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.

Opening Week Programme

For details of the Sharjah Biennial 14 Opening Week and March Meeting 2019 programme, click here.

Sharjah Biennial 14 Overview

SB14: Leaving the Echo Chamber:

In popular culture, the ‘echo chamber’ is a moniker for circuitous news media and their attendant feeds, which are reinforced by a closed network controlled and governed by private sources, governments and corporations. It is also a metaphor for the historical dominance of capital and the cultural, social and political systems that dictate its access, production and distribution—this ‘capital’ wooing (and thus privileging) particular images, languages, skills, histories and geographies. Most tangibly, the ‘echo chamber’ is the space wherein sound hits and reverberates, where memory and imagination echo across surface, across space and across time.

Leaving the Echo Chamber does not propose a ‘how to leave’ this context, but rather seeks to put into conversation a series of provocations on how one might renegotiate the shape, form and function of this chamber in order to move towards a multiplying of the echoes within, such vibrations representing the vast forms of human
production—its rituals, beliefs and customs. The fourteenth edition of Sharjah Biennial begs the viewer to consider a number of concerns. What does it mean to demand alternate images at a time when news is spoon-fed to us by a monopoly of sources? How do we expand our narratives by acknowledging what has been hidden or removed? How can we reflect on our own culturally located histories in an era when so many individuals have been forced to believe that they must surrender their own agency to the mainstream forces that exist and govern our world?

The echo chamber could be construed as a modern-day Faraday cage—an enclosure that covers conductive material and prevents the transmission of signals. At Sharjah Biennial 14, artists are given the agency to tell stories that echo in different ways, thus creating new surfaces for a multiplicity of chambers that reveal numerous and multifaceted means of connecting, surviving and sustaining a collective humanity.

Curatorial Overview

Leaving the Echo Chamber- Journey Beyond the Arrow
Curated by Zoe Butt


Journey Beyond the Arrow offers deeper context to the movement of humanity and the tools that have enabled or hindered its survival. From spiritual ritual to cultural custom, technological process to rule of law, all such practices employ objects and actions that continually move in voluntary and involuntary patterns of discovery, conquest, witness and exile across land and sea.

However, the human journey surrounding the movement of these tools—its cause and effects, its feedback, its ‘echo’—clamors for collective sense amidst textbooks of little historical truth, online archives that are questionably fabricated and governmentally surveilled, and bureaucracies of academic systems of research and rigor that struggle to keep up with the pace of change in their assumed ‘D’isciplines.

In this exhibition, artists reveal the intergenerational impact of a range of physical and psychological ‘tools’, of how the representations and meanings of these tools have shifted as a consequence of colonial exploitation,social and religious conflict or ideological extremism. With their own distinctive approaches, the artists assembled here investigate the historical context of the ‘bow’, which reveals the ‘arrow’ of humanity’s echo—an echo of the diversity of all our activity in relation to language, memory, belief, ritual, and cultural and social practice. The artists’ imaginative retelling of our planet opens us up to what has been overlooked or lost in the echo chamber—a chamber that is economically intertwined yet governmentally divided, often culturally stymied by tradition and insidiously controlled by authoritarianism, a chamber that betrays us when we blindly participate in its algorithmic realm, which pursues quantity instead of meaning.

Journey Beyond the Arrow seeks to illuminate the necessity of exchange and diversity across the globe and throughout human history.


Making New Time
Omar Kholeif


Ours is 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, flowing 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. It seeks to show how material culture can be reimagined through the lenses of artists whose political agency, activism and astute observations encourage us to extend the limits of our beliefs. It considers how economies have formed around technological culture, how narrative is created and deconstructed, and how these forces of change 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 and imploring viewers to consider their complicity in a world that is forever slipping away.

Look for Me All Around You
Claire Tancons


Look for Me All Around You is an open platform of migrant images and fugitive forms. Composed of multiple scores drawn from the many scales of Sharjah as city, emirate and peninsular territory, these after-images and after-forms circumnavigate global history, meeting through the confluence of the Gulfs of Mexico and Oman and the Atlantic and Indian Oceans in a call-and-response between the Americas and the Emirates.

Par for the diasporic course, the migratory journey, the heretic pilgrimage, Look for Me All Around You takes as a point of departure political activist and pan-African leader Marcus Mosiah Garvey Jr’s (1887–1940) unrelenting address to ‘Look for me in the whirlwind or a storm, look for me all around you…’ (1925). The platform attests to the alternatively dispossessive and repossessive disposition of diasporisation as an aporetic phenomenon of the contemporary, encompassing human, semantic and material forms of displacement.

As a contrapuntal proposal that may not fully be registered in the realm of the retinal embedded in hegemonic structures of looking, learning and feeling, Look for Me All Around You manifests in a state of emergence under conditions of performance. It revels in displaced artefacts, coded languages, sonic disturbances, transient presences, light flashes and shadow imprints, revealing the immiscible historical flows and comparable contemporary constituents of both the Arabian peninsula and the American continents and insular territories as results of human and natural resource extraction and exploitation. An always already othered time-space discontinuum, Look for Me All Around You bears witness to the imperilment of the contemporary within the atomised space between ‘me’ and ‘you’. What is being ‘looked for’ is not what is being ‘looked at’—if only it could be seen.

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