Bassem Yousri, I Am Serious!, 2016. Dimensions variable, installation view. Image courtesy of Sharjah Art Foundation.


March Project 2016
12 November 2016 – 19 January 2017
SAF Art Spaces, Dar Al Nadwa and Ceramics House in Calligraphy Square, Al Hisn Fort Museum and the Arts Area

Sharjah Art Foundation (SAF) opened the March Project 2016 exhibition on Saturday, 12 November 2016. Mentored by Mohamed Al Mazroui, Lara Khalidi and Patricia Millns, five artists, from the UAE, Egypt and Palestine participated in the third edition of SAF’s annual education residency programme. Artists Noor Abed, Ammar Al Attar, Vikram Divecha, Reem Falaknaz and Bassem Yousri, and drew on the history and social fabric of Sharjah, focusing particularly on the daily lives of Sharjah residents and their relationship to art, institutions, spaces and architecture, to develop site-specific video works, installations, photography and sculpture.

Noor Abed’s practice examines notions of choreography creating situations where social possibilities are both rehearsed and performed. Keeping Together in Time is inspired by a popular story narrated about Al Raggas [The Dancing Cannon], which stands outside the Al Hisn Fort as a symbol of pride and heritage. One day the cannon stopped working and the people believed that music and song was needed for it to ‘dance’ again. As the story goes, the cannon reacted to the people’s performance and began working on its own. Her three-part project consists of an abstract map sketching Sharjah’s historic lines of defence; a video work featuring a group of people in Palestine endlessly chanting in the hope that Al-Raggas will respond; and a sound installation that spreads these chants throughout the city, according to the performance locations on the Sharjah city map. The work as a whole walks the line between considerations of group performance and military defence strategies, as well as activates the historical functions of an important architectural symbol of Sharjah.

Ammar Al Attar’s project, presented at Dar Al Nadwa in Calligraphy Square, includes images and found objects that he gathered in and around the Khorfakkan Cinema, one of a number of historical buildings that SAF is restoring and rehabilitating to preserve cultural heritage in the emirate of Sharjah. A self-taught mixed media artist, Al Attar chronicles his surroundings and the contemporary landscape, exploring the cultural continuity that is difficult to see amid overwhelming change. Khorfakkan Cinema traces the building’s former life by documenting cultural activities and stories from the cinema and its surrounding areas.

Vikram Divecha’s practice has developed around an interest in ‘found processes’, forces at work within state, social, economic and industrial spheres that are largely overlooked. Sweeping, a daily performance taking place between 6:00 am and 2:00 pm until 19 January 2017, remaps the routes of five sweepers around the Al Shuweiheen area so they eventually converge at the Sharjah Art Museum. As each sweeper finishes a cycle, he deposits a bag of collected refuse on the sidewalk in front of the museum. Rows of 20 to 25 bin bags accumulate until 2:00 pm each day, when the bags are removed by a garbage truck. Divecha’s project draws attention to the labour involved in sanitation and positions labour as an art practice, whilst creating a physical and metaphorical dialogue between the museum and the neighbourhood.

Reem Falaknaz’s photography and films explore the UAE’s cultural make-up and the transient nature of its residents. Her project is inspired by the influx of Syrians who have come to Sharjah to start their own businesses. In her three-channel video installation, In this large memory, we exist as a resonance, fading and reappearing, she tells the stories of three shopkeepers and their businesses along Jamal Abdul Nasser Street in Sharjah.

Bassem Yousri’s Guideposts project presents two site-specific sculptural installations: I Am Serious! and Do Not Look Inside. Created out of recycled materials from SAF’s storage as well as found objects from around the Al Shuweiheen neighbourhood, the project reflects Yousri’s ongoing investigation into an ‘institutional aesthetic’. This aesthetic, characterised by forms of decay, randomness and visual clutter passing as pragmatism, is apparent in different government buildings in Cairo. Since 2013, Yousri has been drawing out the deeper, underlying socio-political issues behind the aesthetic. His Guideposts project takes this concept out of its localised Egyptian context and tests out its impact and significance within new visual registers and representational frameworks.

About March Project

March Project is an annual artist residency programme that provides opportunities for emerging artists from around the world to research, realise and present site-specific works. The eight-month programme includes a series of professional seminars, exhibitions, site visits and talks as well as mentorship by art practitioners. The current exhibition will run until 19 January 2017.

About Sharjah Art Foundation

Sharjah Art Foundation brings a broad range of contemporary art and cultural programmes to the communities of Sharjah, the UAE and the region. Since 2009, SAF has built on the history of cultural collaboration and exchange that began with the first Sharjah Biennial in 1993. Working with local and international partners, we create opportunities for artists and artistic production through our core initiatives that include the Sharjah Biennial, the annual March Meeting, residencies, production grants, commissions, exhibitions, research, publications and a growing collection. Our education and public programmes focus on building recognition of the central role art can play in the life of a community by promoting public learning and a participatory approach to art. All our events are free and open to the public.