Open to the public from 7 March to 10 June 2019, the 14th edition of the Sharjah Biennial (SB14), Leaving the Echo Chamber, will explore the possibilities and purpose of producing art when news is fed by a monopoly of sources, history is increasingly fictionalised, when ideas of ‘society’ are invariably displaced, and when borders and beliefs are dictated by cultural, social and political systems.
In popular culture the “Echo Chamber” is a moniker for circuitous news media and its attendant feeds that are reinforced by a closed system, a network that is controlled and governed by private sources, governments and corporations. It is also a metaphor for the historical dominance of Capital and the cultural, social and political systems which dictate its access, production and distribution – this ‘capital’ wooing (and thus privileging) particular image, language, skill, history and geography. Most tangibly, the ‘Echo Chamber’ is the space wherein sound hits and reverberates, where memory and imagination echo across surface, across space, and across time.
‘Leaving the Echo Chamber’ does not propose a “how” to “leave” this context, but rather seeks to put into conversation a series of provocations on how one might re-negotiate the shape, form and function of this chamber, towards a multiplying of the echoes within, such vibration representative of the vast forms of human production — its rituals, beliefs and customs. The 14th Sharjah Biennial begs the viewer to consider: What does it mean to demand alternate images at a time when news saturation is spoon-fed to us by a monopoly of sources? How do we expand our narratives by acknowledging what has been hidden or removed? Moreover, how can we reflect on our own culturally located histories in an era whereby so many individuals have been forced to believe that they must surrender their own agency to the mainstream forces that exist and govern our world?
The echo chamber here could be construed as a modern day Faraday cage – an enclosure that covers conductive material, which prevents transmitting signals. Except here, artists are given the agency to tell stories that echo in a different way, thus creating new surfaces for a multiplicity of chambers revealing differing means of connecting, surviving and sustaining a collective humanity.
Curators Zoe Butt, Omar Kholeif and Claire Tancons, who have collaboratively conceived the SB14 theme, will present three distinct exhibitions bringing together a range of experiences and works—including major commissions, large-scale public installations, performances and film—to create a series of provocations about how one might re-negotiate the shape, form, and function of the ‘echo chamber’ of contemporary life, towards a multiplying of the echoes within.
Journey Beyond the Arrow, curated by Zoe Butt
Journey Beyond the Arrow aspires to provide deeper context to the movement of humanity and the tools that have enabled or hindered its survival. From spiritual ritual to cultural custom, technological process to political rule of law, all such practices possess particular objects and actions that aid or abet mobility. In this exhibition, artists reveal the generational impact of a range of physical and psychological ‘tools’, and how the representations and meanings of these tools have shifted as a consequence of colonial exploit, social and religious conflict or ideological extremism. Journey Beyond the Arrow seeks to illuminate the necessity of exchange and diversity across the globe and throughout human history. The exhibition will feature new commissions by Khadim Ali, Kawayan de Guia, Carlos Garaicoa, Meiro Koizumi, Jompet Kuswidananto, Neo Muyanga, Tuấn Andrew Nguyễn, Phan Thảo Nguyên, Ho Tzu Nyen, Lisa Reihana, Ampannee Satoh, Thamotharampillai Shanaathanan, Kidlat Tahimik, and Qiu Zhijie, as well as works by Antariksa, Shiraz Bayjoo, Adriana Bustos, Rohini Devasher, GUDSKUL, Léuli Eshrāghi, Anawana Haloba, Roslisham Ismail (Ise), Nalini Malani, Lee Mingwei, Ahmad Fuad Osman, Mark Salvatus, Xu Zhen, Lantian Xie and 31st Century Museum of Contemporary Spirit.
Making New Time, curated by Omar Kholeif
Responding to the overall theme of Leaving the Echo Chamber, Making New Time is a provocation on how material culture can be reimagined through the lens of a group of artists whose political agency, whose activism, and whose astute observations encourage us to extend beyond the limits of belief. The exhibition considers how economies have formed around technological culture, how narrative is created and deconstructed, and how these forces enable a reconstitution, or indeed a restitution of a history lost, or even unknown. Drifting in and out of hegemonies and entrenched structures of power; here, the sensorial and the bodily intertwine, becoming archaeological sediments in the landscape of Sharjah, imploring the viewer to consider their complicity in a world that is forever fleeting from our hands. The exhibition will feature new commissions by Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Cory Arcangel, Marwa Arsanios, Alessandro Balteo-Yazbeck, Candice Breitz, Ian Cheng, Shezad Dawood, Stan Douglas, Alfredo Jaar, Ann Veronica Janssens, Otobong Nkanga with Emeka Ogboh , Bruno Pacheco, Heather Phillipson, Jon Rafman, Pamela Rosenkranz, Hrair Sarkissian, Kemang Wa Lehulere, Munem Wasif and Akram Zaatari, as well as works by Semiha Berksoy, Huguette Caland, Lubaina Himid, Barbara Kasten, Astrid Klein, Marwan, Michael Rakowitz and Anwar Jelal Shemza.
Look for Me All Around You, curated by Claire Tancons
Look for Me All Around You is an open platform of migrant images and fugitive forms concerned with the alternatively dispossessive and repossessive disposition of diasporisation as an aporetic phenomenon of the contemporary. Conceived as a contrapuntal proposal to the realm of the retinal embedded within hegemonic structures of looking, learning, and feeling, Look for Me All Around You is an address to the redistribution of the sensible and a call for the repossession of perception. In Look for Me All Around You, what is being ‘looked for’ is not what is being ‘looked at’—if only it could be seen. Composed of multiple scores drawn from the many scales of Sharjah as city, emirate, and peninsular territory, Look for Me All Around You straddles the lines of the cosmo-ecological, the techno-sensorial and the museo-imaginal in response to human and material displacement and digitalization to stand witness to the imperilment of the contemporary in the atomised space between ‘me’ and ‘you.’ This platform will be primarily comprised of new commissions, with more artists to be announced later. Featured artists include Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla, Caline Aoun, Leo Asemota, Aline Baiana, Hannah Black, Mohamed Bourouissa, Jace Clayton, Christopher Cozier, Annie Dorsen, Torkwase Dyson, Alaa Edris, Alia Farid, Peter Friedl, Meschac Gaba, Nikolaus Gansterer, Eisa Jocson, Isabel Lewis, Laura Lima, Ulrik López, Carlos Martiel, Suchitra Mattai, Mohau Modisakeng, New Orleans Airlift, Tracey Rose, Wael Shawky, Caecilia Tripp and Wu Tsang.
Zoe Butt, Omar Kholeif and Claire Tancons will also spearhead three distinct programmatic approaches for SAF’s March Meeting, an annual convening of local and international artists, curators, scholars and other arts practitioners who explore topical issues in contemporary art through a programme of talks and performances. March Meeting 2019 will coincide with the opening of SB14.