Sharjah Biennial’s off-site project focuses on Palestine
Sharjah - Sharjah Biennial 13 (SB13), curated by Christine Tohme, is to release its third instalment, an offsite project in the West Bank city of Ramallah titled “Shifting Ground.”
SB13’s overarching theme “Tamawuj” — meaning “wavy,” “fluctuating” or “undulating” — and its conceptual framework based on “Water,” “Crops,” “Earth” and “Culinary” form the foundations of social interaction and exchange.
Using Sharjah as a starting point, Tohme reached out to the Middle East to foster cooperation and bring the event to Dakar, Istanbul, Ramallah and Beirut. The Ramallah project is scheduled for August 10- 14 and relates to projects focusing on the word “Earth.”
Major themes highlighted by SB13 in Sharjah, such as the meaning of nature, decay, power structures, oppression and violence, will be more focused as the project unfolds in Ramallah.
Lara Khalidi, a curator in Jerusalem, is the interlocutor for “Shifting Ground” in Ramallah and is tasked with researching and facilitating dialogue on “Earth.” She is a kindred spirit to Tohme, having curated exhibitions around the world, including in the Palestinian territories, and organised seminars and conferences in the region.
She teaches art history and theory at the International Academy of Art Palestine and has taught at Dar Al-Kalima University College of Arts and Culture in Bethlehem.
The programme Khalidi organised includes newly commissioned publications, a symposium and performances. The symposium is to provide an opportunity for presenters to interact with the audience and offers different styles of presentations, such as artist performances and academic papers.
The artists’ publications are to highlight research on issues related to “Earth” and experiment with the book as an art form.
A structure by AAU Anastas has been designed to respond to the theme of “Earth.”
The Palestinian territories were highlighted at the opening of SB13, with architect Khalil Rabah exploring the relationship between art and institutions in “Palestine after Palestine: New Sites for the Palestinian Museum of Natural History and Humankind Departments.” Rabah draws attention to the occupation of his homeland and to the resilience of sites and symbols that exist despite their contested state of being.
Noor Abuarafeh’s novel, “‘The Earth Doesn’t Tell Its Secrets’ — His father once said” (2017), which focuses on museums in the Palestinian territories, debuted at Sharjah. Its Arabic translation is to be released in Ramallah.
Sharjah Art Foundation’s news release highlighted some of the other events and participants.
Samir Harb and Mimi Cabell’s publication investigates the history of the infrastructure of authority, tracing the literal and symbolic history of the Tegart forts through multiple systems of design, the release said. Buried stories are also showcased, with the work of artist Inas Halabi looking at invisible, buried chemical waste and radiation in the southern West Bank.
Work from the Ma’touq collective attempts to rewrite and reinsert Palestinian insurgents from the 1920s into present narratives. “Subversive Film” (by Reem Shilleh and Mohannad Ya’qubi) addresses a syllabus for filming during the Palestinian revolution from the archive of filmmaker and co-founder of Fatah’s Palestine Film Unit, Hani Jawhariyyeh, the release stated.
Yara Saqfalhait considers emerging sinkholes around the Dead Sea in relation to a history of unrealised infrastructure projects in the area to investigate the relationship between systems of prediction and the reality they help materialise and Benji Boyadjian presents material on the history of the ancient aqueduct network in Jerusalem and the complexities that occurred once the network became clogged.
Many of the publications were created during workshops in which participants collaborated with the artists.
The symposium “Shifting Ground,” curated by Khalidi in collaboration with Rana Anani and Yara Saqfalhait, is scheduled for five days. Scholars Keller Easterling, Suhad Daher Nashif, Abdul Rahim Al-Shaikh, Sophia Stamatopoulou-Robbins, Chiara De Cesari and Doreen Mende as well as artists working on the publications are to discuss the themes of burial grounds in Palestine, the earth as a medium and various museum models that reflect the colonial context, the foundation release said.
The symposium is to bring together local and international artists such as Jumana Emil Abboud, Filipa César, Noor Abu Arafeh, Khaled Hourani, Khalil Rabah and Nasser Soumi and will present performances, non-academic lectures and lecture performances.
Christine Khoury, Rasha Salti, Lawrence Abu Hamdan and Rabih Mroué are expected to participate remotely, as they cannot enter the occupied Palestinian territories. Palestinian poet Asma’a Azaizeh, who was trained by Mroué in Berlin, is to give three lectures.