Artwork Details

  • Artist Wael Shawky
  • Title Dictums 10:120
  • Date 2011-2013
  • Medium Sound installation
  • Duration 23 minutes, 40 seconds
  • Credit Commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation
Dictums 10:120 Image


Wael Shawky began Dictums 10:120, a multipart project that involves the composition and performance of a qawwali song, during the Witness Programme, an artists’ residency at Sharjah Biennial 10. Comprised of fragments from curatorial talks translated into Urdu, the song turns this centuries-old tradition of devotional Sufi music into a contemporary art experiment. Taking Sharjah as a starting point, the project examines the relationship between art organisations and their local communities Throughout a series of workshops, members of Sharjah Art Foundation’s production and technical team, most of whom are Pakistani, took apart the Biennial’s rhetoric in order to construct a song. The various forms of literal and theoretical translations to which the texts were subjected produced an analytical process that tests the authority of the language used to communicate the Biennial’s raison d’être. During the opening week of, Sharjah Biennial 11, two renowned qawwals, along with thirty additional men .performed the song in an alleyway outside the exhibition halls Intrigued by the possibility of role reversal, Shawky challenges the boundaries and expectations imposed by hierarchies that exist within the institution and society at large. By inserting the religious musical tradition of qawwali into a contemporary art framework, he playfully questions the legitimising power of the institution by comparing the oblique and mystified language of contemporary art with mystic poetry.


Dictums 10:120

Shawky, Wael

In photographs, installations, videos and performances, Wael Shawky mines traditions of entertainment and performance through multilayered historical reconstructions that force viewers to navigate the territory of truth, myth, stereotype and cliché.