The Contemporary Art Gallery has reopened to the public, please book your visit here.
Situated along Muhammad Ali Jinnah Road in the centre of Karachi, Pakistan, the Capri Theatre is itself the stuff of movies. It is the last remaining historic single-screen cinema house in the city that welcomes general audiences, designed and built in 1968 by Pakistani architects Rizki & Co. under the guidance of the theatre’s owner, Chaudry Abdul Razaque. Its open-plan, modernist architecture, and advanced screening technology—the auditorium was outfitted with a curved screen and zero-angle projection—embodied Pakistan’s “golden age” of cinema and the cultural liberalism that had earned Karachi its nickname as the City of Lights. During the country’s religious and political shifts of the late 1970s and 1980s, which decried the “deviance” of the movies, the Capri survived numerous violent attacks by bunkering itself behind heavy fortifications. But it continues to thrive, and with 200Rs ticket prices in the lower seats, the Capri remains accessible to almost anyone who desires to see a film.
The Capri is the site and subject of Althea Thauberger’s most recent single-channel video work, Pagal Pagal Pagal Pagal Filmy Duniya [Mad Mad Mad Mad Filmy World] (2017). As in so many of the artists large-scale projects, the artist recognized in the Capri Theatre a complex knot of histories, social relations, and power dynamics that she desired to imaginatively document. As she frequently approaches her subjects as an outsider, Thauberger’s methodology involves developing projects through a process of extended engagement with the communities of her chosen sites. She works collaboratively and experimentally with a large and often intergenerational group of participant-actors who shape the project for themselves. Throughout this process, Thauberger understands her role to be that of a producer/instigator, rather than a singular author, and the success of her projects is entirely dependent upon the relationships she is able to forge with her co-creators.