Photograph of area where chemical waste is buried in south of West Bank, from new artist publication by Inas Halabi, 2017


Shifting Ground, to be held in Ramallah from 10 to 14 August 2017, is the third of four off-site projects that comes under the umbrella of Sharjah Biennial 13: Tamawuj (SB13). SB13 curator Christine Tohme invited four interlocutors to develop projects centred around the keywords ‘water’, ‘crops’, ‘earth’ and ‘culinary’, and Lara Khaldi’s Ramallah programme is the result of research and dialogue with the keyword ‘earth’.

In her role as interlocutor, Khaldi has approached her ongoing research from an interest in infrastructure, burial and the underground as sites, networks and practices that might be mediums for emancipatory politics. For example, the project examines the relationship between poetic infrastructure (e.g. folktales, rumours, urban myths and other forms of collective poetic authorship) and material infrastructure in Palestine. How does one affect the other? Different types of locations such as graveyards, haunted sites, underground areas and built infrastructure as a site for secret archives have also been pivotal in the research.

Additionally, infrastructure has been considered as a system of knowledge and the instrumentalisation of collective authorship in knowledge production. Overall, the underground is seen as a poetic site of potentiality, where buried objects, ruins and secrets lurk dormant while their stories spread, affecting property speculation and oppressive structures as well as conjuring emancipatory narratives.

The research project for Shifting Ground was partly sparked by recent debates in Palestine around museum and archive building and how these function as infrastructure for a nation state, even as incessant struggle simultaneously makes those representative forms obsolete. 
Khaldi has conceived and organised a programme that includes newly commissioned publications, a symposium and performances. The artist publications highlight research on issues related to the keyword ‘earth’ and experiment with the book as an art form. The symposium provides an opportunity for presenters to enter into discussion with the audience and offers different styles of presentations, such as artist performances and academic papers.

Samir Harb and Mimi Cabell’s publication investigates the history of the infrastructure of authority, tracing the literal and symbolic history of the Tegart forts in Palestine through multiple systems of design. Buried stories are also considered through the work of artist Inas Halabi as she looks at invisible buried chemical waste and radiation in the south of the West Bank. The work of the Ma’touq collective attempts to rewrite and reinsert Palestinian insurgents from the 1920s into present narratives. Subversive Film (Reem Shilleh and Mohannad Ya’qubi) address a syllabus for filming during the Palestinian revolution from the archive of filmmaker and co-founder of Fatah’s Palestine Film Unit, Hani Jawhariyyeh. Yara Saqfalhait considers the newly emerging sinkholes around the Dead Sea in relation to a history of unrealised infrastructure projects in the area to investigate the relationship between systems of prediction and the reality they help materialise. Benji Boyadjian presents material on the history of the ancient aqueduct network in Jerusalem and the complexities that occurred once the network became clogged.

Additionally, in a collaborative effort with The Palestinian Museum of Natural History and Humankind, a handbook of the museum collection will be published, as will the Arabic translation of Noor Abu Arafeh’s novel ‘The Earth Doesn’t Tell Its Secrets’ – His father once said (2017) about museums in Palestine, which was launched in Sharjah earlier this year. Many of the publications to be launched in Ramallah have been realised through editorial workshops where participants collaborated with the artists, and later this year, art and geography students will be guided by artist Maria Thereza Alves in the production of another publication, which includes various research material on plots of empty land in Ramallah. To exhibit all the new publications, a structure by AAU Anastas Studio (Elias and Yousef Anastas) has been designed by the architects and designers in response to the theme of 'earth' and will continue to display the books at the Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center for a month after the end of the event.

The symposium for Shifting Ground, which has been curated by Khaldi in collaboration with Rana Anani and Yara Saqfalhait, takes place over the span of five days. Invited scholars such as Keller Easterling, Suhad Daher Nashif, Abdul Rahim Al-Shaikh, Sophia Stamatopoulou-Robbins, Chiara Decesari and Doreen Mende as well as artists working on the publications will discuss the themes of burial grounds in Palestine, the earth as medium and various museum models that reflect the colonial context. The symposium will also bring together local and international artists such as Jumana Emil Abboud, Filipa César, Noor Abu Arafeh, Khaled Hourani, Khalil Rabah, Nasser Soumi and others, who will present performances, non-academic lectures and lecture performances. Kristine Khoury, Rasha Salti, Lawrence Abu Hamdan and Rabih Mroué will be participating remotely as they cannot enter the Palestinian Occupied Territories. Palestinian poet Asma'a Azaizeh, who has been trained by Mroué in Berlin, will give three of his non-academic lectures in their first presentation in Ramallah and Haifa. 

Shifting Ground is organised by Sharjah Art Foundation in collaboration with Ramallah Municipality, Khalil Sakakini Cultural Centre and Khashabi Theatre, Haifa.

To download the full programme please click here.

About Sharjah Biennial 13

Sharjah Biennial 13: Tamawuj is on view at SAF through 10 June. Curated by Christine Tohme, Tamawuj includes off-site projects organised by four interlocutors, who will each engage with the biennial’s key words. In addition to the Istanbul programme related to crops (13 May) led by curator Zeynep Öz, Kader Attia has launched the first off-site project around water in Dakar; curator Lara Khaldi addresses the subject of earth in Ramallah (10 August) and Ashkal Alwan organises a project around the culinary in Beirut (October). Act II of Tamawuj will also open in Beirut in October 2017. These projects compliment SB13 School, a yearlong education programme in Sharjah already underway, and the online publishing platform

For more information about Sharjah Biennial 13 please click here.