Brilliant works of experimentation light up March Project 2017 in Sharjah

Sunday 15/10/2017
Pushing boundaries. Visitors look at sculptures titled “Slightly Related Elements” by Al Anood al-Obaidly. (Sharjah Art Foundation)

Sharjah - The fourth March Project, an annual educational residency programme at the Sharjah Art Founda­tion (SAF), resulted in brilliant experimentation works by Arab artists in video, photography, sculpture and installations.
The March Project 2017 hosted UAE artists Al Anood al-Obaidly and Nasir Nasrallah, Algeria’s Sofi­ane Zouggar and Mahmoud Safadi from Lebanon.
“One of the goals of this educa­tional residency programme is to encourage opportunities, conversa­tions and collaborations between artists working in the UAE and the region,” said Reem Shadid, SAF’s deputy director and the project’s curator.
“The final selection reflects a group of artists who are trying to expand and explore various themes, forms or aesthetics, there­by pushing their practice into new directions. On the whole, the pro­cess from selection to exhibition takes around ten months.”
The artists were provided with the opportunity to research, real­ise and present site-specific works, backed by professional develop­ment courses, seminars, exhibi­tions and site visits. This year the mentors who worked with the art­ists included internationally re­nowned curators Clelia Cousson­net, Lara Khaldi and Sophie Arni.
“The artists were able to push the boundaries of their work in terms of scale and complexity and the public responded positively to the show,” Shadid said.
Issues regarding production and consumption, the links between people and concepts of develop­ment and the artistic search for ex­perimentation with form were the overarching themes that brought the works together. Sharjah’s past and contemporary history and its growth are also reflected in the works.
Obaidly is known for collages derived from everyday objects. In her installation “Slightly Related Elements,” the colourful and quirky forms and shapes that emerge from consumer materials, includ­ing paper, metal, sponges, plastic, plaster, paint, wood, fabric, rope, tape and cardboard, create a ten­sion between familiarity, unfamili­arity, playfulness and conceptual distance.
Nasrallah, a widely exhibited art­ist whose work has been shown at Sharjah Biennial 11 (2013) and Cairo Biennial (2006), conceptualised an installation titled “The Communi­cation Room.” In the four works of the presentation, he explores the phenomenon of randomness, the connections between time and dis­tance and the subjective experienc­es of each individual as he or she forges societal connections.
“Mailing System Rearrange­ment,” comprising 225 envelopes with sketches on the front, was mailed and rearranged into a mu­ral in the order that the envelopes were received, the artist submitting himself to a system not in his con­trol.
“Never to be Opened” are two framed and sealed envelopes, one to be opened in the past and the other in the future.
“Everyone is the Author Here” is a participatory work in which visi­tors contribute to the authorship of an ongoing story. Arabic and Eng­lish typewriters with paper loaded in them are provided.
“06-5447575” is a red phone locked in a wooden box. The num­ber has been widely shared over social media and other communi­cation channels to the public. Visi­tors to the exhibition space may get random phone calls from others with whom they are free to carry on a conversation.
Safadi, a Beirut-based multidisci­plinary artist and film-maker, fash­ioned “An Ecology” that includes “Where do I end and you begin?”, “Living byproduct” and “Of Flesh and Earth.”
In the two-channel video instal­lation “Where do I end and you be­gin?”, earth is suspended through a scaffold where various grasses and plants grow to the light of two video panels depicting the unfold­ing activity across the two coasts of Sharjah.
“Living byproduct” brings to viewers’ attention the existence of foliage that sprouts out of the edges of tiled floors, sustaining itself on the water condensation that is a byproduct of air conditioners in our cities.
The clay sculpture series titled “Of Flesh and Earth” depict human limbs frozen in action while ma­nipulating earth and making green spaces flourish in cities.
Zouggar’s multimedia installa­tion “Temporary flesh walls, sto­ries, permanent posters and one portrait” is about Izhar, the Pa­kistani keeper of the abandoned Khorfakkan Cinema in Sharjah. The viewer is drawn into an intense meditation on the dereliction of a theatre hall and the connection be­tween man and place.
The work seems like an extension of last year’s March Project installa­tion by Emirati photographer Am­mar al-Attar, whose documentation of Khorfakkan Cinema took viewers deep into the subject of the chang­ing dimensions of urban entertain­ment and the need to document these institutions that are fading from memory.
SAF said it will be refurbishing and refashioning the abandoned cinema into its network of art spac­es in the emirate.
The exhibition is on view at SAF’s heritage houses in Al Murei­jah Square, Calligraphy Square and Arts Square through December 30.