Friday 29 March 2013


'Re:emerge, Towards a New Cultural Cartography', Sharjah Biennial 11, facade of the Sharjah Art Museum also known as Sharjah's Fridericianum

Sadane Afif, Herigates, 30 chairs made of palm leaves made by traditional palm leave furniture makers following designer Enzo Mari's 1974 design instructions

Khaled Jarrar, Palestinian Postal Stamp

Ammar Al Attar, photographs of prayer rooms in the Emirates

Mouneer Al Shaarani (born 1952), conceptual araba caligraphy

Yu-ichi Inoue (1916-1985), japanese pictograms

one of the heroes of the Sharjah biennial, Eduardo Terrazas, born in Mexico in 1936, abstract indigenous 'paintings': wool yarn on board covered with wax done by Huicholes an indigenous group of Mexico in the 1970s

Eduardo Terrazas, abstract indigenous works

Eduardo Terrazas, acrylic on painting

Eduardo Terrazas, Possibilities of a Combination

view of the corridor of the Sharjah Art Museum with Eduardo Terrazas work

and hero Eduardo Terrazas

Oases designed by Office/Kersten Geers and David Van Severen

at night it becomes an orange juice stand

Within, music programme commissioned by Tarek Atoui, performance by 10 drummers

Sharjah Biennial sign

Pedro Reyes, outside table games playing area

Pedro Reyes, Melodrama, courting and relationships serpents and ladders game and poster

Cinthia Marcelle, Leitmotiv video of currents of water crashing

Zeinab Alhashemi, domes using local fisherman's techniques

Pablo Lobato's 'Bronze Revirado' dangerous ringing of a bell video

Thilo Frank, Infinite Rock, mirror hall with swing

Luz Maria Bedoya, horizonal filming of the Lineas de Nazca, and wall drawing of a metal stair like the one used by Maria Reiche, the first Nazca Lines researcher in order to view the lines from above

Tiffany Chungs, drawings of maps of different locations, with different historic periods of the place overlayed

Lucia Koch, coloured plexiglass lattice windows

outside of the Sharjah Collections building

Sadane Afif's palm leaves chair

John Akomfrah, The Unfinished Conversation, a three screen, 45 minutes film on cultural theorist Stuart Hall

Lamia Joreige's Beirut an Autopsy of a City, the real and fictional historical destructions of Beirut

Khaled Sabsabi, spiritual and musical gathering of a Sufi order in Australia

the old building of the Sharjah Islamic Bank, now occupied as one of the venues of the biennial

Sarah Abu Abdallah, Saudi automobile painted pink by the Saudi artist, a defiance to Saudi Arabia's prohibition on women drivers

Haroon Mirza

Latifa Echakhch

Simon Fujiwara recreation of the Passion, attempt to recreate a lost photo of his mother

Amina Menia's research into Algerias' Monument of the Death built by the French in 1922 and encased  by the Algerian authorities in 1970 as a protest against colonialism

Magdi Mostafa's washing machines

Lamia Joreige, Objects Missing from the National Museum of Beirut

and the view from the rooftop of the  Sharjah Islamic Bank

Superflex's playground park, my favourite work of the biennial, where they asked people in the area (mainly immigrant workers) what elements would they like to have in the park they were going to build

Superflex's Sharjah Participatory Park

Studio Mumbai's Immediate Shelter, resting courtyard

Sharjah's urban landscape

Ernesto Neto's Oasis: 'While Culture brings us apart, Nature brings us together'

Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Chai Siri, 'Dilbar' film portrait of one of the Bangladeshi builders of the Sharjah Art Foundation

SANAA, Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa's Bubble pavilion

Carlos Amorales, 'We'll see how all reverberates', mobile becomes a musical instrument

The Kuwait Pavilion

drinking fountain in OASE courtyard

Oases by Office/Kersten Geers and David Van Severen, under construction

hero Paulo Herkenhoff giving at talk at the March Meeting

and friendly Arabic coffee maker

a boat trip to go and taste Shimabuku's salted ice cream

Outside the Sharjah Art Foundation

the facade of the newly built Sharjah Art Foundation

Gabriel Lester's Aeolian Harps in the rooftop

and view of Sharjah from the rooftop

musician Tarek Atoui with Berlin Bienal curator, colombian Juan Gaitan

Wael Shawky's 'Dictums 10:120' performance where the biennale's press release is converted into a qawwali song. Comprised of fragments from curatorial statement translated into Urdu, and sung as devotional Sufi music

Shiro Takatani's fog machine in courtyard

Francis Alys, 'Don't cross the bridge before you get to the river' project to connect Africa and Europe through the straight of Gibraltar

Francis Alys' Morocco paintings

Gabriel Orozco's sand pyramid on a table

Wei Liu's exotic lands

Marwan Rechmaoui, copies of maps of Palestinian in Lebanon done by its inhabitants

Shilpa Gupta, A library of 100 books written anonymously or under pseudonyms

Tamar Guimaraes and Kasper Akhøj's 'Situation leading to a Courtyard'

Lucia Koch's filtered patio ceiling

and the second of Studio Mumbai's Immediate Shelter, resting courtyard covered with fisherman net

Studio Mumbai's pavilion at night

Studio Mumbai's pavilion number 2 at night

and Sharjah's use of public space

CAMP's outdoor cinema showing their research film 'From Gulf to Gulf'

Sharjah Biennial's outdoor cinema, with a film programme curated by Apichatpong Weerasethakul 

and Superflex's park activated by people at night

Superflex's park at night!

Re:Emerge, Towards a New Cultural Cartography
Sharjah Biennial 11
Curatorial Statement
Yuko Hasegawa

A Western perspective once dominated the debate about globalisation. However, over the years, the work of scholars like Andre Gunder Frank has challenged this normative approach. In ReOrient, Frank points to the history of transnational relations that thrived across and between the Arab world and Asia from the 8th to the 15th century, when Europe was mired in the Dark Ages. Frank notes that these transnational relationships were not limited to trade, but included a great deal of cultural exchange and shared production. During this period, the central actors were Arabian traders, some of whom eventually settled permanently in China.

The Silk Road, which spanned both ocean and land, not only stimulated economic exchange and development but also vastly reshaped our cultures. Illuminating these shared historical roots in the context of the present allows us to re-orientate ourselves once again, and to reexamine the historically significant geopolitical and cultural role of the Arabian Peninsula.

In the 13th century, the great historian and lawyer Ibn Battuta traveled around the world, beginning from its centre in the Middle East and moving through North Africa, parts of Europe, India, and China. Ibn Battuta's record of his journey reveals that unlike Marco Polo, for example, his perception and interpretation of what he encountered was framed by an immersion in the scholarly traditions of Islamic philosophy and Quranic studies.

Ibn Battuta was welcomed everywhere he went. He exchanged knowledge and wisdom with his hosts. In most cases, the physical venue in which such exchanges took place was an Islamic courtyard. Islamic courtyards incorporated water, greenery and sunlight, creating an analogy with paradise. They were symbolic locations. In practice, although they appeared to be private spaces, they also had a public dimension, as people from outside could be invited in.

I was inspired by the courtyard in Islamic architecture, in particular the historical courtyards of Sharjah, where elements of both public and private life intertwine, where the ‘objective’ political world and the introspective space of subjectivity intersect and overlap. Originally private in nature, they can also function, to varying degrees, as ‘public’ social spaces depending on their size and location. Large courtyards are often more open and can be used for performances and events. Courtyards housing craftsmen's studios and exhibition spaces may function as semi-public areas. Some courtyards are completely private, requiring an invitation for more intimate gatherings. There is richness to courtyards as spaces that have the potential to intensely accumulate the memories of a local culture. The exchanges and encounters they host enable people to produce new knowledge.

I intend to use the courtyard as the central concept for this Biennial in two ways. It will be used both as a practical site and as a metaphorical condition for stimulating cultural negotiations and generating knowledge.

Sharjah hosts a large number of migrants. It is a place where people from diverse cultural backgrounds can meet and share the information and embodied knowledge they have brought with them from home. In doing so, they are collectively participating in ‘placemaking’ within this geographical space that they cohabit.

This emphasis on embodied knowledge and imagery can be partly seen as a criticism of Western normative thought’s focus on language and logic. The long and rich cultural traditions of the Arab world, North Africa, India and Asia manifest themselves through various practices and customs from song and dance, to poetry and music, daily etiquette, architectural patterns, the shapes of spaces and the contours of gardens. The same can be said of South America, where the influence of pre-colonial practices and the vibrant culture of the Amazon can still be detected.

In selecting artists for the Biennial, we sought out individuals who have a deep interest in the culture in which they were raised, and who are creatively engaged in exploring this background. When such artists visit a new location, they perceive and interpret it through the lens of their own unique subjectivity, formed gradually within their culture(s) of origin out of an amalgam of sedimented habits and sensibilities. In doing so, they enter into a dialectical relationship with this new locale, producing, as a result, new knowledge in conversation with it. This process produces hybrid knowledge and intercultural products that could potentially constitute the genetic material for a novel culture.

All people internalise the practices - songs, dances, culinary techniques - that characterise their cultures, preserving them as bodily memories. We are all ‘cultural experts’ in some form or another. Every individual has the capacity to make a contribution to culture by sharing his or her knowledge with a local host encountered in a courtyard.

Being open to the practice of sharing is an essential requirement for successful participation in the conversations and experiences courtyards can potentially play host to. For this reason, the Biennial exhibitions will involve practitioners from a wide variety of genres including, architects, researchers, and performers

It is, in this sense, that the courtyard can be transformed from a place into a ‘condition’ or a catalyst. Is it a test? Is culture - rather than being organically formed - cultivated out of the will, critical faculties and practices of individuals?

The courtyard is also seen as a ‘plane of experience’ and an ‘experiment’ – as an arena for learning and critical thinking of a discursive and embodied kind. It is a generative space with the potential to produce new awareness and knowledge.

Sharjah is now attempting to create new cultural genes in collaboration with the migrants it hosts, as it simultaneously reconstructs the past. Now that the postcolonial debate is coming to an end, this situation can be valuable as preparations are made for the future. We can see here the preliminary contours of a new space for cultural production.

I am inviting a selection of architects and cultural practitioners from Lebanon, India, Belgium, Japan, Spain and elsewhere to create temporary architectural interventions that will help envision new urban structures that connect Sharjah’s historic area and its courtyard typology with the larger city.

Courtyard cultures around the world conceal their great potential. These spaces are concentrated symbols of years of rich cultural accumulation. They originated in great civilisations that morphed into countries stagnated by the transition to ‘modernity’. These countries currently inhabit a moment of enormous potential, energised as they are by the forces of globalisation, by the vibrant cultural exchanges migration has facilitated, and by increased socio-cultural, political and economic hybridisation. I am not referring to monotonous and perfunctory data sharing and consumption, but to the production of new knowledge that can be potentially enabled by the courtyard - a space and a symbol that resists the destruction of culture. Within this space, the international and local encounter one another and negotiate the effects of each passing wave of globalisation.

By using the courtyard as a key concept in mapping out a new cultural cartography, I see the potential for a deeper collaboration between the Arab world and South America.

An examination of H.H. Sultan bin Mohamed Al-Qasimi’s extensive collection of maps, housed within the Centre for Gulf Studies, reveals the way maps change and differ depending on the perspective of the individual who draws them. My concept for the Biennial seeks to emphasise and reinforce the important role that perspective and subjectivity play in the way socio-cultural spaces, geographical landscapes and physical locales are perceived, interpreted and engaged with.

read Kaelen Wilson-Goldie's report of the opening of the 11th Sharjah Biennial here