notes from a meeting, on homing in on conclusions…

March Meeting Sharjah 2012 Every which way… Photo G Mannes-Abbott

CLICK on image to link to SAF or read on below…

As I home in on conclusive thoughts, the first must be an acknowledgement of the fifth March Meeting as such. It brought together over 80 speakers plus audience to talk, listen, and exchange over 3 long and short days -as well as film screenings, exhibitions and musical performance. Inevitably, it generated brain-burn, the occasional misfiring or abbreviated note, and the expressed desire for either longer sessions at times or a pause button to reflect at others.

However, the intensity was generative of wide ranging conversations, links and relinks, discovery and trust, committedness and complexities. It’s a risky venture, with all sorts of intellectual and creative risks talked of and engaged, by practitioners with experience of or aspirations for just such frontier activity. The scent of new and different futures is in the air as is impatience to get there ASAP…

One difficulty presents itself, which is how to ‘map’ this -moment? -location? Where and when is it going? It’s interesting to me that so early in its ‘life’ Sharjah [SAF & SB] is thinking about next stages; building new studios and accomodation but also expanding from commissions and residencies [both of which remain essential construction blocks of a nascent visual art culture] towards the quieter realms of consolidation in publishing, etc. Perhaps here is the location and time of that absent ‘mapping’?

As a writer, I’m bound to say that of course, but I’m not alone [as underscored by the last SBX’s productions, though there is appetite for more]. Two word-based projects come to mind and work to address some other important issues. One was announced at last year’s March Meeting by Omar Berrada from Dar al-Mamun, Marrakech, where he’s hoping to build a library of art and cultural theory and writing newly translated into Arabic. This is only a[nother] transitional step of course, in that it involves translation from English and French, but an empowering one.

A second project which progresses that is the Arabic Art Glossary [a Global Art Forum project] in which new terms -not translations!- with proper localities will be coined. Both projects are markers of transition at a time when, as I say, I sympathise with a recent history of urgency, a desire to pass to the act, to and through end times. With so much change in the air, can we not lock some of it off, move on? These are examples of material facts with generative potential that is literally inconceivable…

This March Meeting, only the fifth and my second, clarified for me the ways in which the scale of generosity in the hosts is matched by scales of committed seriousness and longer-term ambition. As pleasurable as the first was -and don’t let me underplay it!- it is the latter that is most seductive. Perhaps you do need to be present to understand and trust the ways this manifests and infects others. Perhaps that will be not only captured but articulated in some form of publication?

There was a lot of curatorial talk about recognising what is elemental to failures, attempts unfulfilled, and the unbuilt -all of which should be at the root of every act of making. Beyond that are old and coming categories of audience and residency which rehearse the most elemental and ethical questions, answers to which will only be manifest in a new global settlement. Who is the work for, exactly, and who has made it, exactly? When is the work from and when is it complete? Where, perhaps also when, do we reside? I suggest that these things are being made up and settled in times and places like Sharjah [of course] year by year, as we live and breath; fast and slow.

With that in mind I humbly throw forth a thought to engage this appetite for speed, concretion, and acts over rehearsal and reiteration. Many of the highs of the week were moments, which I tried to mark consciously, in one open-to-sky Bait or other; lunches of very fine food and applied conversation, drinking chai one evening and watching 1395 Days Without Red another in Bait al Shamsi, the extraordinary production of Revisiting Tarab too…

At such moments I wondered what would happen if everyone remained in place for one more day and -in a spirit of urgent levity- started and/or completed an action -like sketching out an art lexicon in Arabic, for example. Many a charter or manifesto or, better still, potential cusp has been materialised with less human resource, reason or inspiration…

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