Umair Ahmed

One does not need to look much far in history to realize how much of our art and expression has been obscured by the mere material needs of the present times. The constant need to attach a certain economic value to everything one does has caused the whole society to get swept in the spiral of hedonistic needs and it seems that we have forgotten the things that make us what we are, which is, humans.

In times like these where the conventional sources of wisdom are under question, the society has deviated from asking questions or expressing individual thoughts. It seems to be in a state of ignorance and seems to have become nescient of the need of individual expression. The past has become so obscured that it seems like it never existed. The character of the society, once so strong, is now fading and there is a need to think anew about what distinguishes us individually as creative beings.

The great minds that produced literature and art that mirrored the society-the lives we lived and the dreams we dreamt-seem to have been lost along with the spaces that used to act as pivot for artistic expression, never to have resurfaced again. These intellectuals and thinkers were the people of opinion in great affairs. They questioned the norms of the society.

An inciting space, that would act as a catalyst to rekindle the community of creative individuals is necessary. The site is at the outer periphery of the city of Lahore, since it’s a space that represents people, who do not conform to the existing state and thinking of the society, it perches at the perimeter of the city, endorsing the fact that they do belong to the city but the city does not represent them. From a glance, it appears to be an entirely public space; a bookshop, a coffee shop and a gallery where people are encouraged to engage in literary discussions, but when one looks closer, elements can be seen that point towards the existence of a space underneath. This is a metaphorical representation of the presence of these people within the society. Although less in number, these people exist in a community. They don’t necessarily have to be prominent figures but throughout history they have played a vital role in the rebirth of societies, by acting as gadflies in awakening and stirring up the public, something which presently our society is in dire need of.

The hidden space is where dialectical discourse can be held between these people to draw out ideas and underlying presuppositions, a space where they can gather and reflect upon the condition of the society together through reasoned arguments and stimulating critical thinking by holding cooperative argumentative discussions to come to conclusions. It also acts as a space where they can express their ideas through art and produce works of art, because the redeeming and healing nature of art can turn these thoughts of repulsion into ideas compatible with life.

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