Nadia Kaabi-Linke is concerned with notions of memory and the ways in which geography and politics inform and circumscribe identity. For Sharjah Biennial 9 she created Under Standing Over Views (2009) a site-specific work using hundreds of paint fragments collected from cities around the world and then recomposed in Sharjah as a map of the UAE. The fragments were suspended on silk threads from the ceiling, creating a horizontal, suspended map that required viewers to negotiate the space beneath to gain what could only ever be a partial understanding of the geographic truth. Light projectors cast a dramatic shadow of the form onto the gallery walls.
Tunis, Berlin, Bizerte, Paris, Cologne, Kiev, Venice, Marseilles and Naples were some of the cities where Kaabi-Linke collected paint chips during residencies and journeys undertaken between 2006 and 2009. Originally from Tunis, the artist had lived in the UAE from 2000–2005. This work is a response to what she understands as a contrast between the facade of wealth in the Emirates and the reality of labour conditions and social inequality. Each fragment of paint has undergone its own unique journey to contribute to the map of the UAE, with each piece containing its own history, but, according to Kaabi-Linke, ‘They are hardly to be considered as fragments of ruins, but rather they testify to the permanently ‘evolving’ state of a city, its typical kind of gestation and hustle that match together the decompositions and reconstructions of urban spaces at the same time.’