The Metropolitan Museum of Art / the roof garden commission
May 14 – November 3, 2013
Open 7 days a week 10:00-5:30 (Friday & Saturday until 9pm)
We cannot recall our dreams, they cannot come back to us. If a dream comes – but what sort of coming is a dream’s? Through what night does it make its way? If it comes to us, it does so only by way of forgetfulness, a forgetfulness which is not only censorship or simply regression. We dream without memory, in such a way that the dream of any particular night is no doubt a fragment of a response to an immemorial dying, barred by desire’s repetitiousness.
Maurice Blanchot, The Writing of Disaster
Clouds, ebullient as children’s laughter. Sky, the deepest azure of love. A vista of treetops and cityscape, limitless as aspiration. And under foot? Splattered across the rooftop plaza, a relentless repetition of cadmium red as if nothing could rub it out or wash it away. As if blood rained down on the populous, and yet the sun returned drying the drenched plaza into splotches of color, vegetation spreading lichen-like across the pavement, echoing life and death, as the flow of movement returns to the market place. Even so this red, these vestiges of horror’s remembrance, transforms within sight – he lives, she dies, she mourns, he suffers, he cries, she disappears – petal by petal into first one then a multitude of foliage, testimony of endurance, fortitude, and grace.
So Imran Qureshi (b. 1972 Hyderabad, Pakistan) creates an image of immemorial dying – And How Many Rains Must Fall Before the Stains Are Washed Clean – covering the rooftop tiles of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In an intervention of minimal means, he assuages an emotional outpouring of abstract expressionist torment with gentle brush strokes gleaned from traditional miniature painting, coloring a remembrance to the aftermath of bombings in Lahore, so near to where he lives and works in Pakistan…that might also be Boston, Baghdad, or Homs. Visitors use the plaza as they always do: to take in the sun, sit in conversation, or view the extensive vista; some pause with curiosity to question the subtle transition of blood stains into the shape and motion of flora, their shadows the anonymous overlay of contradictory presence. This strange dichotomy between terror and normalcy – a kind of “life moves on” sensibility to the environment – is acknowledged when visitors cluster around the periphery of an otherwise empty plaza. The obligation to strike a path across the field of art and memory feels both privilege and aggression.
In correspondence to Blanchot’s The Writing of Disaster, what then might be the imaging of disaster? As a person, Qureshi understands that we must, even when we cannot, recall our dreams. Forgetfulness salts the wound, yet the dead are best remembered as having once lived, beings whose energy we can choose to carry forward as burden or reward. It is an unwelcome task to write of trauma and even more unforgiving to create an image of it. As an artist, Qureshi accepts his role with humility – his fragment of a response eloquently spoken.