Conceived by the late Okwui Enwezor and curated by Hoor Al Qasimi, Director of Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah Biennial 15: Thinking Historically in the Present (SB15) reflects on Enwezor’s visionary work, which transformed contemporary art and established an ambitious intellectual project that has influenced the evolution of institutions and biennials around the world.
Hoor Al Qasimi interprets and re-envisions the titular proposal by the late thinker to critically centre the past within the contemporary moment. Al Qasimi develops the concept of ‘thinking historically in the present’ by adopting a working methodology that privileges the role of intuition and incidence. Acknowledging the effect Enwezor’s Documenta 11 had in transforming her curatorial consciousness, she also builds upon her own long-term relationship with the Biennial, as visitor, artist, curator, and eventually, as director of the Foundation, an institution that came into being as a result of the Biennial, a fact Enwezor appreciably recognised.
SB15 will thus position Sharjah’s own lived past within the transcultural universe of thought furthered by over 300 works by 161 local and international artists, which will be installed in 5 cities across the emirate. Participating artists have been consciously evolving practices that critique monolithic understandings of nationhood, tradition, race, gender, body and imagination, which inform the Biennial’s intersectional thematic. Enwezor’s proposition of the ‘postcolonial constellation’ and its pluriverse of key concepts form one point of departure as SB15 enables nuanced conversations around postcolonial subjectivity, the body as a repository of memories, processes of creolisation and hybridisation, the restitution of museumised objects, the racialising gaze, transgenerational continuities, global modernisms, indigeneity and decolonisation.
The 30th anniversary edition serves as a vantage point for the Biennial to reflect upon its cultural heritage and historical influence, the artistic possibilities it has enabled, and its role in linking Sharjah to transnational intellectual and artistic discourses. It is a moment for the Foundation to consider its institutional trajectory within its unique geopolitical location while continuing its expanding commitment to communities across the United Arab Emirates. The Biennial will engage audiences through ongoing learning activities and community outreach as well as a diverse programme of performance, music and film.
SB15 locates itself in continuity with past editions of the Biennial as well as the 2021 and 2022 iterations of March Meeting—the Foundation’s annual convening of artists, curators and arts practitioners exploring critical issues in contemporary art—which served as a collective prelude. March Meeting 2021: Unravelling the Present examined the 30-year history of the Sharjah Biennial and the future of the biennial model, while March Meeting 2022: The Afterlives of the Postcolonial discussed the legacies of colonialism as well as emerging issues that have impacted recent global cultural, aesthetic and artistic practices. March Meeting 2023, taking place from 9 to 12 March, will continue the exploration of the SB15 themes while the exhibition is on view.
Thinking Historically in the Present has been realised with the support the SB15 Working Group comprised of Tarek Abou El Fetouh (Director of Performance and Senior Curator, Sharjah Art Foundation); Ute Meta Bauer (professor and Founding Director of NTU CCA Singapore); Salah M. Hassan (professor and art historian, Cornell University, and Director of The Africa Institute, Sharjah); Chika Okeke-Agulu (professor and art historian, Princeton University); and Octavio Zaya (independent curator, art writer and Executive Director of the Cuban Art Foundation) alongside an Advisory Committee that includes Sir David Adjaye (architect) and Christine Tohmé (Director, Ashkal Alwan, Beirut).
SB15 runs from 7 February to 11 June 2023, with opening week events from 7 February to 12 February. Please register here to receive updates.
Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme, Maitha Abdalla, Fathi Afifi, Hoda Afshar, John Akomfrah, Moza Almatrooshi, Marwah AlMugait, Hangama Amiri, Brook Andrew, Malala Andrialavidrazana, Rushdi Anwar, Kader Attia, Au Sow Yee, Dana Awartani, Omar Badsha, Natalie Ball, Sammy Baloji, Mirna Bamieh, Pablo Bartholomew and Richard Bartholomew, Shiraz Bayjoo, Bahar Behbahani, Asma Belhamar, Rebecca Belmore, Black Grace, Diedrick Brackens, Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, Cao Fei, Carolina Caycedo, Ali Cherri, Wook-kyung Choi, Maya Cozier, Iftikhar Dadi and Elizabeth Dadi, Solmaz Daryani, Annalee Davis and Yoeri Guépin, Destiny Deacon, Manthia Diawara, Imane Djamil, Anju Dodiya, Kimathi Donkor, Heri Dono, Rehab Eldalil, Ali Eyal, Marianne Fahmy, Brenda Fajardo, Raheleh Filsoofi, Nina Fischer and Maroan el Sani, Coco Fusco, Flavia Gandolfo, Theaster Gates, Malek Gnaoui and Ala Eddine Slim, Gabriela Golder, Gabrielle Goliath, Yulia Grigoryants, Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, Hassan Hajjaj, David Hammons, Archana Hande, John Harvey, Fathi Hassan, Mona Hatoum, Rachid Hedli, Lubaina Himid, Laura Huertas Millán, Saodat Ismailova, Isaac Julien, Saddam Jumaily, Patricia Kaersenhout, Robyn Kahukuiwa, Reena Saini Kallat, Hanni Kamaly, Amar Kanwar, Adam Khalil and Bayley Sweitzer with Oba, Bouchra Khalili, Naiza Khan, Tania El Khoury, Kiluanji Kia Henda, Ayoung Kim, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Hiroji Kubota, Remi Kuforiji, Lee Kai Chung, Faustin Linyekula, The Living and the Dead Ensemble, Ibrahim Mahama, Nabil El Makhloufi, Jawad Al Malhi, Waheeda Malullah, Maharani Mancanagara, mandla, Lavanya Mani, Kerry James Marshall, Queenie McKenzie, Steve McQueen, Marisol Mendez, Almagul Menlibayeva, Helina Metaferia, Kimowan Metchewais, Meleanna Meyer, Joiri Minaya, Tahila Mintz, Roméo Mivekannin, Tracey Moffat, Aline Motta, Wangechi Mutu, Eubena Nampitjin, Dala Nasser, New Red Order, Pipo Nguyen-Duy, Mame-Diarra Niang, Shelley Niro, Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi, Elia Nurvista, Okwui Okpokwasili, Kambui Olujimi, Zohra Opoku, Selma Ouissi and Sofiane Ouissi, Erkan Özgen, Pak Khawateen Painting Club, Pushpakanthan Pakkiyarajah, Hyesoo Park, Philippe Parreno, Angela Ponce, Prajakta Potnis, Anita Pouchard Serra, Jasbir Puar and Dima Srouji, Monira Al Qadiri, Farah Al Qasimi, Nusra Latif Qureshi, Michael Rakowitz, Umar Rashid, Wendy Red Star, Veronica Ryan, Doris Salcedo, Abdulrahim Salem, Sangeeta Sandrasegar, Varunika Saraf, Khadija Saye, Berni Searle, Mithu Sen, Nelly Sethna, Aziza Shadenova, Smita Sharma, Nilima Sheikh, Yinka Shonibare, Felix Shumba, Semsar Siahaan, Mary Sibande, Kahurangiariki Smith, Mounira Al Solh, Inuuteq Storch, Vivan Sundaram, Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum, Obaid Suroor, Hank Willis Thomas, Akeim Toussaint Buck, Hajra Waheed, Barbara Walker, Wang Jianwei, Nari Ward, Carrie Mae Weems, Nil Yalter