notes from a meeting, appendix 1. conversation: sejla kameric and i go east [to kalba]

Sejla Kameric 1395 Days Bait al Shamsi Photo G Mannes-Abbott

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Sejla Kameric and I go East [to Kalba] 

March 2012 Sharjah UAE

1395 Days without Red is the Artangel-enabled film which received its regional premier in Sharjah. It comes in two parts; Anri Sala’s was shown indoors one evening, Sejla Kameric’s followed the next evening in an outdoor screening in Bait al Shamsi. Both are based on the experience of the 4-year long siege of Sarajevo [which began April 5 1992] and make different responses to it -while following a woman’s attempt to cross her city on foot. Continue reading “notes from a meeting, appendix 1. conversation: sejla kameric and i go east [to kalba]”

notes from a meeting, on homing in on conclusions…

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

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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… Continue reading “notes from a meeting, on homing in on conclusions…”

notes from a meeting, from hubtastic to actual costs of moving, making, showing… [day 3]

Eungie Joo New Museum Photo G Mannes-Abbott

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A consequence of trying to write about the MM while presenting at it as well as attending panels, films and exhibitions [to say nothing about the barely glimpsed wonders of downtown Sharjah itself!] was that I missed some sessions. It would be invidious to select any that I particularly regret missing, especially as the quality of presenters and presentations was so high this year, so I will resist.

My Meeting day began with an in-conversation between Eungie Joo from the New Museum and William Wells from the Townhouse in which they talked about their Museum as Hub initiative. Continue reading “notes from a meeting, from hubtastic to actual costs of moving, making, showing… [day 3]”

notes from a meeting, artists on the frontier; resident or nomad? [day two pt2]

Sejla Kameric 1395 Days on the Frontier Photo G Mannes-Abbott

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Sama Alshaibi moderated a panel on Artists as Nomads, describing herself as the least “nomadic artist on the panel, relatively speaking,” secure in a US Professorship. Basma Alsharif, a Palestinian who “can’t really base myself in Palestine” settled in Egypt before “moving based on projects”, a process that has now been formalised through International residencies. “So then my life became a residency” with obvious costs and which have rendered her almost homeless at times -all of which she was quick to qualify too.

Ziad Antar fizzed on stage, to the audience’s amusement, relaying a similar tale of struggling to “create a point of view” in the churn; “when you live nowhere” there is a price to pay. Sejla Kameric introduced a note of caution by asking “is it a life we choose or is it by necessity… there’s a fine balance between a need and a choice.” She said she had also moved a lot on what can appear to be a circuit, but increasingly found she needed a strong working base at home in Sarajevo. [I’ll return to the screening of her version of the 1395 Days Without Red film in Bait al Shamsi later in the evening when I post a substantial interview soon; see Appendix 1 Sejla Kameric & I Go East [to Kalba]. Continue reading “notes from a meeting, artists on the frontier; resident or nomad? [day two pt2]”

notes from a meeting, on throwing forth – artists and audiences [day two pt1]

Murtaza Vali Artists & Audiences Photo G Mannes-Abbott

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Murtaza Vali moderated another of the central panels during this March Meeting; Artists and Audiences. One which spoke from the UK, the USA/Dubai, Palestine, Taiwan and Qatar to an audience far more diverse in its locations. Vali spoke of a radical “rethinking of the artwork as a situation that requires an audience to complete it”, something which new media has helped generate as well as being some of its sites. As he said, this raises many issues but “the really big one [is] what is it exactly that we mean by the word audience?” If audience activates the artwork then how does the artist/artwork/institution ‘activate’ the audience? How is theory made new practice?

It’s a tough question which the panel bounced around but didn’t ‘dunk’. Louise Hui-Juan Hsu from the Museum of Contemporary Art Taipei, Taiwan, for example, reminded us that the “translator in this case, is beyond the translation of words”. Abed al Ju’beh, who runs the Khalil Sakakini Cultural Centre in Ramallah, Palestine, spoke of the singularity of his literally captive audience. I’d not seen him since the leaving party at his home in the South-east of England 5-6 years ago when he took up this post. Ramallah is at the heart of a giant open air prison where, he said, the audience comes looking for confirmation of their existence. It’s an audience which the Sakakini reaches out to with a residency programme strictly for local artists. Continue reading “notes from a meeting, on throwing forth – artists and audiences [day two pt1]”

notes from a meeting – on commissioning and reconfiguring risk [day one pt 3]

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Shezad Dawood Framed Photo G Mannes-Abbott

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Continued…

Highlights of other sessions included Samar Martha’s marshaling of interesting tales from the frontline of smaller organizations, including MASS, the space that Wael Shawky -Abraaj Prize Winner 2012- created from his old studio in Alexandria. Run on a shoestring, it’s now in its second year with twice as many students covering a wide age range. An inspiring story, presented by Daniella Rose King, I hope to watch it survive and flourish. This is when and how artists can generate step changes… Continue reading “notes from a meeting – on commissioning and reconfiguring risk [day one pt 3]”

notes from a meeting – on commissioning and reconfiguring risk [day one pt 2]

Hans Ulrich Obrist/Edgeware Road Project London Photo G Mannes-Abbott

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Day One unfolded in celebration of a range of curatorial and cultural risks taken [actual and potential], from large European and North American institutions through more wide-ranging, smaller and artist-led institutional initiatives to a single artist’s practice.

Judith Greer from the SAF gave a bold preface about the events that led to the removal of a piece of work from the Biennial last year swiftly followed by the removal of its Director Jack Persekian. It was a welcome account of what she described as “an extremely difficult time for us” which caused much reflection Continue reading “notes from a meeting – on commissioning and reconfiguring risk [day one pt 2]”

notes from a meeting – on the small matter of everything [day one pt 1]

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SAF March Meeting 2012 Photo G Mannes-Abbott

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Salah Hassan, venerable Cornell Professor, followed the UAE’s Minister of Culture in delivering a keynote speech. He began with an apology in Arabic; “as an African Arab” who has been “living in the Frank’s territories for a long time” and familiar with a certain “morphology of fear … please allow me to speak in English.”

I like a barb like that and it makes a point, excepting that we are in Sharjah where the simultaneous translation is excellent and I’d anticipated relying on it myself in 2012. A cusp, especially on a global scale, is always hard to identify [!] but I would suggest this might be an anxiety from before the cusp that, it seems to me, we all occupy. Not easily, not fully, not formally but actually… Continue reading “notes from a meeting – on the small matter of everything [day one pt 1]”

notes from a meeting, sharjah 2012

March Meeting Day 1 Falling, Flying, photo G Mannes-Abbott

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This is my second March Meeting and my first attended without the contextual buzz and fruitful ‘distractions’ of the Sharjah Biennial going on around it. It’s worth remarking on what a special and in fact, important event it is.

The March Meeting exists not to promote the exchange of capital in the form of visual art, but to talk, listen, converse and engage ideas of and about the art of now and here, that here being inherently global and simultaneously local. This year’s Meeting is specifically aimed at exploring the relationships between artists and art infrastructures, context and audience.

If that sounds a little dry [and I sound naive], its worth investigating, especially perhaps here in Sharjah where audience is nascent, which also means not yet habituated or complacent in its responses -a good thing obviously. The art of our times is changing formally to reflect exactly these issues, around the role audience or reception plays in the making of art, its intentions, notions of completion, etc., in quite radical ways.

This year’s Meeting draws together a wide range and depth of speakers; from government institutions through tiny self-generating practitioners. Importantly there are artists here to give voice to experiences of working within this new global activity; residencies, collaborations, shifting curatorial practice and transformative technologies. Activity shaping an emergent consciousness itself reflective of geopolitical shifts from ‘west’ to ‘east’ -a change that renders such unipolar crudities obsolescent. Put it another way, more of us are from/in, claiming/reclaiming, reconfiguring/recovering more places than ever before…

The March Meeting was formulated in 2008 with the very ambitious aim of becoming a permanent fixture in Sharjah, drawing in “artists, curators, institutions, writers, producers and practitioners from around the world.” The idea, which is worth repeating, was to experiment with new “strategies of discussion … and collaboration” fed by urgently shared concerns and committed to explore “future possibilities.” This is what someone I overheard describing variant complimentary qualities on display during a marathon ‘art week’ meant when they said; “the content is at Sharjah”

The intensely focused format and high calibre ‘cast’ is a risky venture. Risk is a key quality owned or claimed by the work -and words- of many of the contributors to the Meeting. However, the question has shifted from one of falling or flying, succeeding or failing, to an appreciation of attempts and their related processes, such that they remain in flight amidst new formulations of time and value.

on notes from a march meeting, sharjah 2012

I’ll be speaking at the March Meeting, on a great panel [here] during 3 days of high calibre contributions/discussions [here]. I’ll be talking about writerly life on the ‘frontier’, using e.things -including IR,R’s crossing of disciplines/limits- not as models but as exemplary productions on the frontier.

I’ll also be writing about the MM and associated events as a further extension of Notes from a Fruitstore. Things change and -as an artist friend said to me while badly letting me down in public- shit happens. Although I have regrets about last year’s events, I welcome SAF’s new direction too [under Yuko Hasegawa here], towards the east [with clear implications] from its location close to the Indian Ocean.

There is a great archive of March Meetings [here] from which I quote Jack Persekian, not to be clever or contentious but because his words describe why I’m going to be part of the coming week in Sharjah [which compliments other rich programmes in Doha and Dubai here];

‘The March Meeting is a serious attempt to engineer strategies of discussion, networking and collaboration on topics of mutual concern and future possibilities… Our objective is to establish Sharjah as a permanent address for an annual gathering of artists, curators, institutions, writers, producers and art practitioners from around the world.’