President and Director of Sharjah Art Foundation (SAF) Hoor Al Qasimi today announced the establishment of a performance division, cementing the Foundation’s longstanding commitment to commissioning and providing a platform for multidisciplinary performance practices and the diverse communities they engage. Led by Tarek Abou El Fetouh, the Foundation’s Director of Performance and Senior Curator, the Sharjah Art Foundation Performance Department will organise and present commissions, co-productions, touring projects, residencies, and site-specific projects in public spaces and venues across Sharjah in seasonal programmes.
The Performance Department invites local, regional and international artists to participate in ongoing residencies, during which they rehearse and produce commissioned performances and site-specific projects to take place in various venues, streets, squares, and unconventional spaces across Sharjah. Projects are developed for and in collaboration with diverse communities in Sharjah and designed to engage with them in all possible ways. Additionally, through workshops, talks, and educational programmes, created with local partners including the Sharjah Theatre Department and Sharjah Performing Arts Academy, the programme will offer participants from the UAE and the wider Gulf region opportunities for learning with a wide range of international artists working in theatre and performance.
“Performance has always been integral to the Foundation’s programming. Over the years, our use of unconventional and public performance spaces has demonstrated how this medium can create memorable experiences that engage the communities of Sharjah and the UAE,” said Al Qasimi. “We are delighted to welcome Tarek Abou El Fetouh as Director of this new dedicated department that formalises and expands our commitment to the dynamic medium of performance. As a longtime collaborator of the Foundation, he brings to his role profound expertise and a deep understanding of both the local and global contexts in which the Foundation works.”
Spearheading the new Department under the direction of Al Qasimi, Abou El Fetouh has more than 20 years of curatorial and production experience, including the curation of significant festivals, exhibitions, and productions across Asia, Africa and Europe. He has been collaborating with SAF since 2009 as one of the curators of Sharjah Biennial 9 with a programme titled Past of the Coming Days, and curator of the exhibition The Time is Out of Joint (2016). He has also participated in numerous iterations of the March Meeting, the Foundation’s annual convening.
“I am very happy and honored to have begun a new chapter in my work with the Foundation, one of the most important and influential institutions presenting and producing contemporary art in the region and the world today,” said Abou El Fetouh. “The Department’s programmes are being designed to reflect on the cross-disciplinary approach of the Foundation’s mission and initiatives, exploring the intersections between contemporary art, installation, and performance, as well as Sharjah’s role as a catalyst for theatre in the region. I am looking forward to building on the Foundation’s important work in undertaking ambitious and experimental ideas and collaborating with artists and institutions as we create platforms for audiences and practitioners to come together in Sharjah.”
The formation of this dedicated department builds on the Foundation’s history of supporting artists working in performance. The Foundation regularly organises and presents performances as part of its year-round programme; highlights have included Radouan Mriziga’s ~55 (2016), Lunar Reflection Transmission Technique by Taro Shinoda and Uriel Barthelemi (2016), Keiichiro Shibuya’s Scary Beauty (2020), Nile Koetting’s Remain Calm (2021) and Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s Daght Jawi (2022). Additionally, since the 2003 Sharjah Biennial, each edition of the Biennial has included a number of performance works by artists including Tatsumi Orimoto (2003), Otobong Nkanga (2005, 2011), Amal Kenawy (2007), Tarek Atoui (2009, 2011, 2013), Rabih Mroué (2009), Omar Rajeh (2011), Wael Shawky (2013), alva noto (Carsten Nicolai) and Ryuichi Sakamoto (2013), Nikhil Chopra (2015), Papy Ebotani (2015), Cooking Sections (2017), Roy Dibs (2017), Raqs Media Collective (2017), Lawrence Abu Hamdan (2017) and Mohau Modisakeng (2019). The Biennial has also presented dedicated performance programmes including the 2011 Sharjah Biennial 10: Plot for a Biennial music and performance programme and in 2019, Look for Me All Around You, Claire Tancons’ curated programme for Sharjah Biennial 14: Leaving the Echo Chamber.
Internationally, the Foundation has supported and co-organised performance presentations by regional artists such as Tarek Atoui’s commissions that premiered at Performa 5, New York, (2011), and Serpentine, London (2012); Wael Shawky’s Song of Roland that premiered in Hamburg in 2017 and toured internationally and Radouan Mriziga’s 7 that premiered in Brussels in 2017.
About Tarek Abou El Fetouh
Tarek Abou El Fetouh is a curator who has established innovative initiatives in the Arab world and has sought to develop conversations among practitioners both regionally and internationally. Abou El Fetouh’s curatorial projects include the Public Art Programme for Expo 2020 in Dubai (2019 – 2021), Durub Al Tawaya, an annual performance event at Abu Dhabi Art (2013–2018); Rtiuals of Signs and Metamorphoses (2018) and Captive of Love (2017) at Red Brick Art Museum, Beijing; The Time is Out of Joint, Sharjah Art Foundation and Asian Culture Center, Gwangju (2016); Lest the Two Seas Meet, Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw (2015); Home Works 6, Ashkal Alwan, Beirut (2013); Past of the Coming Days, Sharjah Biennial 9 (2009); Roaming Inner Landscapes, Bibliotheca Alexandrina and Garage Theatre, Alexandria (2004); Windows (a multidisciplinary festival of contemporary arts), Minya and Cairo (2004); DisORIENTation, House of World Cultures, Berlin (2003) and It’s Happening in the Garage, Jesuits Cultural Center, Alexandria (2000).
He initiated the Meeting Points Festival of Contemporary Arts in 2001 and curated the first four editions of the festival (MP 1–4), which took place in several cities in the Arab world. He served as the artistic director of MP7 with the Zagreb-based collective WHW (2013–2014), MP6 with curator Okwui Enwezor (2011–2012) and MP5 with curator Frie Leysen (2007–2008). Abou El Fetouh is the founder of the Young Arab Theatre Fund (YATF), renamed Mophradat since 2015, which is a Brussels-based foundation working in the ﬁeld of contemporary visual and performance arts. He was director of YATF from its establishment in 2002 until 2014.
Abou El Fetouh started his career as an art director and theatre scenographer. From 2000 to 2005, he worked on designing and rehabilitating abandoned or misused buildings for use as cultural venues. These spaces included the Garage Theatre, Alexandria; Collectif 12, Paris; Windows Theatre, Minya; The House, Amman; The Factory Space in the Townhouse Gallery, Cairo; Ness El Fen, Tunis and Geneina Theatre, Cairo. Born in Cairo, Abou El Fetouh currently lives and works in Sharjah.
About Sharjah Art Foundation
Sharjah Art Foundation is an advocate, catalyst and producer of contemporary art within the Emirate of Sharjah and the surrounding region, in dialogue with the international arts community. Under the leadership of founder Hoor Al Qasimi, a curator and artist, the Foundation advances an experimental and wide-ranging programmatic model that supports the production and presentation of contemporary art, preserves and celebrates the distinct culture of the region and encourages a shared understanding of the transformational role of art. The Foundation’s core initiatives include the long-running Sharjah Biennial, featuring contemporary artists from around the world; the annual March Meeting, a convening of international arts professionals and artists; grants and residencies for artists, curators and cultural producers; ambitious and experimental commissions; and a range of travelling exhibitions and scholarly publications.
Established in 2009 to expand programmes beyond the Sharjah Biennial, which launched in 1993, the Foundation is a critical resource for artists and cultural organisations in the Gulf and a conduit for local, regional and international developments in contemporary art. The Foundation’s deep commitment to developing and sustaining the cultural life and heritage of Sharjah is reflected through year-round exhibitions, performances, screenings and educational programmes in the city of Sharjah and across the Emirate, often hosted in historic buildings that have been repurposed as cultural and community centres. A growing collection reflects the Foundation’s support of contemporary artists in the realisation of new work and its recognition of the contributions made by pioneering modern artists from the region and around the world. Sharjah Art Foundation is a legally independent public body established by Emiri Decree and supported by government funding, grants from national and international nonprofits and cultural organisations, corporate sponsors and individual patrons. All exhibitions and events are free and open to the public.
Sharjah is the third-largest of the seven United Arab Emirates, and the only one bridging the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Reflecting the deep commitment to the arts, architectural preservation and cultural education embraced by its ruler, Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Sharjah is home to more than 20 museums and has long been known as the cultural hub of the United Arab Emirates. It was named UNESCO's Arab Capital of Culture for 1998 and the UNESCO World Book Capital for 2019.
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