7 April 2013
Review of: Sharjah Biennial 11
Sharjah Art museum / First section / hall 4.1. 1. – 12.
Exhibited artists: Saadane Afif, Ammar Al Attar, Mouneer Al Shaarani, Burak Arikan, Yu-ichi Inoue, Khaled Jarrar, Taus Makhacheva, Hassan Massoudy, Wissam Shawkat, Shahzia Sikander, Eduardo Terrazas, Charwei Tsai.
“Cultural elements” are a basic component of every civilization’s cultural legacy; they play an important role in the social life of people, and act on the level of conscious as well as collective-unconscious to form the cultural identity of societies.
Arabic calligraphy, Chinese ideograms, colors of popular crafts, sounds of sacred beliefs, traditional furniture, local prayer rooms… etc. can all be considered as “cultural elements” that are present in the popular life of certain societies.
At the first halls of Sharjah art museum -where part of the Biennial is taking place- the curator Yogo Hasegawa is demonstrating the importance of some everyday’ s “cultural elements”, and trying to emphasize the concept of similarity in value of those elements, and the parallel contribution they play in the cultural legacy of many civilizations if not all.
Hasegawa chose to exhibit artists whose works dwell basically on the notion of popular legacy –found in the “cultural elements”- and pairing this legacy with a modern artistic use of these elements.
In other words the exhibited artists are using the “cultural elements” as fragments; charged with a profound popular-culture-character. To add a new depth to the composition, and democratizes the artwork by adding a popular aspect to it.
The modern artistic style of coupling fixed “cultural elements”, with their innovative use can be looked at as developing a personal treatise for each of the featured artists, and can -itself- form the common language of dialogue at the exhibition’s arena of learning and critical thinking, where new awareness and interaction among civilizations is sought & attained, and the core theme of the Biennial; “the courtyard’s dialogue” is realized.
The curation method of exhibiting these creative artworks through the existing museology -characterized by oriental interior-decor for ceilings of the central aisle, semi-zenithal natural light in addition to artificial direct spotlights, modest white walls, and austere grey floors- gives the visitor some opportunity to discover the message behind this section of the exhibition, though it may not be very clear for the inexperienced visitor, especially with the absence of a clear narration on a standard guided tour, nor through the exhibition catalogue.
However the visitor can still enjoy the works of an array of prominent modern artists from the Arab World as well as Far East and South America, about whom we can find ample amount of information in the exhibition catalogue.
And finally the question of logistics and visitor access to the exhibition spaces remain an issue of concern in Sharjah, though several arrangements were made to act upon this point and facilitate a pleasant visiting experience, e.g. the fact that the Biennial is held at 4 different areas shall tackle this issue in a convenient manner.
I really enjoyed visiting the Sharjah 11th Biennial, and I strongly advise those of you who still haven’t to go spend a day there visiting the Biennial and discovering the deep-rooted art scene in Sharjah. The Biennial will last till the 13th of May.