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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 exhibition took place in Sharjah, crossing the Emirate to sites in and around the city, including warehouses at Port Khalid, the former restaurant Flying Saucer, as well as an abandoned ice factory in Khor Kalba, on the East Coast of the Emirate of Sharjah, at the Gulf of Oman.
Ice Factory in Khor Kalba
The March Meeting, a vital component of Sharjah Art Foundation’s annual programming, took place later from 11 - 15 May 2015. Curator Eungie Joo invited Kristine Khouri and Rasha Salti, Eric Baudelaire and Ayreen Anastas and Rene Gabri to conceptualise different sections of MM2015 as integral parts of their contributions to the Biennial, which included panel discussions, keynote addresses, talks and screenings pertaining to the respective programmes’ conceptual concerns.
See the detailed program
Sharjah Biennial is organised by Sharjah Art Foundation, which brings a broad range of contemporary art and cultural programmes to the communities of Sharjah, the UAE and the region.
Since 1993, Sharjah Biennial has commissioned, produced and presented large-scale public installations, performances and films, offering artists from the region and beyond an internationally recognised platform for exhibition and experimentation.