The human mind is known to play several tricks with what one perceives, remembers and experiences. And a collage of such tricks is what makes for memories. Pakistani artist Asma Mundrawala explores the world of romanticised memories by taking a nostalgic trip back in time through her pop-up paper sculptures.
Mundrawala refers to German philosopher and essayist Walter Benjamin who observed that humans perceive events in two ways — consciously and unconsciously. The conscious mind perceives events in a particular period of time by automatically removing the unpalatable elements of an event, which results in happy and memorable experiences or as Benjamin calls it — the reminiscence.
However, the unconscious perception does not ignore what is consciously left out by our mind due to the intensity of the moment. Without keeping with the timely sequence of the events, these unconsciously-gathered thoughts form what is called the remembrance. Hence, we form a bank of both positive and negative memories that make for our past.
Mundrawala has drawn on these two elements to create artworks that celebrate an imaginary time and mourn for its loss as well. She has used images of different objects and characters from the past and present such as personal memorabilia, studio-posed family photographs tinged with nostalgia, urban architecture in Karachi from the 1960s and ’70s and exaggerated expressions borrowed from films. By using these symbols she tries to discuss the bond between modernisation and its effect on culture.
The works, which also include digital collages and constructed books, are similar to ruins of ancient architecture in a modern city that represent the ignored memories of the past and the decay of the present.
Her works try to add imaginary props and characters to living moments, to make it a happy memory, though it ends up being a distorted picture of reality.