DISCOVER NEW DIMENSIONS OF ART APPRECIATION AT THE 14th SHARJAH BIENNIAL (SB14)
Since its inception, the Sharjah Biennial has expanded the cultural spirit of the UAE community by offering, creating, and staging ground-breaking and thought-provoking art shows, and providing a cohesive program for internationally acclaimed artists from different parts of the region.
Sharjah Biennial celebrates its 14th edition with the theme “Leaving The Echo Chamber” bringing three exclusive retrospectives that delve into the opportunities for forming art whilst history is gradually dramatized, when philosophies of ’society’ are customarily shifted, when boundaries and principles are under unremitting changes, and our material background is under the constant risk of human damage and climate decline.
The event opened on March 7, 2019, and Mr. Mohamed Dekkak, the Chairman of Adgeco Group, an art collector and enthusiast, did not let this one of a kind experience to slip by.
The event will run until June 2019 with exhibitions being held at the Foundation’s Art Spaces, museum, and the neighboring conventional structures and squares of the Arts and Heritage zones.
The main objective of the organization of the Biennial is education and outreach programs that are proposed to engross the various communities of the UAE. A panel of conspicuous personalities in the world of art will award a Biennial Prize on each occasion.
SHARJAH: THE BIRTHPLACE OF THE BIENNIAL SHOW
Sharjah is one of the seven emirates of UAE and it is the third largest emirate according to land area. It is even hailed as a UNESCO cultural capital of the Arab community in 1998.
“Art reflects everyone’s culture and it is bonded in the strand of our identity. In my opinion, the emirate of Sharjah preserves the culture and the heritage that identify the Arab community and that is the reason it was chosen by UNESCO as a cultural capital”, said Mr. Mohamed Dekkak.
The first International Art Biennial happened in Sharjah in 1993 the same year when it was founded. During its early years, the Biennial was organized using a standard setup where the artists are officially chosen to represent each partaking country. Ten years after its foundation, it was reformatted under the directives of its Curator and Artistic Director, H.E. Hoor Al Qasimi, bringing this contemporary art show to another level in the Gulf.
At present, Sharjah Biennial deeply underlines the exhibition of art and engagement with the individual artists themselves as well as the viewers, thereby establishing what has proven to be an enduring theme in the Biennial’s future manifestations.
Mr. Mohamed Dekkak is impressed with the history of the event and how it evolved into a more engaging and interactive art show. “Sharjah is an effective catalyst for discussion and collaboration across the region as well as the people who advocate cultural and art preservation and development in other parts of the world”, said Mr. Dekkak.
SHARJAH ART FOUNDATION: A STIMULUS FOR THE NEW FACE SHARJAH BIENNIAL
Initially created by the Sharjah Department of Culture and Information, in 2009 the Biennial became a principal program of the newly founded Sharjah Art Foundation together with the annual March Assembly, placements, production grants, directives, expositions, gatherings, exploration, and publications.
Sharjah Art Foundation is an advocate, catalyst, and producer of contemporary art within the Emirate of Sharjah and its bordering areas, in discussion with the global arts group.
An increasing assembly mirrors the foundation’s encouragement to the modern-day artists in the fulfillment of innovative works and acknowledgment of the influences provided by revolutionary modern artists locally and internationally.
Sharjah Art Foundation is a lawfully self-governing public organization founded by Emiri Decree and sustained by government support, grants from national and international non-profits and cultural establishments, corporate guarantors, and individual sponsors. All events are free and open to the public.
FILIPINO ALL-FEMALE BAND TAKES THE SPOTLIGHT AT THE SB14
Coming from the Pearl of the Orient and the land of creative people, The Filipino Superwoman Band was commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation during the SB14.
They performed as part of the “Look For Me Around You” program by Claire Tancons at Al Hamdan bin Mousa Courtyard, Al Mureijah Square – Sharjah Art Foundation. Most of the SB14 performances are curated by Tancons and The Filipino Superwoman Band successfully captivated the audiences with their heartfelt songs in conjunction with interpretative dancing.
“When they started singing and moving their bodies, I got goosebumps and my heartbeat started to race. Their performance is very memorable and they are one of the group performers that is unique and promoting women empowerment as they are all female”, said Mr. Dekkak.
The lead singer or performer of the band Eisa Jocson is well known in the Philippines for her dancing skills and she has been traveling around the world to share her skills. She is a true Pinoy Pride representing the Filipino community. She is a contemporary choreographer and dancer having a background in visual arts and ballet.
The show is characterized by mixed media mechanisms and performance. The focus of the band’s repertoire is the ‘Superwoman’ song popularized by Karyn White in 1989. The song is a universal shout out to all the women who are being taken advantage of, being neglected and abused. The song became very famous in the Philippines in the 90s that it was adapted into a Tagalog song entitled ‘Hindi Ako Si Darna’ (I Am Not A Superwoman).
Eisa Jocson together with her two co-Filipino singers, Catherine Go, and Bunny Cadag, presented an emotional performance emulating the intricate works of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and the different situations they usually encounter being a migrant worker. These include the pressure they have to endure being in a foreign land and learning to adjust and adapt to different customs and culture. Their performance gives stress on the welfare of not just the Filipinos but also all the people who are working abroad.
The three singers strong and beautiful vocal inflections give color to the whole performance while their dance gives life and energy to the song helping the viewers to imagine the scenario that the singers are portraying.
The effective sound engineering and production management skills of Teresa Barrozo and Franchesca Casuay have greatly heightened the impact of the song and the performers to the audience.
The lyrics of “I Am Not A Superwoman” song are fixed on the glass windows of the second Gallery in the courtyard so that the viewers can easily understand the words of the song. Microphones are also provided so they can sing along while the band is performing.
“All members of the band are very friendly, I got the opportunity to meet with them after their performance. I am very grateful that I have met The Filipino Superwoman Band and be able to express my encouragement and support regarding their advocacy”, said Mr. Dekkak.
SIGNIFICANCE BEHIND THE THEME “LEAVING THE ECHO CHAMBER”
The theme for the 14th edition of Sharjah Biennial is Leaving The Echo Chamber.
“I think that the theme for the 14th Sharjah Biennial complements the art shows as it inspires us to think out of the box and become more adventurous and free on expressing our own interpretation of the art”, said Mr. Dekkak.
According to the organizer of SB14, the event will drive the viewers to contemplate about how we can form different communities and inspire impartial philosophy in an artistic way. In this regard, the organizer offered an electrifying series of art, movie, and concerts to its latest edition.
The three supervisors named Claire Tancons, Omar Kholeif, and Zoe Butt, created the SB14 theme. They organized three separate exhibitions, which offers a collection of involvements and activities such as major enactments, extensive public exhibitions, presentations and film showing.
These programs intend to bring up runs of incitements to rearrange the ‘echo chamber’ of modern life. According to the creators of the theme, the word ‘echo chamber’ is a metaphor for convoluted news media and their implications promoted by a grid well-ordered and overseen by private sources, public authorities and organizations. It signifies the historical supremacy of a structure that commands the access, assembly and delivery of information particularly in the different mediums of communication such as languages, images, skills, as well as histories and geographies.
“My interpretation of the echo chamber is a barrier that hinders us to express personality, ideas, imaginations, artistry, skills, and knowledge freely. With Sharjah Biennial 14, I noticed that the performers and artists are more empowered to express themselves in their own techniques, therefore forming new dimensions for a diversity of spaces that deliver multi-layered methods of connecting, existing and supporting united humankind”, said Mr. Dekkak.
THE THREE PILLARS OF SB14
Approximately 90 celebrated and up and coming artists from different parts of the world participated in the event.
Zoe Butt, Omar Kholeif and Claire Tancons were delegated to bring astoundingly different standpoints to embody the intricacy of difficulties tackled by the present artists and society as a whole.
Butt, Kholeif, and Tancons organized three different agendas for the March Meeting, depicted as the yearly gathering of local and international artists, supervisors, researchers and other arts specialists who discuss and study relevant subjects regarding modern art through dialogues and exhibitions and to kick-off SB14.
- Journey Beyond the Arrow
Curated by Zoe Butt
Butt’s exhibition presents the artworks of Tuan Andrew Nguyen, Nalini Malani, Khadim Ali, Ho Tzu Nyen, Meiro Koizumi, Kidlat Tahimik, Ahmad Fuad Osman, and Lisa Reihana.
This exhibition utilized the artists’ creativity to uncover the universal effect of a series of physical and psychological ‘instruments’, of how the symbols and connotations of these tools have changed as the outcome of colonial manipulation, social and religious disagreement or socio-political activism. The artists were given the freedom to probe into the chronological perspective of the ‘bow’, where the ‘arrow’ signifies humanity’s echo—the voice of diversity which is observed in language, recollection, idea, ceremonial, and cultural and social habits.
It highlights the need for conversation and multiplicity all over the world and throughout history.
- Making New Time
Curated by Omar Kholeif
Making New Time is characterized by incitement. It features the works of Jon Rafman, Huguette Caland, Barbara Kasten, Akram Zaatari, Lubaina Himid, Otobong Nkanga, and Marwan.
It intends to display how material culture can be demonstrated through the eyes of the artists whose political activity, involvement and shrewd interpretations inspire us to become more open-minded. It shows how economies are created around the technological background, how a narrative is formed and analyzed, and how these dynamisms of transformation facilitate reconstruction or restoration of lost or even unknown history.
- Look for Me All Around You
Curated by Claire Tancons
Look for Me All Around You offers the works of Carlos Martiel, Aline Baiana, Caline Aoun, Eisa Jocson, Nikolaus Gansterer, Wu Tsang, Isabel Lewis, and Ulrik López.
“The Sharjah Biennial is like a light of hope to our current and aspiring artist to promote the significance of art and culture in our daily life and prevent or stop the dwindling attention of our society in preserving art and acknowledging our artists and their contribution”, said Mr. Dekkak.
He added that as the Sharjah Biennial is recognized as a globally distinguished event in the art industry, it will open new opportunities to the emirate of Sharjah because it serves as an effective platform for tourists and encourage the visitors to explore other parts of the northern emirate such as the picturesque landscapes of the Kalba area, to explore the Hamriyah Studios and other places in the longstanding district where the Sharjah Foundation is situated.