Brilliant works of experimentation light up March Project 2017 in Sharjah
SAF’s March Project is an annual residency programme that lasts about ten months from selection to exhibition.
Pushing boundaries. Visitors look at sculptures titled “Slightly Related Elements” by Al Anood al-Obaidly. (Sharjah Art Foundation)
2017/10/15 Issue: 127 Page: 22
The Arab Weekly
N.P. Krishna Kumar
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.