John Akomfrah at Sharjah Biennial 15, Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah, UAE
30 January 2023
Conceived by the late Okwui Enwezor and curated by Hoor Al Qasimi, Director of Sharjah Art Foundation, 'Sharjah Biennial 15: Thinking Historically in the Present' (SB15) reflects on Enwezor’s visionary work, which transformed contemporary art and established an ambitious intellectual project that has influenced the evolution of institutions and biennials around the world.
Hoor Al Qasimi interprets and re-envisions the titular proposal by the late thinker to critically centre the past within the contemporary moment. Al Qasimi develops the concept of ‘thinking historically in the present’ by adopting a working methodology that privileges the role of intuition and incidence.
SB15 will thus position Sharjah’s own lived past within the transcultural universe of thought furthered by over 300 works by over 150 artists and collectives, which will be installed in 5 cities and towns across the emirate. Participating artists have been consciously evolving practices that critique monolithic understandings of nationhood, tradition, race, gender, body and imagination, which inform the Biennial’s intersectional thematic. The 30th anniversary edition serves as a vantage point for the Biennial to reflect upon its cultural heritage and historical influence, the artistic possibilities it has enabled, and its role in linking Sharjah to transnational intellectual and artistic discourses.
John Akomfrah premieres two film works: Arcadia (2023), a multi-screen installation on settler colonialism, extractive capitalism and the planetary implications of microbial extermination, and Becoming Wind (2023), for which Akomfrah mulls over the notion of Eden –a paradise that we once had, and a time when the planet had bountiful species.
SB15 is on view from 7 February to 11 June 2023.
Find further information via Sharjah Art Foundation.
Image: John Akomfrah, Arcadia, 2023 (film still, detail), 5 channel HD colour video installation with 15.1 surround sound © Smoking Dogs Films