Plot for a Biennial

Photo by Yazan Khalili

Plot for a Biennial

The 10th Sharjah Biennial will unfold in a range of spaces within the Arts and Heritage Areas of Sharjah.

Plot for a Biennial is the title for the 10th Sharjah Biennial, which opens on March 16, 2011. Curated by Suzanne Cotter and Rasha Salti with Associate Curator Haig Aivazian, the Biennial will present new and specially commissioned works by contemporary artists, filmmakers, writers and performers from across the region and internationally.

Developing on the geographic reach and the focus on new production of previous Biennials, Plot for a Biennial merges what have traditionally been parallel formats of exhibition, film and performance into a multivalent sequence of encounters that extend from the Sharjah Art Museum to Sharjah’s historic Heritage Area and sites around the city.

The Biennial includes the work of more than 90 artists, filmmakers, choreographers, writers, publishers and musicians, working individually and collaboratively, from Afghanistan, Algeria, Belgium, Canada, Egypt, England France, Germany, Iran, Ireland, India, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Palestine, Lebanon, Pakistan, Poland, Syria, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates and the US.

Curatorial Concept
Plot for a Biennial takes as its curatorial narrative the idea of a treatment for film, ‘scripted’ around a constellation of keywords that include Treason, Necessity, Insurrection, Affiliation, Corruption, Devotion, Disclosure, Translation. These terms operate as motifs and serve to frame explorations in both subject matter and aesthetic positions.

Among the central themes is the assertion of individual subjectivity within the realms of culture, religion and statehood. Equally central are questions around the aesthetics of art as seduction and formal dissidence, and the production and communicability of art as both dubious and potentially transformative. Located within a web of etymological tracings, the concept of treason, a word that shares its Latin roots with trade and translation, provides multiple registers of interpretation, from betrayal to trade and translation, the latter being activities central to the economy, history and culture of Sharjah.

Within this lexical framework, artists, filmmakers, performers and writers constitute a cast of players, often assuming multiple roles, which encompass The Traitor, The Traducer, The Collaborator and The Experientialist. Proposing the Biennial as a script to be followed or improvised also allows for new narratives and thematic chapters to emerge.

In borrowing the structure of a film narrative, the Biennial is intended to function as a series of chapters, or reels, that unravel or are refashioned by visitors at different moments and over the course of the plot’s unfolding.  In its visual, spatial and temporal dimensions that play on proximity, duration and correspondences, Plot for a Biennial attempts to reflect the hybrid nature of contemporary artistic practice, and the singularity of artistic positions as part of an intersecting and overlapping spectrum of concerns and consequences in our present time.

October 2010