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While archeological research confirms the presence of humans in the region over 125,000 years ago, Sharjah —as a city, an emirate and a member of a relatively young federation— is still in the process of imagining itself through education, culture, religion, heritage and science.
As the emirate’s future history is written through urban development, heritage-site restoration, interdependent transnational economies and a diverse everyday culture, Sharjah Biennial 12: The past, the present, the possible invited fifty-one artists and groups to help imagine and reflect upon its ambitions, possibilities and being. A biennial can be a dynamic structure for such considerations, and SB12 embraced this provisional format with a focus on timely experimentation from present and past. Mobilising a host of new commissions and works juxtaposed with an ahistorical wealth of abstraction, The past, the present, the possible signaled a distrust of narrative certitude in favour of unexpected simultaneities and potential alliances.
Regarding the title, curator Eungie Joo said in an interview with Gerhard Haupt & Pat Binder: "It comes from a sentence in The Right to the City by Henri Lefebvre, 'The past, the present, the possible cannot be separated', but the idea for the Biennial came before I read the essay. It just matched the sentiment well. What Lefebvre is writing about in his approach to the city is very much related to what contemporary artists are thinking about right now—there is some kind of crossover in the way he puts everything in the present. One of the things that I thought about not only for Sharjah, but for the greater region usually called the Middle East and for the world, is how do we deal with history, how do we respect history, even share information about it, without being burdened by history, where we can’t move."
See the interview
The seventh annual March Meeting (MM) in 2014 was conceived by SB12 curator Eungie Joo as an integral part of the Sharjah Biennial 2015.
MM 2014 coincided with individual exhibitions by Ahmed Mater, Eduard Puterbrot, Abdullah Al Saadi (opened in February 2014), Rasheed Araeen, Susan Hefuna, and Wael Shawky (inaugurated in March 2014), as well als the March Project, featuring new commissions by early career artists. All these exhibitions were curated by Hoor Al Qasimi, President and Director of the Sharjah Art Foundation.
See the photos and information:
Sharjah Art Foundation is an advocate, catalyst, and producer of contemporary art within the Emirate of Sharjah and the surrounding region, in dialogue with the international arts community. Under the leadership of founder Hoor Al Qasimi, a curator and artist, the foundation advances an experimental and wide-ranging programmatic model that supports the production and presentation of contemporary art, preserves and celebrates the distinct culture of the region, and encourages a shared understanding of the transformational role of art.
The foundation’s core initiatives include the long-running Sharjah Biennial, featuring contemporary artists from around the world; the annual March Meeting, a convening of international arts professionals and artists; grants and residencies for artists, curators, and cultural producers; ambitious and experimental commissions; and a range of travelling exhibitions and scholarly publications.
Established in 2009 to expand programmes beyond the Sharjah Biennial, which launched in 1993, the foundation is a critical resource for artists and cultural organisations in the Gulf and a conduit for local, regional, and international developments in contemporary art.
The foundation’s deep commitment to developing and sustaining the cultural life and heritage of Sharjah is reflected through year-round exhibitions, performances, screenings and educational programmes in the city of Sharjah and across the Emirate, often hosted in historic buildings that have been repurposed as cultural and community centres.
A growing collection reflects the foundation’s support of contemporary artists in the realisation of new work and its recognition of the contributions made by pioneering modern artists from the region and around the world.
Sharjah Art Foundation is a legally independent public body established by Emiri Decree and supported by government funding, grants from national and international nonprofits and cultural organisations, corporate sponsors, and individual patrons. All events are free and open to the public.
Sharjah is the third-largest of the seven United Arab Emirates, and the only one bridging the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Reflecting the deep commitment to the arts, architectural preservation, and cultural education embraced by its ruler, Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Sharjah is home to more than 20 museums and has long been known as a hub of culture in the United Arab Emirates. In 1998, it was named UNESCO's “Arab Capital of Culture” and was designated the UNESCO “World Book Capital” for the year 2019.
© Text: From press information by Sharjah Art Foundation.
Cover image: Adrián Villar Rojas, installation at the Kalba Ice Factory.
© Photos and videos: Universes in Universe, unless otherwise indicated.