Sharjah Biennial 13: Tamawuj

A multi-sited biennial taking place between October 2016 – January 2018.
Curator: Christine Tohme

Sharjah Biennial 13: Tamawuj (SB13) took place between October 2016 – January 2018. It included exhibitions, projects and education programmes in five locations, expanding the structure of the previous Sharjah Biennials across space and time. Curated by Christine Tohme, it featured over fifty international artists. The five parts of SB13 were an online depository of research material, four projects curated by four Interlocutors outside of the UAE, a year-long education programme in Sharjah, a year-long online publishing platform and a public programme in two parts: Act I, the biennial exhibition and programme in Sharjah from March to June 2017, and Act II, the culmination of SB13 taking place in Beirut in October 2017.

Tamawuj, a noun in Arabic which is defined as a rising and falling in waves, but also a flowing, swelling, surging, fluctuation or a wavy undulating appearance outline or form, was reflective of SB13’s aims to cultivate collaborations, infrastructures and strategies within Sharjah and the project localities. The Biennial posed questions around, and proposed answers to the conditions for the possibility of an art world. Vital interventions were included with the intention of stretching the idea of the biennial in order to traverse rooted contexts, harness the agility and fragility of informal networks.

Act II
The culinary off-site project Upon a Shifting Plate (14–15 October 2017) was followed by SB13 Act II, the concluding exhibitions and performance programme of the Biennial. On 14 October, Act II launched two exhibitions in Beirut, conceived by guest curators Reem Fadda and Hicham Khalidi and presented at the Sursock Museum and Beirut Art Center respectively.

Act II was co-organised by Sharjah Art Foundation and the Lebanese Association for Plastic Arts, Ashkal Alwan, a non-profit organisation based in Beirut. Since 1993, the association has been committed to the production, facilitation and circulation of creative and theoretical endeavours across a range of disciplines and media. The Act II Programme can be accessed here.

Sharjah Biennial 13 began with the launch of the SB13 School on 15 October 2016. The free year-long intensive education programme was designed to help local infrastructures in the western, central and eastern regions of the Emirate of Sharjah and empower their various communities. An old farm in the central region of Sharjah was the headquarters of the school. The dense digital research platform Chip-ship also launched on 15 October, allowing fifteen artists to access research material inspiring new commissions for SB13’s Act I in Sharjah.

Four Interlocutors were invited by Tohme to engage in an extended conversation with Sharjah, from specific sites within the broader region. Artist Kader Attia in Dakar, Senegal; curator Lara Khaldi in Ramallah, Palestine; Zeynep Oz in Istanbul, Turkey; and the Lebanese Association for Plastic Arts, Ashkal Alwan in Beirut, Lebanon.

These four Interlocutors worked closely with researchers in the four cities, paired with counterparts in Sharjah. Together they populated Chip-ship, a centralised digital storage space, housing various media, images, and texts, addressing the four keywords water, earth, crops and culinary. Each keyword corresponded to a locality, which hosted one of four consecutive programmes envisioned by the Interlocutors in Dakar (January 8, 2017) around the theme of water; Istanbul (May 13, 2017) around the theme of crops; Ramallah (August 10, 2017) around the theme of earth; and Beirut (October 15, 2017) around the theme of culinary. A year-long online publishing platform hosted articles, media and essays responding to the four keywords.

Sharjah Biennial 13: Tamawuj Act 1 in Sharjah