancipatory. Unlike Rehman,  identity for Qayyum then becomes immaterial. This might also explain why she chooses to write certain words  such  as “sahi/ghalat” ( which is a binary of right/wrong) as shown in Fig. 16 or “Ehsaas” (feeling emotion) as shown in Fig. 15 which through the act of overlapping and repetition dissolve into a process of  making marks that culminates in the creation of what look like black holes. By placing and enacting performance in public in various parts of the world Qayyum,  as a “self identified brown muslim” 60 poses a question which is embedded in a contradiction. Is the brown-ness or muslim-ness of her body still in conversation with the audience when all text that talks about binaries, cultures, histories and difference, especially her mother tongue Urdu, that in this case is deliberately being used since it is not understood,  is being simultaneously and deliberately effaced by her infront of her audience? This is something that Gill Jagger also writes about as she explains Judith Butler’s text by saying “…not that the materiality of bodies is nothing but a linguistic product, but rather that the concept of materiality is inescapably bound up with signification.” 61

Qayyum’s body and performance, are therefore all stand-ins for what is not there: debates about identity that are highlighted through the presence of absence.

Fig. 14 Tazeen Qayyum, We Do Not Know Who We are Where We Go, 2016, drawing performance
Fig. 15 Tazeen Qayyum, Ehsaas, 2020, drawing performance
Fig. 16 Tazeen Qayyum, Sahih / Ghalat, 2019, archival ink on acid-free paper, 60 X 60 inches

In “Love in Bloom” as shown in Fig. 17 London based artist Faiza Butt excavates forgotten and controversial cultural histories to challenge the stereotypical assumptions that have come to be associated with Islam and its perceived ambivalent relationship with culture after 9/11.

Fig. 17 Faiza Butt, Love in Bloom, 2016

The use of verses by controversial poet Abu Nawaz is particularly significant since his metaphors reference wine, homosexuality and lewd humor62, themes that challenge beliefs espoused by what the West has come to regard as “radical Islam”. Roman English script is artfully made to resemble ornate Kufic which is a font reserved for words of the sacred Quran. At first glance the text seems recognizable because it alludes to a time and place in the history of Islamic calligraphy; simultaneously it wants to be read in Roman English but one fails to do so. An intertextual discourse between histories and languages is then created through this visual coding of the text. Our failure and frustration in not being able to fully read it even in the lingua franca of the world helps one consider the possible gaps in reception i.e. meaning is no longer singular or fixed so we as viewers can now recontextualize it.  For example does the weaving together of fonts challenge the clichéd narrative of confrontation between East and West? The framing of the text with the background also mocks and destabilizes the referent and its association with sacredness. This contradiction is heightened by the use of gold and the dramatic backdrop of a natural landscape: the beauty of nature should be mirrored in the sacred words of God. Instead the connotations of the image are being woven into lyrical text that builds associations with the body, gender and masculinity. Butt dents and almost emasculates what she regards as the toxic masculinity of radical Islam. It is worth mentioning that the organizations that commissioned this work have a certain vision that feeds into the construction of a more pacifist peace loving version of Islam, an aspect I highlighted earlier in the essay. Quilliam is a counter-extremist organization while Free Word is a free speech charity. The curators of the series “The Unbreakable Rope” featuring works by ten different artists “explore the little-discussed past, present and future of a rich and diverse sexual culture within Islamic traditions. 63 “This also calls into question another area that perhaps requires another essay but nevertheless reveals the politics of patronage i.e. the role of organizations, galleries, museums that have worked in conjunction with artists to produce art in this time and how that may have impacted the content of their work. All the artists mentioned in this essay unmoor the relationships between the signifier and the signified, unpack media-driven conceptions of self and other and upend notions of identity through the use of text-as-object. On the surface, visually and conceptually the works use text to talk about the recalibration of certain power structures, new modes of communication and a paradigm shift in the perception of the world in the aftermath of a series of historical events. In works where the text is hybridized or devolves into a loss of meaning or knowledge such as in Qayyum’s case, where even readers who understand Urdu eventually can’t read the text and they too become “the Other”, this opens up further debate about the notion of loss as a diasporic artist. Perhaps in a time when there is an excess of media-driven verbiage, disjunctures are driven by the discontent of globalization and identities are in flux it is the enormity of contradictions in language, gaps that disregard history, culture and hybridity that have led to artistic discourse for the artists discussed in this essay.

Title image: Amin Rehman, Black Holes, installation view, 2009


Abraham, Nabeel, Sally Howell, and Andrew Shryock, ed. In Arab Detroit 9/11, 2-3. Reprint, Michigan: Wayne State University Press, 2011.
Ahmed, Talat. “Interview: Tariq Ali”. Blog. Socialist Review, 2006. http://socialistreview.org.uk/311/interview-tariq-ali.
Appadurai, A., 1996. Modernity at Large Cultural Dimensions of Globalization. Minneapolis: University of
Appadurai, Arjun. Fear Of Small Numbers. Reprint, Durham: Duke Univ. Press, 2007.
Ali, Amra. “Shipwreck And Whitewash: Metaphors For Dismantling The Rhetoric Of Aggression”. In White Wash Amin Rehman, 33. Reprint, Mississauga: Art Gallery of Mississauga, 2011.
Bowden, Brett. “Reinventing Imperialism In The Wake Of September 11”. Alternatives Turkish Journal Of International Relations 1, no. 2 (2002): 30.
Bakhtin, Mikhail M. The Dialogic Imagination- Four Essays. Reprint, Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981.
Baudrillard, Jean. The Ecstacy Of Communication. pdf. Reprint, http://library.lol/main/501B7439459A07A38415B404018ED308, 1983.
Baudrillard, Jean. The Gulf War Did Not Take Place. Ebook. Reprint, USA: Indiana University Press, 1995
Baudrillard, Jean. The Spirit Of Terrorism. Ebook. Reprint, UK: Verso, 2002.
Binoy Kampmark, “Wars That Never Take Place: Nonevents, 9/11 And Wars On Terrorism”, Australian Humanities Review, 2015, 1-4.
Bowman, Russel. “Words And Images: A Persistent Paradox”. Art Journal 45, no. 4 (1985): 335.
Cimino, Richard. “New Boundaries — Evangelicals And Islam After 9/11”. Blog. Religionwatch. Accessed 13 June 2021.
“Dada Optophonetic | Memento”. Memento, 2021. http://www.diptyqueparis-memento.com/en/dada-optophonetic/.
 Derrida, Jacques. Structure, Sign And Play In The Discourse Of The Human Sciences. Ebook, 1970. http://www2.csudh.edu/ccauthen/576f13/DrrdaSSP.pdf.
Domke, David. God Willing?. Reprint, London: Pluto Press, 2004
Drage, Teresa. “The National Sufi Council : Redefining The Islamic Republic Of Pakistan Through A Discourse On Sufism After 9/11”. Doctor of Philosophy, Reprint, University of Western Sydney, 2015.
Feng, Li. “On The Subjectivity And Intersubjectivity Of Language”. Communication And Linguistics Studies 6, no. 1 (2020): 1,2.
Galer, Sophia. “The Arab Poet Who Worshipped Wine”. Blog. BBC Culture, 2017. https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20171113-the-arab-poet-who-worshipped-wine.
Gallego, Carlos. “Coordinating Contemporaneity: (Post) Modernity, 9/11, And The Dialectical Imagery Of Memento”. Cultural Critique 75 (2010): 33.
Giles, Ken. “I Reiterate: A Is For…, A Is For…”. In Amin Rehman A Is For…, 14. Reprint, Ontario: The Mccintosh Gallery, Western University, 2021.
Hannerz, Ulf. “Notes On The Global Ecumene”. In The Anthropology Of Globalization: A Reader, 37-44. Jonathan Inda and Renato Rosaldo. Reprint, Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishers, 2002.
Hassan, Nouran. “Sufism And Political Islam: A Viable Replacement? (2)”. Blog. Egyptian Institute For Studies, 2019. https://medium.com/@Eipss_En/sufism-and-political-islam-a-viable-replacement-2-d9078e9da7ff.
Hassan, Salah. “Clash Of Civilizations”. Herbert F Johnson Museum Of Art, Cornell University, 2003.
Irvine, Judith. “Style” As Distinctiveness: The Culture And Ideology Of Linguistic Differentiation. Ebook. Reprint, Cambridge university Press, 2001. https://english.okstate.edu/images/Documents/Preston/Perceptual_Dialectology/St
Jagger, Gill. Judith Butler Sexual Politics, Social Change And The Power Of The Performative. Ebook. Reprint, New York: Routledge, 2008.
Jaworski, Adam. “Metrolingual Art: Multilingualism And Heteroglossia”. International Journal Of  Bilingualism, 2012, 10-11.
Maqsood, Ammara. The New Pakistani Middle Class. India: Harvard University Press, 2017.
Page, Barnaby. “Ben-Hur (1959) • 60 Years Later”. Blog. Retrospective Film Review, 2019. https://medium.com/framerated/ben-hur-1959-60-years-later-60d7b69b4b89.
Philippon, Alix. “ORDER FROM CHAOS Positive Branding And Soft Power: The Promotion Of Sufism In The War On Terror”. Blog. Brookings, 2018. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2018/12/13/positive-branding-and-soft-power-the-promotion-of-sufism-in-the-war-on-terror/.
Qayyum, Tazeen. Personal interview with artist. Zohreen MurtazaInterview by . Online , 2021.
Rehman, Amin. Personal Interview with artist. Zohreen Murtaza Interview by . Online, 2021.
Robinson, Edward. Shift Linguals Cut-Up Narratives From William S. Burroughs To The Present. Ebook. Reprint, Rodopi, 2011.
Sandals, Leah. “Into The Deep”. Blog. Canadianart, 2018. https://canadianart.ca/features/into-the-deep/.
Seymour, Harry. “Artist Faiza Butt On Exploring Sexuality And Islam”. Blog. Another, 2016. https://www.anothermag.com/art-photography/8481/artist-faiza-butt-on-exploring-sexuality-and-islam.
Shah, Abeera. Baba Bulleh Shah R.A’s Concept Of Khudi (Self). pdf, 2017.
“UN Culture Agency Celebrates Life Of Poet, Philosopher And Spiritual Leader Rumi”. Blog. United Nations UN News Global Perspective Human Stories, 2007. https://news.un.org/en/story/2007/09/230372-un-culture-agency-celebrates-life-poet-philosopher-and-spiritual-leader-rumi.
Virilio, Paul. Speed And Politics. Reprint, Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 1977.
Wiles Will, “Light Fantastic – A Short History Of Neon”, Blog, Https://Www.Apollo-Magazine.Com/Neon/, 2020.
Williams, Leah. “How Hollywood Whitewashed The Old West”. Blog. The Atlantic, 2016. https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2016/10/how-the-west-was-lost/502850/.

Image References:

Fig. 1 Dadi, Iftikhar. Clash of Civilizations, 2002-2005, Installation on billboards, Dimensions variable. Image Courtesy of the Artist.
Fig. 2 Dadi, Iftikhar. The West and the Rest, 2002-2005,  Installation on billboards, Dimensions variable. Image Courtesy of the Artist.
Fig. 3 Dawood, Shezad.  If I Should Fall From Grace With God, Install view, 2007, Paradise Row, London, UK. Courtesy of the Artist.
Fig. 4 Dawood, Shezad. The Blind Preacher, 2007, oil and gloss on canvas, 25.4  x 29.2  cm, install view, Image Courtesy of the Artist.
Fig. 5 Syed, Abdullah M. I. funDADAmentalism, 2013, Flashing Neon, 76 x 68.5 cm, Edition of 3 + AP. Image and Photograph: courtesy the artist and Aicon Contemporary, New York.
Fig. 6 Syed, Abdullah M. I. For Sale, 2013, Neon, 76 x 76 cm, Edition of 3 + AP. Image and Photograph: courtesy the artist and Aicon Contemporary, New York.
Fig. 7 Syed, Abdullah M. I. I am Centre I am Margin: A page from Brut-Nama, 2013, Charcoal and typed on, Canson paper, 25 x 25 cm, Image courtesy the artist and Aicon Contemporary, New York. Photograph: Abdullah M. I. Syed.
Fig. 8 Rehman, Amin.God-Allah,2011, Neon with cobalt blue glass, 19 x53in. Image Courtesy of the Artist.
Fig. 9 Rehman,Amin. Black Holes, installation view, 2009. . Image Courtesy of the Artist.
Fig. 10 Rehman, Amin. Whoever Kills a Soul #1, 2010, Acrylic on Board, 25 x18 in. Image Courtesy of the Artist.
Fig. 11 Rehman, Amin. Why Do I Tell You This?, 2015, Vinyl Installation. Dimensions Unavailable. Image Courtesy of the Artist.
Fig. 12 Rehman, Amin. Who Knows What I am, 2014, Neon Installation, 25 x 190 x 17 cm. Bullah Shah poem, Ali, Tariq, 2008. Image Courtesy of the Artist.
Fig. 13 Rehman, Amin.Who Knows What I Am, 2014, Vinyl Installation,152.5 x122 cm. Foreground: Bulleh Shah poem, background: Rudyard Kipling poem. Image Courtesy of the Artist.
Fig. 14 Qayyum,Tazeen, We Do Not Know Who We are Where We Go,2016. Drawing Performance. The Mixer Project, curated by Christof Migone, The Royal Conservatory of Music, Canada. Image Courtesy Yuula Benivolski
Fig. 15 Qayyum, Tazeen, Ehsaas, 2020, Drawing Performance in Collaboration with Marwan Abado, Salam Orient Festival, Vienna. Image Courtesy Attila Izmir.
Fig. 16 Qayyum, Tazeen. Sahih/Ghalat, 2019, Archival ink on acid-free paper, 60 X 60 inches. Image Courtesy of the Artist.
Fig. 17 Butt, Faiza. Love in Bloom, 2016.Image Courtesy of the Artist.


  1. Appadurai, Modernity at Large Cultural Dimensions of Globalization, 33.
  2. Ibid, 35.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Arjun Appadurai, Modernity At Large Cultural Dimensions Of Globalization, ebook (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996), pp. 33-37
  5. Brett Bowden, “Reinventing Imperialism in the Wake of September 11”, Alternatives Turkish Journal Of International Relations 1, no. 2 (2002): 30.
  6. Nabeel Abraham, Sally Howell and Andrew Shryock, in Arab Detroit 9/11 (repr., Michigan: Wayne State University Press, 2011), 2-3.
  7. Appadurai, Modernity at Large Cultural Dimensions of Globalization, 37.
  8. Ammara Maqsood, The New Pakistani Middle Class (repr., India: Harvard University Press, 2017), 117-147.
  9. Amra Ali, “Shipwreck and Whitewash: Metaphors for Dismantling the Rhetoric of Aggression”, in White Wash Amin Rehman (repr., Mississauga: Art Gallery of Mississauga, 2011), 33.
  10. Carlos Gallego, “Coordinating Contemporaneity: (Post) Modernity, 9/11, and the Dialectical Imagery of Memento”, Cultural Critique 75 (2010): 33.
  11. Jean Baudrillard, The Spirit of Terrorism, ebook (repr., UK: Verso, 2002), 27.
  12. Russel Bowman, “Words and Images: A Persistent Paradox”, Art Journal 45, no. 4 (1985): 335.
  13. Arjun Appadurai, Fear of Small Numbers (repr., Durham: Duke Univ. Press, 2006), 37, 51-53.
  14. Brett Bowden, “Reinventing Imperialism in the Wake of September 11”, Alternatives Turkish Journal of International Relations 1, no. 2 (2002): 29,30.
  15. Arjun Appadurai, Fear of Small Numbers (repr., Durham: Duke Univ. Press, 2006), 37, 51-53.
  16. Salah Hassan, “Clash of Civilizations”, Herbert F Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, 2003.
  17. Brett Bowden, “Reinventing Imperialism in the Wake of September 11”, Alternatives Turkish Journal Of International Relations 1, no. 2 (2002): 30.
  18. Li Feng, “On the Subjectivity and Intersubjectivity of Language”, Communication and Linguistics Studies 6, no. 1 (2020): 1,2.
  19. Jean Baudrillard, The Gulf War Did Not Take Place, ebook (repr., USA: Indiana University Press, 1995),3.
  20. Jean Baudrillard, The Gulf War Did Not Take Place, ebook (repr., USA: Indiana University Press, 1995), 2,3.
  21. Kampmark, Binoy. “Wars That Never Take Place: Nonevents, 9/11 and Wars on Terrorism”. Australian Humanities Review, 2015, 1.
  22. Hassan, “Clash of Civilizations”, Herbert F Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, 2003.
  23. Barnaby Page, “Ben-Hur (1959) • 60 Years Later”, Blog, Retrospective Film Review, 2019, https://medium.com/framerated/ben-hur-1959-60-years-later-60d7b69b4b89.
  24. Richard Cimino, “New Boundaries — Evangelicals And Islam After 9/11”, Blog, Religionwatch, accessed 13 June 2021.
  25. Leah Williams, “How Hollywood Whitewashed the Old West”, Blog, The Atlantic, 2016, https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2016/10/how-the-west-was-lost/502850/.
  26. Appadurai, Modernity at Large Cultural Dimensions of Globalization, 31.
  27. Wiles Will, “Light Fantastic – A Short History of Neon”, Blog, Https://Www.Apollo-Magazine.Com/Neon/, 2020.
  28. Ammara Maqsood, The New Pakistani Middle Class (repr., India: Harvard University Press, 2017), 119.
  29. Appadurai, Modernity at Large Cultural Dimensions of Globalization, 33-37.
  30. Arjun Appadurai, Fear Of Small Numbers (repr., Durham: Duke Univ. Press, 2006), 7.
  31. Judith Irvine, “Style” as Distinctiveness: The Culture and Ideology of Linguistic Differentiation, pdf (repr., Cambridge university Press, 2001), 24.
  32. Paul Virilio, Speed and Politics (repr., Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 1977), 13.
  33. Paul Virilio, Speed and Politics (repr., Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 1977), 18.
  34. “Dada Optophonetic | Memento”, Memento, 2021, http://www.diptyqueparis-memento.com/en/dada-optophonetic/.
  35. Jean Baudrillard, The Ecstacy of Communication, pdf (repr., http://library.lol/main/501B7439459A07A38415B404018ED308, 1983), 146.
  36. Ibid, 146.
  37. Jacques Derrida, Structure, Sign and Play In the Discourse of the Human Sciences, ebook, 1970, 1, http://www2.csudh.edu/ccauthen/576f13/DrrdaSSP.pdf.
  38. Arjun Appadurai, Fear of Small Numbers (repr., Durham: Duke Univ. Press, 2006), 26-30.
  39. Edward Robinson, Shift Linguals Cut-Up Narratives from William S. Burroughs To The Present, ebook (repr., Rodopi, 2011), 52.
  40. David Domke, God Willing? (repr., London: Pluto Press, 2004), 2.
  41. Ulf Hannerz, “Notes on the Global Ecumene”, in The Anthropology Of Globalization: A Reader (repr., Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishers, 2002), 37-44.
  42. Mikhail Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination, ebook (repr., Austin: University of Texas, 1981), 260-264.
  43. Ibid, 264.
  44. Amin Rehman, Personal Interview with Artist, Zohreen Murtaza interview by , Online, 2021.
  45. Talat Ahmed, “Interview: Tariq Ali”, Blog, Socialist Review, 2006, http://socialistreview.org.uk/311/interview-tariq-ali.
  46. Alix Philippon, “ORDER FROM CHAOS Positive Branding and Soft Power: The Promotion of Sufism in the War on Terror”, Blog, Brookings, 2018, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2018/12/13/positive-branding-and-soft-power-the-promotion-of-sufism-in-the-war-on-terror/.
  47. Nouran Hassan, “Sufism and Political Islam: A Viable Replacement? (2)”, Blog, Egyptian Institute For Studies, 2019, https://medium.com/@Eipss_En/sufism-and-political-islam-a-viable-replacement-2-d9078e9da7ff.
  48. “UN Culture Agency Celebrates Life Of Poet, Philosopher And Spiritual Leader Rumi”, Blog, United Nations UN News Global Perspective Human Stories, 2007, https://news.un.org/en/story/2007/09/230372-un-culture-agency-celebrates-life-poet-philosopher-and-spiritual-leader-rumi
  49. “Freer Celebrates “Year Of Rumi” October 27Th With Day Of Art, Music And Poetry Featuring Award Winning Poet Jane Hirshfield”, Blog, Smithsonian National Museum Of Asian Art, 2007, https://asia.si.edu/press-release/freer-celebrates-year-of-rumi-october-27th-with-day-of-art-music-and-poetry-featuring-award-winning-poet-jane-hirshfield/
  50. Teresa Drage, “The National Sufi Council : Redefining the Islamic Republic of Pakistan through a Discourse on Sufism After 9/11” (Doctor of Philosophy, repr., University of Western Sydney, 2015).
  51. Abeera Shah, Baba Bulleh Shah R.A’s Concept Of Khudi (Self), pdf, 2017.
  52. Mikhail M Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination- Four Essays (repr., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981), 293.
  53. Ken Giles, “I Reiterate: A is For…, A is For…”, in Amin Rehman A is For… (repr., Ontario: The Mccintosh Gallery, Western University, 2021), 14.
  54. Mikhail M Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination- Four Essays (repr., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981), 293.
  55. Tazeen Qayyum, Personal interview with artist, Zohreen Murtaza interview by , Online, 2021.
  56. Ibid, 2021.
  57. Leah Sandals, “Into The Deep”, Blog, Canadianart, 2018, https://canadianart.ca/features/into-the-deep/.
  58. Ibid, 2021
  59. Alix Philippon, “ORDER FROM CHAOS Positive Branding and Soft Power: The Promotion of Sufism in the War on Terror”, Blog, Brookings, 2018, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2018/12/13/positive-branding-and-soft-power-the-promotion-of-sufism-in-the-war-on-terror/.
  60. Leah Sandals, “Into the Deep”, Blog, Canadianart, 2018, https://canadianart.ca/features/into-the-deep/.
  61. Gill Jagger, Judith Butler Sexual Politics, Social Change and the Power of the Performative, ebook (repr., New York: Routledge, 2008), 62.
  62. Sophia Galer, “The Arab Poet Who Worshipped Wine”, Blog, BBC Culture, 2017, https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20171113-the-arab-poet-who-worshipped-wine.
  63. Harry Seymour, “Artist Faiza Butt on Exploring Sexuality and Islam”, Blog, Another, 2016, https://www.anothermag.com/art-photography/8481/artist-faiza-butt-on-exploring-sexuality-and-islam.

Zohreen Murtaza is currently a Lecturer in the Cultural Studies Department at The National College of Arts, Lahore. She completed both her BFA and MA (Hons.) Visual Art from NCA, where she majored in miniature painting and visual art. Since then, she has branched into teaching and writing extensively on contemporary Pakistani art, her writings have been featured in various publications and daily newspapers. Zohreen has diverse research interests that revolve around feminism, post colonialism, globalisation and its impact on material and visual cultures. She has taught Art History courses both at NCA and Kinnaird College for Women as well as History of South Asian Design courses at the Undergraduate level in NCA. In addition, she has also taught South Asian Visual Culture at the M Phil level in the Cultural Studies Department at NCA.

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