Notes from a Meeting
by Guy Mannes-Abbott
This is my second March Meeting and my first attended without the contextual buzz and fruitful ‘distractions’ of the Sharjah Biennial going on around it. It’s worth remarking on what a special and in fact, important event it is.
The March Meeting exists not to promote the exchange of capital in the form of visual art, but to talk, listen, converse and engage ideas of and about the art of now and here, that here being inherently global and simultaneously local. This year’s Meeting is specifically aimed at exploring the relationships between artists and art infrastructures, context and audience.
If that sounds a little dry [and I sound naive], its worth investigating, especially perhaps here in Sharjah where audience is nascent, which also means not yet habituated or complacent in its responses -a good thing obviously. The art of our times is changing formally to reflect exactly these issues, around the role audience or reception plays in the making of art, its intentions, notions of completion, etc., in quite radical ways.
This year’s Meeting draws together a wide range and depth of speakers; from government institutions through tiny self-generating practitioners. Importantly there are artists here to give voice to experiences of working within this new global activity; residencies, collaborations, shifting curatorial practice and transformative technologies. Activity shaping an emergent consciousness itself reflective of geopolitical shifts from ‘west’ to ‘east’ -a change that renders such unipolar crudities obsolescent. Put it another way, more of us are from/in, claiming/reclaiming, reconfiguring/recovering more places than ever before...
The March Meeting was formulated in 2008 with the very ambitious aim of becoming a permanent fixture in Sharjah, drawing in “artists, curators, institutions, writers, producers and practitioners from around the world.” The idea, which is worth repeating, was to experiment with new “strategies of discussion ... and collaboration” fed by urgently shared concerns and committed to explore “future possibilities.” This is what someone I overheard describing variant complimentary qualities on display during a marathon ‘art week’ meant when they said; “the content is at Sharjah”
The intensely focused format and high calibre ‘cast’ is a risky venture. Risk is a key quality owned or claimed by the work -and words- of many of the contributors to the Meeting. However, the question has shifted from one of falling or flying, succeeding or failing, to an appreciation of attempts and their related processes, such that they remain in flight amidst new formulations of time and value.