Art installation is a large scale display of artwork often designed for a specific time period. Unlike traditional art forms, Art installations allow the spectators to contemplate and interpret art according to their own reasoning and understandings.
English Literature/Language Students of Foundation University (Rawalpindi Campus) put forward a unique gallery of Literary art installations based on old English literature. The project was assigned and directed by English professors, Sundus Durani and Sana Ilyas.
The students of FURC worked collaboratively to present remarkable symbolic artwork over a short period of time. The Art installations were based on old English poetry and presented various cultures and concepts by the use of symbols and artistic tools.
Here are the 20 Literary Art Installations based on Old English Poetry
1) Al Khansa, 7th Century Arab Literature
Art by Yousra Sajid and Haya
“This Art Installation is based on Al-Khansa, a prominent figure and famous female poet of the 7th century Arab Literature. She is highly known for her ” Elegies”.
Khansa wrote a collection of poetry named ” Diwan”. The poetry presented the lamentation of the death of her brothers and sons who died in battle.
Setup and Symbolism :
Khansa’s figure is performed through String Art to portray sadness and lamentation, her body posture is shown with her head bent down and arms wrapped around her knees, demonstrating a sense of isolation.The use of chains and lock wrapped around Khansa’s figure symbolizes her being captured in her emotions and not willing to let go of the sorrow and grief she is going through after the death of her loved ones”
2) Hafiz Sherazi Poetry and Persian Empire
Art by Hajra Khalil, Noor Fatima and Maryam Ashfaq.
This Art installation is based on Hafez Shirazi poet of the Persian Empire.
Setup and Symbolism:
Right side of the cube represents Persian Architecture, left wall of the cube is a window inspired by Nasir ul Mulq mosque ( Shiraz,Iran). The ceiling consists of chains and wires.A light focusing the chalice which comprises of red glass.The chains and the broken mirror represents a soul chained within the boundaries of it’s thinking, The chalice and red glass depicts wine. Wine is related to mystical ecstasy. The light focusing on the chalice represents divine help.
When a person starts reflecting upon his deeds and actions, he is surrounded by colorful lights of contentment. He drinks the glass of mystically ecstasy. Moreover,divine help also guides him,once he start thinking beyond the chains of his worldly ideals.
3) ‘A Valediction : Forbidding Mourning’ by Caroline Era and John Donne
Art by Khadija Imran and Kamran Khan
Art installation based on the Caroline Era and John Donne’s famous poem ‘A Valediction : Forbidden Mourning ‘
Compass is made to represent John’s famous work in which he compare the lover to the compass. The inside of the compass represents the 4 major events of Caroline’s era such as the burning down of theater,civil war, the beheading of the king and the metaphysical feature of poetry.
The compass represents true lovers, the black cloth and mirror represents death. The curtains represent destroyed theater. Black cloth and black rope symbolizes the sadness of Caroline’s era.
4) The Exodus
Art by Momina Tahir and Sana Shah
An olden English piece based on an heroic epic dated back to BCE Anglo-Saxon time period.
The cube installation represents the story of liberation of the Israelite and their journey to Egypt only to later be imprisoned by Pharaoh and the Egyptians.
The blood spatter symbolizes the sacrifices done at that time,the ropes are used to encompass being tied down and chained and whipped by them, the circles show captivity, the basket shows Baby Moses being placed in the river water by his mother in order to save his life. The scriptures carry verses from the original Exodus bible ( both in Hebrew and old English ). The water represents the river of Egypt. The brown book is the representation of the book of the Jews, the broken rocks are hand made tablets.
The whole installation is a story book view of all that happened in that time,the circles carry symbolic paintings of the ten plague that were sent down to punish the people of Egypt.
5)’Canterbury Tales’ by Geoffrey Chaucer
Art by Fatimah Latif and Zainab Khan
Art Installation based on Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer.
The Canterbury Tales is a prominent work of Chaucer, it is about a pilgrimage from London to Canterbury, of 29 pilgrims from various social classes. The Art installation is a representation of the church through strained glass window surrounded by grey/black stone walls along with melted candles.
The strained glass represents the authority of the church during the medieval ages.The window tells the story of the pilgrimage that bought people of different classes together. If it wasn’t for the pilgrimage in Canterbury tales,the characters would not have shown any interest in each other’s stories due to the class distinction.
6) Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser
Art by Manahil Shafiq and Malaika
Art installation based on Old English epic poetry , ” Faerie Queene” by Edmund Spencer.
The setup is based on Faerie Queene Canto 1, Book 1 which is the story of the ” Red Cross Knight”.The red cross knight represents the virtue of holiness,as well as St. George and the Anglican church. He gets his name from the blood colored cross painted on his shield. The art installation represents Red cross’s part of the venture when he, along with Una, set out on a mission assigned to him by the Faerie Queene, to defeat a mighty dragon which was posing a threat to Faerie Land.
The scene represented by the artwork is when Red cross falls under the trap of Duessa, a witch disguised as a beautiful maiden Fidessa. Mesmerized by her beauty, the red cross knight falls in love with her..As they rest under a pair of trees,one of the trees begin to speak, disclosing Duessa’s evil intentions and exposing her. The trees which were once human beings, were turned into a pair of trees by Duessa.
The story is meant to represent the dangers of the catholic church and it’s perceived propaganda. The Shield represents the redcross knight, the pair of trees are a representation of two lovers, Fidessa and Fradubio, the blood on the ground represent a human like characteristic related to the trees, proving them to be human like. The artwork represents holiness and the dangers associated with it.
7) Andrew Marvels ( Soul vs Body )
Art by Nighat Bibi, Yusra Ashfaq and Roha Nasir
Art Installation based on Soul and Body by Andrew Marvel.
The poetry speaks of the conflict between soul and body. The soul is presented as a prisoner and wishes for the body to die in order to be free. The soul seeks heaven and that is only possible if the body meets its end. On the other hand the body considers the soul to be a tyrant, imposing restrictions on the body. The body holds the soul responsible for the various sins it had committed because the soul puts it through emotions, the ones the body fails to feel but has to suffer the outcomes of.
The ides of the soul is shown as a prisoner being held in chains and fetters, hanged in gallows. The body a prison to the soul.
8) Roman De la Rosa
The symbolism used here are red roses, to represent a noble lady who was called by the name “Rose”. The poem depicts love, romance and colors and a garden to symbolize happiness, giving an orchard view of where the women used to sit. Furthermore, the face of the lady is also decorated with roses, to represent love, romance and glee.
9) The Seafarer
Art by Rija Rizvi and Huma Imran
Art Installation based on ‘The Seafarer‘ an elegy by.
Setup and Symbolism:
Based on the difficulties that The Seafarer has to face during his voyage.His desire to be on land and to get reward in hereafter. The threads are symbol of inner conflict of the Seafarer to either stay on sea or on land. The white lights show rain and the different weathers during his voyage, the red lights symbolize worldly desires all people have. Moreover, the titled boat show the difficulties he faces during his voyage.
10) Paradisio from divine Comedy
Art by Saira Hassan and Huria Faisal
Paradisio is from Divine Comedy by Dante.
Setup and Symbolism:
Aluminium covered rings, wings, rectangles and triangles, fairy lights and aluminium frame. Lights and rings represent God’s light, the black at the back represents infinity, the frames represent gateways to Heaven, meanwhile, the wings represent angles. Moreover, the triangles and rectangles symbolize the two genders male and female coming towards Gods light from infinite darkness.
11) The Shijing
Art by Zainab Khalil and Alina Nasir
The installation of a Chinese peach tree with two swords belonging to Chinese soldiers depicts the renewal of life as a new year begins. The swords portray the end of battle for war prone China at that time and implies the end of the soldiers suffering allowing them to finally come home and join their families. The red papers hold the wishes the common people of China have for the year to come as was tradition in many eastern countries; further solidifying the theme of hope and renewal.
Art by Zainab Nouman, Zara Raza, Alina Kanwal and Riffat Arif
Art installation based on the Italian poet Petarch.
Red threads and lights represent love, the Golden symbol itself is a representation of love between the opposite genders. The combination of red threads and the love symbol symbolizes Petarchs love for Lura De Noves. He also dedicated 364 sonnets to his beloved Laura.
13) Arthurian Legends
Art by Ayesha Sajjad, Fayeza Anwer
14) Persian Literature and Rumi
Art by Sadaf Minhas
Art Installation is based on Persian Literature of Medieval Age. Main theme of the installation of was the Muslim poet Jalal-ud-din Rumi. Sufism was his identity. He wrote poetry having three themes love, spirituality and soul. Most of his poetry work is based on “Ishq-e-Haqiqi”.
15) Ottoman Empire and Kaygusuz Abdal
Art by Laiba Shafiq and Tayyaba Noor
Art Installation based on the Sufi poet Kaygusuz Abdal and his poetry ‘Mesnavi-e-Kaygusuz Abdal’
The popular poet belonging to the Ottoman era was also a Sufi poet and it has been said he was the son of a king. On day while he was hunting in the woods he shot a gazelle and followed it until it was revealed to him that the gazelle was actually a renowned Sufi. He regretting what he had done offered his services to the Sufi and promised to become a dedicated mystic apprentice. The King was outraged by such a decision, but the prince refused to give in and since then he remained a humble follower of God.
The whirling Dervish is a symbol of the poet Kaygusuz Abdal. Sufism itself is a symbol of peace, religion and finding God. The Mesnavi is based on spirituality and sufism as a means of finding meaning in life. The use of bronze threads on the hands shows that fate resides in ones own hands and one has the power to choose his destiny. The poet was a wealthy prince but he chose to be a Sufi instead, he chose to be a man of God instead of being a man of power. Moreover, the tulip symbolizes the Ottoman Empire and Turkey even today. The Ottoman Empire is known for Tulips, you can even observe the use of Tulips in their Art and Architecture. The use of the fabric ‘Velvet’ on the background is to represent the Kings of the Ottoman Era. Velvet was a fabric of the Royals it was worn by the great kings and Queens, moreover we can observe the tremendous use of this fabric in Turkish culture, even today.
16) ‘The Rape of the Lock’ by Alexander Pope
Art by Iqra Aziz and Aimen Mehboob
The ‘Rape of the lock’ is by Alexander Pope.
‘Rape of the Lock’ is a humorous indictment of the vanities and idleness and ugliness of the society. The black cloth is used to represent all these factors, the broken mirrors symbolize the moment in which a Baron snips off a lock of hair from the lady’s head and gives her grieve by destroying her beauty. Moreover, the red roses are used to show chaos of the society;
17) Paradise Lost
Art by Tehreem Amir and Hamaiel Khan
‘Paradise Lost’ is by John Milton. Milton was blind when he wrote this poem, most of his work is written in the religious context in respect to the Bible.
Showing the forbidden fruit that became a tool of evil when the serpent successfully tempted Eve into eating it, thus making Eve commit a grave sin as this specific fruit was forbidden by God.
Art Installations are not only about hidden meanings portrayed through symbols, rather it is a means through which the artist impacts the viewer. The audience doesn’t get to witness a part of a story rather the main theme and in most cases the entire story. Pakistan is a homeland to several renowned artists and Art aspirants. In order to secure a career in ‘Art Installation’ one must keep in mind that the idea is not to create something that will appeal only the eyes but also something that will impact the heart.