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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 October 2018

Sharjah March Meeting this weekend

Sharjah March Meeting, which examines issues in comtemporary culture, artistic production and research and education, begins this weekend.
Stone Slippers by Abdullah Al Saadi. Courtesy of the artist
Stone Slippers by Abdullah Al Saadi. Courtesy of the artist

Take a look at Sharjah’s schedule over the past few weeks and you can see why they call it Art Month.

In February, three top-class exhibitions opened in Sharjah Art Foundation’s new spaces in the heritage area, displaying decades of artistic practice from Abdullah Al Saadi, Ahmed Mater and Eduard Puterbot.

This weekend, three more are set to begin as well as the annual cultural debate platform March Meeting (MM), which acts as a precursor to next year’s Sharjah Biennial.

As the biennial happens every two years, it is the even-numbered years, such as this one, where art lovers can get the first taste of what will be happening at the following year’s biennial, through the March Meeting.

This year Eungie Joo, a Korean-American who was formerly the director of art and cultural programmes at Instituto Inhotim in Brazil and the Keith Haring director and curator of education and public engagement programmes at the New Museum in New York, has been selected as curator for both events.

“Since its inception, the March Meeting has had a great effect on sharing ideas, development of projects and institution-building in Sharjah, across the UAE, and beyond,” says Joo.

“For March Meeting 2014 and Sharjah Biennial 12, we wanted to both recognise and build upon that existing effect while also returning to its initial impulse to foster communication and the development of an artistic community.”

Joo’s proposal for March Meeting is subtitled Come Together. Through four days of panel discussions and conversations, the programme will address issues in contemporary culture, institutional formation, and cultural production, such as how to develop education and research initiatives.Speakers will include artists commissioned for next year’s Biennial, who are in the earliest stages of research for their projects.

“[We will] begin a discussion that will greatly affect the structure, content and ambitions of Sharjah Biennial 12. So for me, MM 2014 constitutes the departure point for the biennial,” she says.

Also speaking during the March Meeting will be Abdullah Al Saadi, an Emirati with a long history of work related to the nature and rural life that surrounds him.

He will be talking on a panel titled Sustained Engagements, which, explains Joo, “speaks to a mutual commitment between the Sharjah Art Foundation and artists over multiple years, not necessarily delimited by biennials or other public events”.

Al Saadi’s solo show, which opened in February and runs until May, is the exact reflection of this. Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi has known the artist personally for years and followed his work.

The exhibition features an installation of objects titled My Mother’s Letters and several paper drawings that map out a long journey the artist took with his donkey, Camar Cande. There will also be an entire courtyard filled with stone slippers, visually conjuring up all the years he has spent walking and producing his art.

The art production programme that Sharjah Art Foundation has with its artists is something that Joo calls “a unique achievement” and something that is “more important than ever”.

How those conversations will play out is something we will see over this coming weekend, but even after that the discussions will continue.

“Over the months between the March Meeting and the installation of the biennial, we will embark upon monthly talks and workshops in Sharjah, both public and private, aimed at engaging with the public, which is a continuation of the Sharjah Art Foundation’s, and my own, shared interest in building infrastructure and supporting the local art community,” Joo says.

But before that begins, the art foundation is also presenting three more shows of international standards. The German-Egyptian artist Susan Hefuna, who is known for her structured drawings including the patterns of mashrabiya, DNA and molecular grids, will be opening a large solo show that will take over all of Sharjah’s Bait Al Serkal.

Sheikha Hoor promises this will be a “different Susan Hefuna exhibition that works with the architecture of the space and includes some work that she has never shown before”.

Wael Shawky, whose audio installation was performed at the opening of the Sharjah Biennial last year, where it won a prize, will show Horsemen Adore Perfumes and Other Stories, an exhibition that includes his new film Al Araba Al Madfuna II (2013).

Lastly, Rasheed Araeen, a British-Pakistani sculptor, will be showing Before and After Minimalism, which includes works showing outside Karachi for the first time.

• March Meeting runs from Thursday to Sunday in Sharjah Art Foundation Art Spaces, Heart of Sharjah. For the full programme, visit www.sharjahart.org

aseaman@thenational.ae