Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

One of life's great paradoxes explored in new art show

In Spite of It All is a new exhibition being shown in Sharjah that explores the relationship between the struggle to acheive perfect harmony and the brutality born of this desperate goal.

"We are living in a world where the glut of radical violence is often performed in the name of judiciousness, enlightenment and utopia," writes Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, the president of the Sharjah Art Foundation, in her statement on In Spite of It All, the new exhibition she's curated at the Collections Building in the Heart of Sharjah.

This paradoxical relationship between idealistic vision and the often ruthless way that it's put into practice is explored in works by 14 artists, largely through video works. In Spite of It All also offers a look back over some key pieces that have featured in the Sharjah Biennial from 2003 to 2011, ahead of the event's return in March.

Sharif Waked's video work, To Be Continued…, plays on a very potent and contemporary symbol of violent resistance: the suicide bomber's last testimony. Seated before a green banner emblazoned with Kalashnikovs and wearing a waistcoat ominously lined with pockets, a man recites from a book and stares with finality at the viewer.

But he isn't declaring a call-to-arms, religious edict or triumphant oath of martyrdom: it's actually passages from the one of the world's greatest myths, the One Thousand and One Nights. The discord between terrorist and fantasy tale may be absurd, but the piece may well have a darker vein reflecting on how tropes of broadcast media carry their own mythmaking power today.

In another work, we see a landfill not too far from the Chinese artist Liu Wei's rural studio. It blooms daily with refuse from homes in Beijing, and the farmers who once worked the local land are now earning a wage by rummaging through this heap in search of items of value.

Wei's Hopeless Lands captures this bewitchingly bleak scene on film. It is a visual echo of how Mao's agrarian revolution has been stampeded by the dreams of the city, but also a terrifyingly epic vision in itself, as hard-working people clamber over a tide of cast-offs deluging out of a huge lorry. "Wei's disturbing work," Al Qasimi explains, "asks what will become of the future if the path towards it is lined with excess."

Jean-Luc Moulène's Le Vigie is a photographic biography of a plant that has sprouted in the soil beneath France's Ministry of Economy, Industry and Employment, while Maha Maamoun has spliced together films that feature scenes of Cairo's pyramids in the background. Spanning the 1950s to the 2000s, the resulting work is a record of how these ancient monuments have served as the backdrop to radical changes in perceptions of the city during its recent history.

There's some spark of tension in the works that feature in this show, as opposing ideas jostle for preeminence. We see the past tussle with the future, reality with fiction and, as an underpinning inquiry among several of the artists included, high-minded vision with less salubrious action.

• Until January 3, Collections Building, Heart of Sharjah.

Follow Arts & Life on Twitter to keep up with all the latest news and events @LifeNationalUAE

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Hajer Almosleh, the winner of the last year's short story competition, at her home in Dubai. Duncan Chard for the National

Get involved with The National’s short-story competition

Writers have two weeks to craft a winning submission, under the title and theme "The Turning Point".

 It is believed that the desert-like planet of Tatooine is being recreated for Star Wars: Episode VII. Could that be where filming in the UAE comes in? Courtesy Lucasfilms

Could the force be with us? The search for Star Wars truth

On the hunt for the Star Wars: Episode VII set, which a growing number of people are sure is in Abu Dhabi, but no one can seem to find.

 With an estimated 18,000 comic and film fans having already paid a visit to this weekend’s Middle East Film and Comic Con, organisers are hopeful they will have surpassed last year total, of 21,000, by its close. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

In pictures: Middle East Film and Comic Con in Dubai

Dubai's World Trade Center was awash with people visiting this weekend’s Middle East Film and Comic Con. Here's some of our best pictures.

 Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, presents Quincy Jones with the Abu Dhabi Festival Award as the Admaf founder Hoda Al Khamis-Kanoo applauds. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Festival.

A candid talk with Quincy Jones about the UAE, Lil Wayne and the Abu Dhabi Festival award

The Abu Dhabi Festival honoree Quincy Jones discusses his legendary career as a music producer, the return of Dubai Music Week and why he can’t handle the rapper Lil Wayne.

 Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince George of Cambridge arrive at Wellington Military Terminal on an RNZAF 757 from Sydney on April 7, 2014 in Wellington, New Zealand. Chris Jackson / Getty Images

In pictures: Will and Kate visit Australia and New Zealand

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince George of Cambridge are on a tour Down Under for three weeks.

 A protester gives a victory sign during clashes near Tahrir Square in Cairo in November 2011. Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

Street life: humanity’s future depends on ability to negotiate and sustain public space

Negotiating our ever more crowded cities and maintaining vibrant public spaces are among the major challenges facing humanity in the coming decades.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National