|HH, Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, ruler of Sharjah; Sheikha, Hoor Al Qassimi, Director of SAF; with awardees Bouchra Khalili, Doris Salcedo and Hajra Waheed as well as others during the award ceremony in Sharjah, UAE.
SHARJAH Art Foundation (SAF) announced the winners of the Sharjah Biennial Prize at the opening gala for the Biennial’s 15th edition and 30-year anniversary on the evening of Tuesday 7 February 2023.
Bouchra Khalili received the Prize for The Circle (2023), Doris Salcedo received the Prize for Uprooted (2023) and Hajra Waheed received the Prize for Hum II (2023). Lee Kai Chung, Gabriela Golder, Amar Kanwar, Tania El Khoury, Ibrahim Mahama, Joiri Minaya and Varunika Saraf received Honourable Mentions. The winners were selected by a distinguished jury comprised of Solange Farkas (Curator and Director of Videobrasil Cultural Association), Salwa Mikdadi, (Professor of Art History and Director of the Arab Center for the Study of Art, NYU Abu Dhabi) and Elvira Dyangani Ose (Director of Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona).
Conceived by the late Okwui Enwezor and curated by the Foundation’s Director Hoor Al Qasimi, Sharjah Biennial 15: Thinking Historically in the Present reflects on Enwezor’s visionary work and his proposition of the ‘postcolonial constellation’ with a sweeping presentation of more than 300 artworks that critically centre the past within contemporary times. The Prize’s jurors selected the winners from the more than 150 artists presenting installations, performances, film and other works across media—including 70 new works—at more than 19 venues across the emirate of Sharjah. The Biennial will be on view through 11 June 2023, with this year’s edition of the Foundation’s March Meeting taking place 9 March through 12 March 2023.
Sharjah Biennial Prize Awardees – Work Descriptions:
Bouchra Khalili – The Circle (2023)
The Circle (2023) is a mixed media installation investigating the legacy of the Movement of Arab Workers (MTA) and its theatre groups, Al Assifa and Al Halaka (the circle in Arabic) active in the South of France between 1973 and 1978. MTA’s members, comprising undocumented North African workers and French students in solidarity with their cause, raised awareness of the working conditions of immigrants and pioneered anti-racist struggles in France through publications, performances and sound recordings. Moving between activism, theatrical practices, film and new media archeology, The Circle unfolds the multi-layered events that led Djellali Kamal, a pseudonym for an anonymous member of Al Assifa to run as a candidate in the presidential election of 1974 in France who called upon undocumented workers excluded from the right to vote. At a time when immigrant communities were subdued into political neutrality or they risked deportation, Kamal’s candidacy was conceived as a public performance dramatising the denial of civic rights to migrants and projecting a sense of self-agency. Interweaving storytelling and first-person accounts, mixing reenactments and testimonies, Khalili rekindles the forgotten legacy for equal rights by migrant communities in the Global North.
The Circle is co-commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation, MACBA, Barcelona, and Luma Foundation, Zurich.
Doris Salcedo – Uprooted (2023)
Uprooted (2020–2022) is a large-scale mixed media installation drawing on the artist’s long-term research on the forms of violence experienced by migrants, displaced persons and refugees. The work consists of 804 dead trees that are sculpted and assembled to depict a house. Structurally uninhabitable, the work symbolises the refugee’s predicament—a seemingly permanent state of impermanence. Referencing the political theorist Achille Mbembe’s writings on the growing and extreme inequalities that impose constant migration as a necessary condition for survival, Salcedo’s work materialises this radical exteriority. The structure also points to the increasingly xenophobic attitudes that view the world’s surging refugee communities as merely surplus populations in a world of shrinking resources. Attributing the cause of this forced movement of people most fundamentally to the capitalist destruction of the environment, Salcedo manipulates organic material into monumental sardonic artefact. Uprooted is thus a site of extreme contradiction—at once immoveable and rootless, violent and passive.
Uprooted is commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation, with the generous support of Glenstone Museum, Potomac, Maryland.
Hajra Waheed – Hum II (2023)
Hum II (2023) explores humming and other vocal practices as a means to consider radical forms of collective and sonic agency. Legible yet insidious, irrefutable and infectious, these forms hold emancipatory potential to challenge border constructions and for a moment, transform ethnic, religious, linguistic and national affiliations into larger calls for solidarity. Housed within a uniquely built conical sound chamber and composed entirely of voice, this multichannel sound installation specifically reflects on women’s leadership in struggles of oppression and how their participation is rarely made visible, let alone amplified or centred. Consisting entirely of voice, the composition features seven songs central to popular uprisings, mass social movements and anti-colonial struggles across the Americas, Africa and Asia where women have been at the forefront. Despite being either suppressed or banned, these songs and musical forms continue to be sung widely, preserved and passed down by women to a new generation of youth.
Hum II is commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation and supported by the Canada Council for the Arts, Ottawa
The projects that received Honourable Mentions include: Lee Kai Chung’s I Can’t Recall How I Got Here (2019), The Memorial (2019), The Retrieval, Restoration and Predicament (2018) and Made in Occupied Japan (2018); Gabriela Golder’s ARRANCAR LOS OJAOS [tear out the eyes] (2023), coproduced by Han Nefkens Foundation, Barcelona, Cartas/Letters (2018) and Conversation Piece (2012); Anwar Kanwar’s The Peacock’s Graveyard (2023); Tania El Khoury’s Cultural Exchange Rate (2019) and The Search for Power (2018); Ibrahim Mahama’s A Tale of Time/Purple Republic (2023) and Parliament of Ghosts (2023); Joiri Minaya’s Spandex Installations (2022–2023), Redecode II: La Dorada (2018), Labadee (2017) and Redecode: a tropical theme is a great way to create a fresh, peaceful, relaxing atmosphere (2015); and Varunika Saraf’s We, the People (2018-2022).
About Sharjah Biennial 15: Thinking Historically in the Present
Sharjah Art Foundation brings together over 150 artists and collectives from more than 70 countries for the 15th edition and 30-year anniversary of the Sharjah Biennial. Conceived by the late Okwui Enwezor and curated by the Foundation’s Director Hoor Al Qasimi, Sharjah Biennial 15: Thinking Historically in the Present reflects on Enwezor’s visionary work, which transformed contemporary art and has influenced the evolution of institutions and biennials around the world, including the Sharjah Biennial.
Al Qasimi interprets and elaborates on Enwezor’s proposal with a presentation of more than 300 artworks—including 70 new works—critically centering the past within contemporary times. These works, as well as a wide-ranging programme of performance, music and film, activate more than 19 venues in five cities and towns across the emirate of Sharjah: Al Dhaid, Hamriyah, Kalba, Khorfakkan and Sharjah. Among the many venues are sites within Sharjah’s historical quarter; buildings recently restored and transformed by the Foundation including The Flying Saucer and Kalba Ice Factory; and repurposed structures that once served as a vegetable market, medical clinic and kindergarten. Free and open to the public, Sharjah Biennial 15 runs from 7 February through 11 June 2023.