The visual arts component of the 2009 Sharjah Biennial was curated by Isabel Carlos. The work of sixty-four artists was presented as part of this presentation.
The pursuit of happiness is an important motivation for humanity to relocate itself from one place to another. In such relocation, notions of utopia and the future, frequently fictionalized through narratives and promises, play a major role.
Incited by these fictions, people today seem to ask constantly for more, with an anxious eagerness for status, material goods, physical and social appearances, and fame—a state of mind described as 'affluenza' by Oliver James, who coined this term to characterize the psychological disease of the twenty-first century, a cocktail of 'affluence' and 'influenza'.
At a crossroads in a world that is transforming itself rapidly, if not actually disappearing, with newly emerging economic and cultural conceptions, Sharjah is a geographic and cultural meeting point where the notion of 'future' is permanently evoked. Provisions for the Future is a place of production and development of artwork for the context of Sharjah, rather than a selection of works 'imported' from all around.
The project focuses on artists working with concepts like immigration, travel, narrative, fiction, memory and history, escape and exile, producing works with a tactile and physical dimension, works of passage, of crossing. In strictly artistic terms, we’ve looked for works where drift is a key notion; works initialized by something already existing in order to build some other, different thing; works that change the perception and visibility of the starting point material. The idea is image dislocation—dislocation and drift from one support to another, one language to another, one time to another, one context to another—and how these induce new significations. Constructing the future depends on sedimentation of the past and the present, and art is a particularly clear case where this principle applies.
Fewer artists and more work from each is another key line: spectators should be able to 'dive' more deeply into each artist’s universe and gather from there for safekeeping whatever they deem to be necessary to their well-being. Sharjah Biennial 9 proposes a pause for reflection and the storage of provisions.
Isabel Carlos Curator
Sharjah Biennial 9
The performance and film programme of the 2009 Sharjah Biennial was curated by Tarek Abou El Fetouh. The work of twenty-four artists and art practitioners was presented in this programme.
Past of the Coming Days is a programme that positions itself as an interface between the ideologies, conditions, and various cultural frameworks that constitute the distinct arts and culture landscape of Sharjah. Past of the Coming Days involves itself with the boundaries that different cultural, artistic, and social communities in Sharjah share. In the actual process of working ‘in-between’ and ‘across’ these mental boundaries, the program attempts to shed light on the current capacity and future possibilities of the field of art in Sharjah.
With Sharjah Biennial evident urgency in attempting to reconsider 'the very premise upon which biennials are based', Past of the Coming Days proposes a process of reconsideration which starts with an attempt to untangle the socio-economic and theoretical signifier that we have come to know as 'contemporary art'. The program attempts to untangle the knots of 'contemporary art' by maneuvering between the borders of different artistic communities and institutions in Sharjah and different practices that are defined as or broadly given the descriptive terms of Popular, Traditional, and Progressive. Thus, the program can be seen as a flow of relational possibilities between different components rather than a presentation of their pre-defined relations.
The program highlights artistic output that encompasses a wide vocabulary of mediums, socio-political positions, and critical perspectives – artworks and projects that lean towards the post-medial and post-disciplinary rather than an emphasis on medium and discipline. Past of the Coming Days seeks to explore the borders between popular cinema, the graphic arts, architecture, the folkloric arts, classical theatre and ‘contemporary art’. This is attempted by inserting these works into the broader artistic terrain of Sharjah and diversifying the locations and institutions where viewers can engage with them. With this, the program hopes to encourage debate on how these art forms and ‘contemporary art’ have exchanged values, ideas, and aesthetics, and the possibilities for exchange between them in the future.
The cross-border nature of Past of the Coming Days stresses collaboration and a mutual understanding that places debate at the crux of contemporary practice. Accordingly, the program would have not been possible to realize without the cooperation of the Emirates Society of Fine Arts, Sharjah Theatre Days, Sharjah Theatres Group, Sharjah National Theatre, the Design and Architecture Department at the American University in Sharjah, Sharjah’s graphic design community, Grand Cinemas Co., the various distributors of Bollywood movies in the UAE, and many others.
By Tarek Abou El Fetouh
1. The title is a reference to Ounsi El-Hajj’s collection of poems by the same name
2. Beyond its technological references ‘Interface’ can be defined as ‘A thing or circumstance that enables separate and sometimes incompatible elements to coordinate.’ or ‘A common boundary or interconnection between systems, equipment, concepts, or human beings.’
SB9 Award Winners
The Sharjah Biennial Prizes were awarded to CAMP, Hamra Abbas, Basma Al Sharif, Haris Epaminonda and Maha Maamoun by a jury comprised of curator Paolo Colombo, Salah Hassan and Ute Meta Bauer. This Biennial also hosted the first March Meeting.