Lahore Digital Arts Festival partnered with the EUNIC-Pakistan Cluster to support emerging digital artists. The journey of the Lahore Digital Arts Festival (LDF) began in 2019 with a mission to support and expand the nascent digital arts industry in Pakistan. The founders saw a booming underground industry with many talented artists, creators, illustrators, but little support systems within the country.
This lack of support lead to low recognition and appreciation of the art form in comparison to traditional arts, difficulty for artists to make a career, and little focus on this medium in Pakistan’s art schools. Recent studies by international organizations have highlighted the economic potential of the cultural and creative industries in Pakistan, including in terms of employment for young graduates.
LDF decided to respond to these challenges by creating platforms for emerging artists to showcase their work in a professional setting, providing opportunities for networking, and facilitating international collaborations to raise the profile of digital arts within Pakistan.
LDF began with a first online festival showcasing digital art in 2021 around the theme POST-Reality. It went on to complete collaborative art projects with artists in Brazil and France, partnering with other festivals such as the South Asia Media Arts Festival and the Institut Français’ Novembre Numérique. In 2023, LDF scaled up its activities by collaborating with the European Union Network of Institutes of Culture (EUNIC) - Pakistan Cluster (including Austria, France, Germany & Goethe Institute, Italy & the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation, the Czech Republic, and the Delegation of the European Union), with a grant from the EUNIC Cluster Fund.
This collaboration with the EUNIC-Pakistan corresponds with all of LDF’s fundamental goals. These include facilitating exchange between Pakistani digital artists and the global digital arts sector, capacity building for emerging artists, and deeper research on the industry to support more sustainable growth. The project with the EUNIC-Pakistan touches on all these elements, and offers the opportunity for rich exchange between European and Pakistan artists and academics.
The year’s activities between LDF and EUNIC began with LDF’s second bi-annual digital festival in March, which featured 60+ artists, including 44 artists from Pakistan and 17 from the European Union and beyond (France, Austria, Hungary, Denmark, Switzerland, Belgium, as well as China and Brazil) reflecting on the theme of Metaverse Bodies. The festival took place from March 3-15 and was extended to the 20th due to high demand from artists and audiences alike. The dedicated festival website received 27 000 unique visitors, and 70 000 unique page visits throughout the festival.
Through this festival, LDF provided a platform where artists have opportunities to share their work and connect with others.
I’m very grateful I got to work a second time with LDF and the meaningful space they make for artists and the community, as well as collaborating with other artists and making the effort to transcend the imaginary borders that confine us.Emil Hasnain, emerging artist
Established digital artist Omair Faizullah noted LDF’s contribution to the digital arts industry in the region, saying:
The spectrum of the works displayed in LDF's Metaverse Bodies has started a unique chapter in Pakistan. It is in my view helping to create discourse that not only evolves the capacity of creative expression, but presents it in a way that establishes a representation of context from the region.
In addition to the festival, LDF has been preparing a dedicated online course for digital creators looking to start their own digital arts related business. The LDF team has also been conducting research on the makeup of the digital arts sector in Pakistan as well as the main challenges it faces. The final report will be shared in October as part of larger festivities.
First ever festival of digital art
The highlight of LDF’s collaboration with the EUNIC – Pakistan Cluster will be the realization of Pakistan’s first ever large-scale physical festival of digital art, set to take place October 12-15th 2023 in Lahore. Entitled 'Four Days', the festival will include an academic conference 'MikroPOM' at Beaconhouse National University and a city-wide exhibition with over seven venues showcasing thirty artists, ten of which are European. Confirmed artists include Christa Sommerer (Austria), Laurent Mignonneau (France), Justine Emard (France), Stefano Fake (Italy), and Anton Stahler (Germany). Associate Professor at Aalborg University in Denmark, Morten Søndergaard, is co-curating the conference along with BNU’s Aarish Sardar.
This collaboration between EUNIC and the Lahore Digital Arts Festival will be a landmark event in the development of Pakistan’s digital arts industry, with strong partnerships and connections made between Pakistan and European artists and creatives. Stay tuned for more information on Pakistan’s first purely digital arts festival later this year!