About March Meeting 2012
As with each of the past editions, our approach to this year’s March Meeting: Working with Artists and Audiences on Commissions and Residencies is a response to issues and concerns that are relevant to the work of artists, art practitioners, audiences and institutions in the Gulf and the greater MENASA region.
The theme developed from a reflection on our relationships with the artists with whom we work. Looking back over the past decade, the most memorable events and projects have been those in which the Sharjah Biennial or the Sharjah Art Foundation have taken a substantial role as host to artists in residence and in supporting the production of new works through commissions.
As we look for new ways to engage with our local community, it is clear that artists are also central to this mission. Over the years, hundreds of artists have come to work in Sharjah, some for Biennial projects, others specifically as resident artists, developing new works, or producing workshops and community outreach events. The relationships that have developed through these experiences have been fundamental to the direction Sharjah Art Foundation has taken over the past few years.
The topic of residencies is clearly a timely one. This is by no means the first gathering of individuals involved with the development of residency opportunities. Recent events including those organised by Art in General, ArteEast and Delfina Foundation have looked at many of the issues and concerns surrounding the organisation of residencies and have highlighted the need for further discussion and research. Within the MENASA, the local and regional context presents specific issues and priorities, some of which we will address in the March Meeting this year.
Commissioning and supporting the production of new work is another important part of the Sharjah Art Foundation programme, both within the framework of the Biennial and increasingly through a range of projects including the Production Programme grants, residencies and exhibitions. It is a reflection of the nascent character of the institutional landscape in much of the MENASA, that there have been few opportunities for funding new work. This is changing particularly within the Gulf, not only as a result of our programmes, but also through opportunities offered by the museums in Qatar, the Abu Dhabi Guggenheim and the Arab Fund for Art and Culture (AFAC).
Over the course of this 5th March Meeting, we will explore the topics of residencies and commissions from a variety of perspectives, looking not only at how such programmes can be organised but also why these two areas have become such a critical part of the regional cultural landscape. At the same time we hope to find new ways to consider both the role of the artist and the importance of understanding and engaging our audiences in this process.
This year there was an encouragingly positive response to the March Meeting Open Call from individuals and organisations from around the world. While we were unable to accommodate all applicants, we have tried to offer a platform to a broad range of individual practitioners and institutions of all scales, not only those recognised as pioneers in their fields, but also a number of those who are new or less well-known.
We are likewise grateful for the keen response from our regional and international colleagues to the possibilities of discussing these important topics and for helping us to continue in the spirit of collaboration and exchange that has informed the direction of the March Meeting since its inception five years ago.
President, Sharjah Art Foundation