Sharjah Biennial 14

Open from 7 March – 10 June 2019, Sharjah Biennial 14 (SB14) will showcase three unique exhibitions, curated by Zoe Butt, Omar Kholeif and Claire Tancons, that explore the possibilities for creating art when history is increasingly fictionalised, when ideas of ’society' are invariably displaced, when borders and beliefs are under constant renegotiation, and our material culture is under the constant threat of human destruction and climate degradation.

SB14: Leaving the Echo Chamber:

Incessant newsfeeds enabled by rapid technological change have created the conditions of a seemingly inescapable echo chamber. Leaving the Echo Chamber, the fourteenth edition of the Sharjah Biennial, ponders the causal realities and residual qualities of this perpetual loop through the distinct voices of its three curators.

Each of the curatorial proposals will ignite critical questions that dwell within this echo chamber. Resisting spaces of enclosure, they reveal a complex polyphony of artistic practices, positions and possibilities within the hyperbolic mediated cultural state in which we live. How do we map our way forward into a realm that seems to be in continual free fall? How do we choreograph a future when narratives are formed through algorithms and history fictionalised or obliterated? How do we mobilise what is left of the idea of the social–let alone the ideal of society–under conditions of dispossession and diaspora? How do we live in a world where borders and beliefs–whether tangible or intangible–need constant renegotiation? How do we frame the body in an age of augmented and virtual reality when the sensorial seems evermore beholden to the retinal? How do we produce art when material culture is under constant threat of human destruction and climate degradation and the world appears as if it were a mirage?

SB14 aims to deepen the context of such questions, presenting a unique set of experiences. It intertwines questions around the demands made on our society and seeks to expand art’s potential as a space for agency.

Curatorial Overview

Journey Beyond the Arrow
Curated by Zoe Butt

Journey Beyond the Arrow seeks to give deeper context to the movement of humanity and the tools that have enabled (or hindered) its survival. From spiritual ritual to cultural custom (think traditional medicine and its imbuing of spiritual power in endangered animal flesh); from technological process to political rule of law (the religious symbol as violent viral call to arms, or the map and its division of ‘territory’) - all such practices possess particular tool - object and action - that aids or abets mobility.

In this exhibition, artists reveal the generational impact of a range of physical and psychological ‘tools’, whose representation and meaning has shifted as a consequence of the journey from ‘departure’ to ‘arrival’; from ‘origin’ to ‘assimilation’. Their investigative record of the migration and transference of such tools necessitates a looking back in time, often beyond our lived memory, particularly to the perspectives of those previously spoken for, to those whose histories are fragmented hauntings resulting from colonial exploit, religious conflict or ideological extremism.

This proposal will also reveal how artists create specific social environments and communities as artistic projects, challenging social practices and beliefs assumed traditional, where specific ‘tool-kits’ are re-validated or initiated in relation to specific context or cause.

Journey Beyond the Arrow seeks to illuminate the necessary diversity in our chamber of humanity, where the movement of its echo – its value and method – has fundamentally forged strength in the human spirit, both egregious and empathetic in kind.

Making New Time
Curated by Omar Kholeif

Ours is in an age of constant speed; we barely have a moment to breathe. Time is the irreversible, indefinite and continued process of existing in the world. Yet technological, social, and political change has altered the means by which we relate to images, objects, and the concept of history itself. Spatial and temporal orders have shifted with the advent of a reality that moves like mercury in and out of our hands (our bloodstream) and into an abyss, a space of chaos – but also toward a new portal, a space of possibility: Reality and history have been augmented by the realm of the virtual. This process encourages us to look back with a critical eye at the history of material cultures as we think we know them. With all this in mind, how do we slow down and “experience” the experience? How do we make “new time”?

This exhibition is a provocation on how material culture can be re-imagined through the lens of a group of artists whose political agency, whose activism, and whose astute observations encourage us to extend beyond the limits of belief. We consider how economies have formed around technological culture, how narrative is created and deconstructed, and how these forces enable a reconstitution, or indeed a restitution of a history lost, or even unknown. Drifting in and out of hegemonies and entrenched structures of power; here, the sensorial, and the bodily intertwine becoming archaeological sediments in the landscape of Sharjah, imploring the viewer to consider their complicity in a world that is forever fleeting from our hands.

Look for Me All Around You
Curated by Claire Tancons

What if obscurity were the harbinger of futurity, darkness the site of seeing and blackness the scene of unmasking? A contrapuntal proposal to the realm of the retinal embedded within hegemonic structures of looking, learning and feeling, Look for Me All Around You is an address to a redistribution of the sensible and a call for the repossession of perception. In Look for Me All Around You, what is being ‘looked for’ is not what is being ‘looked at’—if only it could be seen.

Searchlights on the open seas of disaster, flickering flames in the encampments of catastrophe and night vigils of foreclosed hope foreshadow encroaching conditions of dispossession and diaspora no longer confined to the wretched of the earth, but reaching our planetary humanity and standing witness to the imperilment of the contemporary in the atomised space between ‘me’ and ‘you’.

Borrowing from the articulation of an early historical call for collective African diasporic self-determination, Look for Me All Around You reconsiders the legacies of broader African, European, Asian and Middle Eastern cultural circuits, ecological collaborations and political circulations to and from the Americas to claim their locality, subjectivity and specificity for the worlding of the present.

Defining blackness as a state of consciousness, darkness as a political position and obscurity as enlightenment from the low, Look for Me All Around You defies standards of display predicated upon the notion of exhibition where the lines between objects and bodies once drawn on essentialist grounds continue to be drawn to much the same materialist ends.

Look for Me All Around You proposes instead a heterochronotopic approach whereby objects and bodies cohabit to create decolonial agencies using the tools of disidentification and misrecognition between piracy, clandestinity and fugitivity. Turning towards the aural, it posits that challenges to the prosthetics of the display apparatus and ideology of the artistic status produce an always already othered time-space continuum suitable for the alignment of the aesthetic means, political ethos and poetic intent of the dispossessed and diasporised.

As Look for Me All Around You refuses to refine the instruments of the chambers that form the exhibitionary complex and redefines the echo as the community of the voiceless, it proposes indeed to leave the chamber, but to stay with the echo.


To register to attend click here
For more information, contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)