David Chalmers Alesworth

Jameel Prize-4

Art, Contemporary Art, Jameel Prize, Uncategorized

Comments Closed

Share this post


Read more

Karachi Pop

Art, Contemporary Art, Environment

Comments Closed

Share this post

Hammad Nasar’s piece for the Guggenheim site.http://blogs.guggenheim.org/2013/02/11/karachi-pop-vernacular-visualities-in-…

Read more

Art for “The Post-Colonial Garden as a Palimpsest”


Comments Closed

Share this post


Let me begin by saying that I love hand-knotted rugs, of all sorts and I do own a few.
These are not mine, well maybe a few are by now and some are with my friends. It was a day of viewing rugs, mostly Chobi’s (Zeigglers) here.

We’re moving house much is being discarded, here’s an old rug I almost threw away today.


…and part of another


Some details of the finer piece.


These are around 10 x 12 ft, very old, badly damaged hand-knotted rugs that I acquired in Karachi almost ten years ago. I had intended them to be used in work for many years after I gave up on them, as floor coverings.


The blue Persian is a much finer piece but totally threadbare, worn right down to the structural weft and weave of its base, from a distance it’s almost monochrome. They are both also full of dust despite several previous washings. The motifs are of course all plant and garden based. These rugs would seem a viable visual metaphor a cultural reading of “the garden”. Here it is played out as as paradise itself. A contained garden of fountains, bird song, fruit bearing trees within in an ordered orchard. An oasis of sorts.


I decided to cut out the still intact central portion today, and have kept the borders to experiment on as well. I’m intending to somehow work into and onto these rugs. At present it seems to me that the only authentic way to do that is to actually stitch another layer right into their very fabric, perhaps this should read from both sides as in fact this threadbare one does. Now there is no hierarchy of front or back, its much the same.


I will have to have to stitch the edges to prevent this one disintegrating. It felt sacrilegious to be cutting into this once magnificent rug but if I can use it in my work it will have another lease of life.


I’m thinking of stitching the ground plan for “Lawrence Gardens” a Lahori British Raj park, now Bagh-e-Jinnah or perhaps even the plan of parts of the “Palace of Versailles”, gardens, the parterre’s in particular. Right now I’m thinking of a gold thread for visibility but I’ll have to try things out.

They’ll need to be stabilized, stretched on frames, washed and dried, none as simple as it sounds.. Then I’ll have to find out what the issues of working in to the surface of these rugs is.
I think I’ll begin with some photoshoped treatments as mock-ups.

The rug represents a pre-colonized traditional cultural thread (forgive the pun) or does it? Their history in this region is not so pure or simple.


William Glover’s new book “Making Lahore Modern” Constructing and imagining a colonial City, just arrived. Its only been a week or so since I ordered though Amazon’s express delivery cost me as much as the book itself!


“Flying Carpet”

A work by Berlin based Alex Fleming shown at Art Dubai a few years ago. I instantly recognized it as a work I should have, could have made! (don’t you hate it when that happens?) We became friends and I sent him an Afghani War rug subsequently.

Read more



Comments Closed

Share this post
A collaborative project with Adnan Madani, in Karachi. We also collaborated last year on the video work, “The Frankfurt School”. Here we again made use of the skills of Mahmood the book-binder.

This is the most recent completed project. Participating in the current group exhibition (curated by Mehreen Murtaza and Umer Butt) at Greynoise Gallery, Lahore.
In the show entitled “Patrons of Oh! My God i can buy Art!” opens 25th October 2009.

Our work is entitled:
<meta name=”Title” content=””> <meta name=”Keywords” content=””> <meta equiv=”Content-Type” content=”text/html; charset=utf-8″> <meta name=”ProgId” content=”Word.Document”> <meta name=”Generator” content=”Microsoft Word 2008″> <meta name=”Originator” content=”Microsoft Word 2008″> <link style=”font-weight: bold;” rel=”File-List” href=”file://localhost/Users/davidalesworth/Library/Caches/TemporaryItems/msoclip/0/clip_filelist.xml”> <style> </style> “People’s Art Historical Garden Centre”
A project of P.A.H.P.
(People’s Art and Historical Project)

David Chalmers Alesworth and Adnan Madani

Variations: 1/12
Recycled paper and live seeds.
October 2009

PAHP: Tomorrow’s History, Today.

“The P.A.H.G.C. aims to create a new and green space for supra-critical reappraisal of the use-value of art history (as written from the point of view of colonial and post-colonial
govern-mentality), by converting the plastic objects of art history into objects of everyday fetish use for the subjects of history. The dissemination of alter-knowledge and the insemination of alter-culture are the short, medium and long term goals of this project, which conforms closely to the will of the people while correspondingly attempting to shape the contours of that will and its future forms.”

David Alesworth
Adnan Madani
Oct. 2009

Video documentation and context for “P.A.H.G.C.P”


Mahmood with a collection of raw material.
Oxford University Press’s “Image and Identity” by Akbar Naquvi.
In this book he describes my practice in the mid 1990’s as being more orientated towards
horticulture than art making.


Iqbal Geoffrey to whom this work is in part homage.


Mahmood at work with editioned works behind him.


In the gallery prior to the opening.


The rosta of participating artists in this group show.



Gallery goers and Mahmood at work producing useful paper bags from this troubled text.
Gallery visitors were encourgaded to take away free art-historical bags containing live vegetable seeds.


The work place, finished bags to the right.


The seeds in the foreground are added to each bag.
They are egg plant, melons, cabbage and chillies.


The twelve editioned works, each bag contains some live seeds,
the local seed packets are inserted into each art-historical bag.
Each bag/seed packet combination is mounted on a facsimile herbarium sheet
and framed with acid free archival materials.


This is the hebarium mount for each of the editioned works.

Read more

“Roti Home” (Work)


Comments Closed

Share this post





How to make work from incidental encounters such as this?
Old roti’s being stored in a disused bird-cage on top of a broken dolls push-chair.
I’m going to set it up on a plinth under studio lights and see what happens.
Maybe track around it with a video camera. recently got a Nikon 35mm adapter for the XL-1.

Read more

Transart Submission: 15th June 2009


Comments Closed

Share this post

Artists statement, June 2009

The finished project consists of a number of interrelated works, spanning a variety of media produced throughout the year. There are thirty seven large, monochrome metal framed digital prints of images derived from the Record Room, shoots I undertook in Karachi’s vehicle record archives over the last year. One large digital print “The Garden of Babel” which references scientific accession labels for plants from horticultural gardens in Austria and Pakistan. A large scale rectangular stack of 180 steel cubes, each 14” x 14” x 28” in matt lacquered passivated mild steel (11’6”h x 14’ x 9’4” rectangle) a mutable installation/intervention at 11’6” high. This refers to both the Kaaba, modernist sculpture and early nuclear technologies. Over this past year I have produced a series of works in Lahore, Pakistan, that explore the interlinking of the autobiographical with the public. This takes the form of aspects of my personal history woven into outward issues, such as that of post-coloniality in the “Garden of Babel”, or nuclear power and nuclearization, weaponisation in “12.2.42”. The latter work was also conceived to be used for public interventions in the city of Lahore and surrounding countryside. The prevailing security situation in Pakistan made this impossible. Instead the work was brought into my home, where it displaced the living spaces of the house. This became a broader metaphor for invasion and imposition, right into the home itself. This imposition in question may be read as the fall-out of technologies, be they nuclear poisons or otherwise, or even the mental poison of the always present threat of nuclear war, in this, the worlds number one hotspot for a potential nuclear conflict. The imposition on the living space of my home may also be considered as ideological, and it is no accident that the structures produced are essentially Kaaba like. Pakistan is currently in a state of low intensity civil war, it’s nuclear assets are the whole worlds concern which we hear of daily in the international media. This war is a supposedly religious war, certainly ideological and I find myself particularly visible in the midst of a divided nation that is not my original home. Yet in Pakistan there is no public awareness, debate, protest or education on the complex issues of nuclearization. Karachi is in the process of ordering four more domestic nuclear power stations this year. This period globally has been dubbed “the beginning of the second nuclear age”. The other thread of my work has been the more intimate and directly autobiographical in the form of video.

Research Synopsis 2009

I have read widely in the diverse genre of autobiography, it’s associated theory and criticism. I have also read a selection of autobiographical works from St Augustine’s “Confessions” to Damien Hirst’s “On my way to Work”. I have considered the autobiographical in art history and contemporary art practice. I have retrospectively considered some of my own work over the past thirty years in the light of an autobiographical reading. In conclusion I have proposed that all creative work is essentially autobiographical in nature.

Draft Proposals for 2009-2010:
Research Proposal 1.

As “A survey of autobiographical tendencies in contemporary art practice in Pakistan” I would be researching attitudes to the autobiographical in contemporary Pakistani art, across the board from contemporary miniature to teaching approaches in various art schools in the country and video and installation based practices. Thorough interviews and photographs, possibly video documentation too. Perhaps producing some Podcasts in the process. I have worked on art and autobiography in my research of the past 12 months. (History, interviews, conclusions. Post-coloniality, censorship, narrative, contemporary miniature, feminist and gay perspectives, gender specificity. The role of galleries, institutions and collectors in shaping art criterion. Art education and the international audience.)

Studio Practice: The Autobiographical and the public.

In relation to the above enquiry and as an extension of my practice in 2008-2009 I would continue to make autobiographical work. I see the task in hand now to be a full integration of my life, as outsider and “other” in Pakistan with broader societal and global concerns. The thread of this may be taken up from the “Domestic Displacements” work I undertook in Lahore in May and June of 2009.

Draft Proposals for 2009-2010:
Research-Proposal 2.

Alternatively under the banner of “A Taxonomy of Eden” I will be researching gardens and parks in contemporary Pakistan. This will include varying attitudes to the idea of nature, wilderness and the paradise garden. Also the legacy of aging colonial park spaces. Interviewing a cross section of contemporary society from career gardeners in Lahore’s parks, agricultural workers, religious scholars (and lay practitioners from various religions and sects) the educated and the less educated in the city and countryside of Lahore and Karachi (possibly further afield also). From nursery owners, the head of the Punjab Horticultural Authority to jobbing residential gardeners in the Defence housing authorities of Karachi and Lahore. This will also follow the format of recordings, translations, transcriptions and analysis. Also photography and some video. I work as a freelance horticultural consultant in Pakistan and have done so for the past 21 years. My clients currently include Agha Khan Cultural Services Pakistan, with whom I am working on several projects, including the uplift of the North Circular Park belt around Lahore’s old city. (Sacred Texts. Garden Design. Garden History. Landscape. Popular Culture. Decorated Transport. Trees on the edge between nature and culture. Motifs. Carpets. Ageing colonial public parks in Lahore. The culture of the Mali.)

Studio Practice: A Taxonomy of Eden.
Building upon “The Garden of Babel” 2009 as a format I would initially work towards examining various sacred texts in translation. Those of the Abrahamic religions including Judaism, Christianity and Islam and possibly others in the broad grouping in relation to notions of the garden of Eden. In this respect I would be particularly focusing on plants mentioned there. Using this with allied horticultural enquiry, and in consultati0n with various scholars I would build a taxonomy of Eden. The works may be grided digital prints of botanical and zoological accession labels, as are to be found in Zoos and botanical gardens. I would have to create reasonable approximations of specifically mentioned plants of Eden, I would aim for around 180-300 plants per work. I would then make the labels in etched plastic laminates, as authentic labels. Photograph them in particular settings, as I have learnt from the making of “The Garden of Babel”. These would then be composed as grids and printed as large C-prints. How the work may play out in other forms such as texts, woven carpets or illuminated manuscripts or their digital equivalents would remain to be seen.

Read more

The Autobiographical


Comments Closed

Share this post

New Work
David Alesworth | Huma Mulji
Zahoor ul Akhlaq Gallery
National College of Arts | Lahore | Pakistan

February 16-March 4, 2009


My work has long addressed issues of environmental degradation, cultural attitudes to the notion of nature and nuclearization/weaponisation of the sub‐continent. Growing up one of my earliest memories was of the Cuban missile crisis and the tension in the family home as the world inched ever closer to nuclear conflict. CND marches were a constant feature of the UK in the 1960’s . We now live in an age where nuclear power begins to look like a cleaner solution to our energy needs and nuclear weapons are considered for tactical use. It’s as though the world has forgotten what was unleashed on Japan in 1945. People are calling it the Beginning of the second Nuclear Age.


180 Passivated MS boxes, installation variable.

A tribute to Fermi’s first experimental nuclear pile built under the squash courts of Chicago University in 1942. Here on the second of December the first sustaining chain reaction was initiated amidst a stack of graphite blocks and uranium metal. The pile at that time cost around one million dollars to make.

The idea that CP‐1 was built in a university squash court has always appealed to

This sculptural installation has other resonances, the formality of artists such as (late period) David Smith, Donald Judd and Karl Andre. This is slightly tongue in cheek reference to such minimalist concerns, through the lens of time and place. This is another prayer for sanity and peace, the way my “Two Bombs Kiss” was in the early ‘90’s. It was within the unshielded CP-1 reactor that plutonium production became a practical proposition.

“Seaborg, (the discoverer of Plutonium) was asked to suggest a name for the element he had discovered. He decided to respect the tradition begun with uranium, named for the planet Uranus, then neptunium — the 93rd element, found in 1940 — for Neptune. As the next planet in the solar system was Pluto, he suggested the new element be called plutonium. No one thought to point out that the deity after which the planet Pluto was named was the Greek god of hell, the Roman god of death.”

All the Plutonium on the planet now (a completely man‐made element) is around 50 tons; enough, if judiciously employed, to entirely destroy life on the earth. It is undoubtedly the most toxic substance in existence. I see “12.2.42” as part tribute (to scientific endeavor) and part warning (of the imperfect nature of mankind’s knowledge). The smallness of mankind’s achievements set against the vastness of creation. The ultimate failure of all technologies and civilization itself. It is a Vanitas sculpture. It critiques the arrogance of scientific knowledge. I half suspect this world will be sucked through the eye of an atom sized black‐hole, produced in the new Cern accelerator experiements. What a suitable ending it would be for this planet, wrecked as it is, by mankind’s insatiable greed. The units are identical but also quite distorted from the heat of their welding. The proportions of 14 x 14 x 28 inches directly address the scale of one’s body. I investigated other sizes and ratios to arrive at this. It is to do with one’s span. I realize these are very much the concerns of the early minimalists, like Caro, who was once Henry Moore’s protégé. The idea of span and of being body‐scaled are terms that could be right out of Moore’s own vocabulary. Though such concerns are readily discernible in ancient Egyptian sculpture (all of the canonical works.) My undergraduate dissertation was on the cannon of proportion in ancient Egyptian sculpture. I welcome the “wobble” that sign or life. It’s the imperfection that makes energy flow in the work, something I’ve long used in my practice. A tension between stillness and movement.

There’s a correlation between the persistence of an official record and that of radioactive waste.

I’m thinking of Half-Life as the link between the forest of files (The Record Room Series), undying, unending and uncountable, and the beginning of the nuclear age. Taking Fermi’s first pile CP‐1 as the beginning of this as it was here that Plutonium was first produced, albeit in tiny quantities.

On that day that CP-1 first went critical for only 28 minutes and Plutonium was produced in its nuclear flux. Leo Szilard lingered on the balcony until most people had left, then turned to Fermi, shook his hand, and said that he thought the day would go down as a “black day in the history of mankind.”

This cube of steel boxes is as much a play with the proportions of the room and scale of the body as it is a reference to nuclear power. Waste from Chicago Pile­1 was buried in nearby woodland, this was not a fortuitous beginning to the nuclear age.

“Doomsday Clock Will Move Closer to Midnight.

WASHINGTON, DC, January 12, 2007 (ENS) ‐ The minute hand of the Doomsday Clock will be moved closer to midnight on January 17, the first such change to the clock since February 2002. The Doomsday Clock has become a universally recognized indicator of the world’s vulnerability to nuclear weapons and other threats.” The move was announced today by the Board of Directors of the magazine “The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.” It reflects growing concerns
about what the board calls a “Second Nuclear Age” marked by grave threats. The board also cited “escalating terrorism, and new pressure from climate change for expanded civilian nuclear power that could increase proliferation risks.” The Doomsday Clock is now set at seven minutes to midnight. The Doomsday Clock is a symbolic clock face that the Bulletin has maintained since 1947 at its headquarters on the campus of the University of Chicago. It uses the analogy of
the human race being at a time that is a “few minutes to midnight” where
midnight represents destruction by nuclear war. The decision to move the minute hand is made by the Bulletin’s Board of Directors in consultation with its Board of Sponsors, which includes 18 Nobel Laureates. The “Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists” was founded in 1945 by University of Chicago scientists who had worked on the Manhattan Project and were deeply concerned about the use of nuclear weapons and nuclear war.




“The Garden of Babel”

A grid of botanical accession labels from Linz (Austria) and Lahore. I believe all work is essentially autobiographical. My grandfather was the horticulturalist, F.W. Alesworth, a rose is named after him. He taught me my first name in horticultural Latin, something I still had yet to study at school. These names in all their authority and scientific exactitude are threaded through and through with tales of conquest and aspirations of immortality. They speak of the earliest attempts to order the natural world. Beginning with Theophrastus in 300 AD, and for me ending with John Ray (he wrote it, Wray), not the upstart Linnaeus. Perhaps the names of Neem and Bachain say it all. Azadarachta Indica and Melia Azadarachta respectively. An Ash like leaf (Bachain) and both the Free-Tree’s-of-India), this co‐opting of language is typical of botanical Latin. It is a specialist, insider’s secret language and as equally imperfect an attempt at creating logical order as the Record Room itself.

Botanical accession labels are often grey or black and the whole assemblage feels like a mausoleum to me. A graveyard for nature, epitomized as “the garden”. This also serves as a pointer to environmental issues, as so many plant names may actually survive the species (in the wild) in many cases. Many of these names are embedded with tales of Empire, the names of Victorian naturalists, indigenous names Latinized and other slight problems in the overall scheme of things. To say nothing of the need for constant revision as new discoveries lead to new classifications of relatedness. The books “All the Names” (Jose Samarago) and “The Naming of Names” (Anna Parvord) were inspirations for this work.



“The Record Room” series 2009.
Monochrome archival, digital C-Prints. Galvanized and passivated
steel-frames, 2009.

These myriad vehicle papers are more akin to a living entity than an official archive. They represent the dreams of countless families for progress, modernity and the transformation of their lives. This is failed order, individually and collectively; as a species our attempts to control and order the world are doomed to fail, for we forget that we are also nature. The images of this record-room are for me beautiful and tragic. They are 18 million files, 18 million dreams, a poignant metaphor for the populace of Karachi. My own records were found here in a matter of minutes. I was invited to view this record-room after commenting on the speedy delivery of my own file. I fell in love with it instantly and have been begging my way back with an assortment of cameras ever since. It is a dying (physical) archive the files are being scanned and destroyed currently and should cease to exist entirely in a few years. I’ve seen the facility shrink like the loss of forestation, the demise of a coral‐reef or the melting of glaciers, for this is something like nature itself. Somehow in all it’s dog‐eared, rubbed till soft existence (so handled these records become almost living); the archive actually works. It functions daily at huge volumes and serves the inhabitants well for without their cooperation nothing will ever be found. One can read the staff’s valiant attempts to manage the deluge of incoming paper, abandoning the expensive (but rapidly collapsing steel shelving) in favor of old fruit crates. The failure to create order in the record­ room for me becomes a Vanitas subject, a gentle reminder of our ultimate individual decay and demise as a part of nature itself.

Read more

‘Half-Life” Video Documentation


Comments Closed

Share this post

A video survey of my part of the show. Everything is in monochrome except for the “Garden of Babel” which is composed of horticultural accession labels, in polychromed plastic units. Repetitive units are everywhere, the surrounding Record Room images, the steel cubes and the horticultural tags.

The installation of “12.2.42”, it took six hours to build and then to adjust and rebuild again.

This is an autobiography through formalism. This is minimalism gone bad. Minimalism having no resonance in Pakistan. The disintegration of an idea,the loss of an ideal. Also the idea of cheap clean nuclear energy, once discredited and now again being entertained as a lesser evil in this carbon obsessed age. Karachi has commissioned four new nuclear plants this year.

Read more