While the current Sharjah Biennial curated by Christine Tohmé will run through January 2018, the Sharjah Art Foundation has announced that the next edition will be curated by Zoe Butt, Omar Kholeif and Claire Tancons, and titled Leaving the Echo Chamber. Based on a foundation that questions the possibilities for producing art when material culture is under threat from a rapidly changing environment, whether from human-induced destruction, technological advancements or climate change, each curator will oversee separate exhibitions that look to the “echo chambers” of information, personal networks, and ever-changing physical, spiritual and virtual narratives.
Hoor Al Qasimi, president and director of the Sharjah Art Foundation, said in a statement: “Contemporary life is dominated by competing information and fluctuating histories—a reality that raises important questions about the trajectory of contemporary art, as well as the conditions in which it is made. Butt, Kholeif, and Tancons bring incredibly different perspectives to these questions, and together represent the complexity of challenges faced by today’s artists and society as a whole. The aim of the Biennial is to deepen the context of these questions through thought-provoking and often experiential works of art.”
Set to exhibit installations to paintings and more throughout the Sharjah Art Foundation buildings and the courtyards in Sharjah’s arts and heritage, as well as public, spaces, Leaving the Echo Chamber will explore a range of themes including diaspora, migration, time and interpreted histories, which each curator will tackle individually.
Butt, artistic director of the Factory Contemporary Arts Center in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, will curate Journey Beyond the Arrow, which will explore the movement of humanity and the tools that have enabled, or hindered, its survival. “From spiritual ritual to cultural custom; from technological process to political rule of law; all such practices possess particular tools (object and action), which aid or abet mobility,” stated Butt. The selected artists will expose the impact of these physical and psychological tools that have been used for colonial exploit, religious conflict or ideological extremism.
Making New Time, curated by Kholeif, senior curator and director of global initiatives at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, will examine – in three parts – time as a unit of singular and collective experience and the resulting simultaneous states of chaos and possibility. It will look to artists’ interpretations of the physical body and experience of ourselves in relation to others, augmented and virtual reality and its new forms of shared experience, and investigate “the trials, tribulations and traces of history, suggesting how our existence can be changed, altered and re-imagined,” reads Kholeif in his curatorial statement.
Tancons, curator of the Origins Season of the National Sawdust in New York, 2017-18, is due to curate Look for Me All Around You, which challenges structures of looking, learning and feeling, proposing that “if obscurity is the harbinger of futurity, darkness the site of seeing, and blackness the scene of unmasking, ‘looked for’ is not what is being ‘looked at’ – if only it could be seen,’” Tancons writes in her curatorial remit. She aims to take viewers to a point of reflection and deflection of conditions of dispossession, diaspora, clandestinity and fugitivity.