Reconstructing the Deconstructed

Reconstructing the Deconstructed

Artist Asim Waqif’s show in Delhi explores how violence leaves a scar on the architecture and fabric of a city

Reconstructing the Deconstructed
Artist Asim Waqif (Photo Courtesy: Nature Morte)

The visuals of two airplanes piercing through the steel and glass body of the iconic World Trade Center (WTC) during the 9/11 attacks has continued to haunt the world. The memory made artist Asim Waqif ponder over the air strikes and bombings in the interiors of Baghdad, Kabul, Raqqa and Aleppo — that rarely make up for major news or global impact. The result is one of his latest works, Ground Zero: Truck bomb at Northgate Hotel, Kabul (2016) for his new show ‘Residual Fear’, at Nature Morte gallery in Delhi.

The sculptural piece reflects on the truck bombing that took place at Northgate Hotel in Kabul and left the metal skin of the building transformed and curved. Made with the help of UV print on an aluminum composite panel and mounted on an aluminum frame, the altered and broken building appears with gaps, holes, and twists in Waqif’s interpretation. Similarly, Ground Zero: Coordinated Bombing in Karrada, Baghdad (2016) depicts one of the deadliest attacks to have struck Baghdad in years, where ISIS militants carried coordinated bomb attacks across its landscape.

Trained as an architect from the School of Planning and Architecture,Delhi, Waqif’s latest show examines how the architectural framework of a city changes into wreckage and turmoil due to concerted violent attacks, leaving behind more than just a mark. “For the last three-four years, I have been looking at the creative potential of decay and deconstruction. Here, I’m looking at concerted violence and its byproducts and psychological impact on people. For example, we have vivid images of the World Trade Center bombings in mind. As a byproduct of that, a lot of iconic buildings in Baghdad and Kabul have been destroyed and we don’t even know what they were like. I am trying to superimpose images of places like that onto the WTC buildings. The texture of these cities have completely changed. I was trying to look at the grotesque form of violence as a starting point to create something and see its creative potential,” says Waqif, who has exhibited at Galerie Templon in Paris, Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane and the Queens Museum in New York in the past.

Reconstructing the Deconstructed
Photo Courtesy: Nature Morte

Playing around with the idea of interactive electronics, Waqif has used the electronic waste generated by the city in Anomaly, where various parts in the form of twisted cables and wires and what may appear as the interiors of a computer keyboard, hang on to a cane and make a buzzing noise as one draws closer. Designed to reward curiosity and adventure, he says, “Once you start touching it, it will start responding and very few people dare to touch artwork. I am trying to see if electronics have feelings.”


A car bonnet damaged in an accident has been glued beneath yellow sheets that show four floors of a building in Aleppo, falling on top of each other. “I have been going to the Mayapuri junkyard where a lot of insurance vehicles are scraped and the insurance company auctions them. Since I was looking at violence, I chose to use cars that had gone through some particular form of violence,” he says.

Renowned for delving into the idea of recycling and reconstruction through his artwork, the multidisciplinary artist has made use of timber sourced from houses demolished in Delhi’s Greater Kailash in Rubble GK – 1 — from doors and pillars — and woven them together. “In India, a lot of material is used again and again, although there is very little reuse that happens abroad. The second process, more often or not, degrades the product. There is this illegal market in Kalindi Kunj under the metro line, where they try to get wood or anything out of houses that have been demolished. These particular houses, built in the ’70s and ’80s, were actually made of much better quality of timber, that will not warp and change and has been through seasoning,” he says. Talking about addressing the ecological concerns in terms of the waste generated today, he says, “I have been doing that for a very long time. A lot of timber has adhesives and if it gets trashed, it can only be landfilled and can’t even be burnt because it is toxic.”

The choice to use ‘Residual Fear’ as the title, says Waqif, was deliberate. It’s a term used in biological experiments to get rats and mice to perform certain tasks, based on fear and reward response. “Few things that they touch will lead them to get a shock, while in other tasks they will be rewarded with something to eat. At the end of the test, one is expected to make the subjects get over the fear taught in the experiment and make them neutral by not giving a shock or by changing the reward. This is done to not make that behavior symptomatic. But the fear usually remains,” says Waqif. “We try to attack a country for regime change to introduce some form of democracy but the process of doing it creates fear one had not even anticipated,” he adds.

The exhibition is on till May 5 at A-1, Neeti Bagh. Contact: 41740215