This month Sharjah Art Foundation hosted March Meeting 2016, a conference on the arts of Middle East North Africa which takes place during Art Week Dubai, in its neighbouring Emirate. This not-for-profit conference event is attached to the Sharjah Biennial every two years. During March Meeting an evening programme of performances and performative lectures take place, as well as intense series of sessions of presentations by small projects, individuals and institutions from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. We talk to UAE-based sound artist Chris Weaver who attended March Meeting 2016 about this year’s programme.
Also this week we feature a discussion between French curator Yasmina Reggad and British curator and researcher Louisa Macmillan about a pop-up project during Art Week Dubai, by Syrian-born, UK-based artist Issam Kourbaj. Kourbaj presents a site-specific installation in an empty warehouse in Alserkal Avenue inspired by the Syrian refugee crisis, that raises funds to their cause.
Another Day Lost is an exhibition of installations hand made by Kourbaj, who was born in Syria and studied art in Damascus and St. Petersburg, before settling in the UK. Kourbaj currently teaches at the University of Cambridge, but since the 2011 revolution, Issam has been making work based on the war in Syria, raising awareness and money for projects and aid.
March Meeting 2016 was focused on how institutions, initiatives, curators and artists have increasingly prioritised their relationships with audiences and communities through current thinking around ideas of education, engagement and participation. Rather than presume these terms have prescribed meanings or operate according to rehearsed protocols and practices, MM 2016 emerges from a number of basic questions that attempt to break from routine and examine other points of departure.
How does the capacity for engagement change across different institutional scales, for example, from emergent art spaces to established museums or from itinerant initiatives to biennial exhibitions? How can those involved in the arts think about the ways in which various durations, intensities, rhythms and other measures of time shape the potentials and limits of such work at the levels of artistic, curatorial and institutional practices? How might a shift in terms of engagement from the formation of individual projects and institutions toward a larger sphere of an art scene or ecology introduce new paradigms for practice? And how have institutional and infrastructural needs, regionally and internationally, evolved since the first ever March Meeting in 2008?
Panels explored topics such as institutional priorities in the face of evolution and expansion, as seen through the perspectives of organisations as diverse as Tate, London and Townhouse, Cairo. New models of curatorial practice are considered by a panel of practitioners who work with participatory communities outside of established institutional frameworks. Strategies for embedding education in the work of Biennials is the subject of a panel that will look at examples from Jogja, Kochi, Liverpool, Lubumbashi and Marrakech. Art education is explored both through panels looking at work in the UAE context as well as through a panel that considers what the regional priorities are for the education of artists and other practitioners.
Alongside the panels were ten presentations by speakers from the world over and concluded with presentations by four artists and collectives – Sandi Hilal representing Decolonizing Architecture from Palestine, Oscar Murillo – UK, Farid Rakun from Ruangroupa in Indonesia and Rick Lowe from the USA.
Broadcasts Wednesday March 20th 9-9.30pm GMT (midnight-12.30am GST).
Repeats Friday 3.30pm GMT (7.30pm GST)
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