When describing the March Meeting, we often find ourselves struggling with how to explain the event – neither a formal conference, nor strictly speaking a symposium – the nature of this now 9th annual occasion is still influenced and informed by the intentions of its first iteration in 2008. At that time, twenty-four participants were invited to join what was described as ‘an encounter between a range of art organisations in the Arab world’ with the express mission to ‘address imperative issues that face artists and art organisations’ while focusing ‘on the need to organise encounters between artists, curators, producers and art professionals from around the world and to establish regular networking opportunities.
’While somewhat larger in scale, this year’s March Meeting 2016: Education, Engagement and Participation stays true to form – the topic reflecting the spirit of the original March Meeting – conceived as an occasion to share knowledge and experience, a meeting of individuals and ideas brought together by an optimistic belief in the power of communality.
The topic also addresses issues that we are grappling with as an organisation that has grown from beginnings as a small, regional biennial event into a year-round institution with permanent infrastructure and increasingly specialised departments and programmes. These developments have allowed Sharjah Art Foundation to become more responsive to the needs of our communities and audiences, but at the same time have forced us to question and challenge the fundamental assumptions of our work.
MM 2016 brings together a number of panels that explore different aspects of this year’s topic. Institutional priorities in the face of evolution and expansion are looked at through the perspectives of organisations as diverse as Tate, London and Townhouse, Cairo. New models of curatorial practice are considered by a panel of practitioners who work with participatory communities outside of established institutional frameworks. Strategies for embedding education in the work of Biennials is the subject of a panel that will look at examples from Jogja, Kochi, Liverpool, Lubumbashi and Marrakech. Art education is explored both through panels looking at work in the UAE context as well as through a panel that considers what the regional priorities are for the education of artists and other practitioners.
Alongside the panels are ten presentations by speakers selected from the Open Call to present at MM 2016. The Open Call has been a reoccurring feature of past March Meetings and we are happy to introduce this element to the programme again this year.
The Meeting concludes with presentations by four artists and collectives Sandi Hilal representing Decolonising Architecture from Palestine, Oscar Murillo from the United Kingdom, Farid Rakun from ruangroupa in Indonesia and Rick Lowe from the United States. The work of these artists with and within communities offers thought provoking examples of collaborative and cooperative practices today.
More than forty speakers are taking part this year. We are delighted to be inviting back to Sharjah familiar colleagues, but also pleased to be introducing a considerable number of individuals who have never before visited the emirate. We would like to thank all of the speakers for their generous response to this project. We would also like to acknowledge those who applied in response to the Open Call but whom we were unable to accommodate due to time constraints. The themes of Education, Engagement and Participation are broad enough to have each justified a conference on their own. We do not presume that it is possible within the framework of this two day March Meeting to comprehensively cover this territory. Rather we hope this occasion allows us to begin an ongoing investigation into the potentiality of working and learning together as individuals, as institutions and as community.
Hoor Al Qasimi
Director, Sharjah Art Foundation