14 April 2013
The Sharjah Biennial 11, with the theme of ‘Re: emerge – Towards a New Cultural Cartography’. Yuko Hasegawa, this year’s curator, was inspired by the courtyard in Islamic architecture, particularly the historical courtyards of Sharjah, where both elements of public and private life entwine, and where the objective political world and the contemplative space intersect. Hasegawa proposes a new cultural cartography that rethinks the Westerncentrism of knowledge in modern times and reconsiders the relationship between the Arab world, Asia, the Far East, through North Africa to Latin America.Stretching from the Sharjah Art Foundation Al Mureijah to Calligraphy Square, Bank Street and Arts Area Al Shuweiheen, both inside and outside.
Being my first time attending the Sharjah Biennial I promised myself that I must attend the Opening this year. it is important for me to be at the opening since I’m working with VIP relations and Collectors for AbuDhabi Art, it is an opportunity to see how the Art Scene has elevated in the city of Sharjah and of course to network. I found it difficult finding the location of the Sharjah Biennial as the signs take you in so many different directions, however I found the Red stands in the tight streets of sharjah quite interesting and I was curious to see where the directions lead. The opening day was a hot morning but full of excitement, at 10am the location was packed with visitors and guests waiting for the big opening. As H.H Sheikh Sultan Al Qassimi arrived everyone else seemed to follow his footsteps through the tight sikkas in-between the connected architecture. I loved the idea of using outdoor spaces with live performances such as the Egyptian artist Wael Shawky’s, Dictums which was a group of 32 performers creating interesting indian beats and urdu sounds. it was a multi-part project that involves a sufi composition and performance of a qawwali song which was executed by the singers giving an interesting ambience, moving, inspiring and involving with the crowd giving a spiritual dimension to the Biennial.
The entire idea of just getting lost in-between the Sikkas reminded me of how life was in the old days, moving inside and outside of spaces I came across a shocking courtyard where the “FOG MACHINE” was in action. This is one of my favorite experiences as whilst I’m on top of the courtyard I can actually see people disappearing into the Fog and coming out from a different direction, which you can actually do yourself. The Fog machine was basically water, nozzle, pump and a motorized mirror commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation.
Also, I entered a random room and found an interesting video and installation piece by Francis Alÿs’ which explored geography and its cruel ironies. In a film, young boys confront the thrashing sea with sailboat flip-flops in hand, like some sort of children’s crusade, they attempt to cross the Strait of Gibraltar, the 14 kilometers separating Africa from Europe. The way the video was taken and the angle was as if we are actually literally standing with these kids. It was truly fascinating. Overall my experience at the Sharjah Biennial was very inspiring and exceeded my expectations.