A few years ago, we collaborated with Pakistani-American artist Isha Bhatti on a project that imagined the biggest American pop singers coming to the remotest of Pakistani towns. We just bumped into one of her projects that takes an interesting take on identity and culture, from the lens of brands, graphic design and visual media. The project, titled simply Pakistani-American, juxtaposes visual icons from the two cultures and switches the key elements between the two. For example, one of the images marries Coca-Cola and Rooh Afza to dliver an attention-grabbing punch.
We also asked Isha a few questions about her work. Here goes:
What's your intention and inspiration behind the Pakistani/American project? What do you want to communicate as an artist?
The Pakistani-American Consumerism series is my understanding of self. It’s the duality of being so attached and immersed in two idiosyncratic cultures; it’s the upshot of being raised east in the west. I chose consumerism as my vessel because through it, we create an identity for ourselves. We pick and choose these products that we want to associate and have represent our soul. Our eastern and western parts are not mutually exclusive. They are mere parts of our larger individual identity.
As an artist I want to communicate that having a dual identity is who you are, and to try to embrace it. I want people to really understand what their identity means to them based off their own experiences and environments. You live and work in New York, yet your work has a remarkable desi authenticity; how do you stay connected to Pakistani visual culture? Where do you draw inspiration from?
Overall I have a very strong connection to Pakistan; I truly believe my soul belongs there. That connection plus visiting as often as I can and being close to family really plays into keeping that spark alive.
My inspiration comes from my environment / surroundings and experiences. Inspiration for me is very fluid. I try to always keep an open mind in order to allow new ideas and ways of thinking to come in. I also love history and learning about the meaning and purpose behind places and things and Pakistan having such a rich history has naturally attracted me and always inspired my work.