Sharjah Biennial 11

Sharjah Art Foundation has appointed Yuko Hasegawa as Curator of Sharjah Biennial 11, opening in March 2013.

Yuko Hasegawa is Chief Curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo (MOT) and a seasoned director, curator and advisor for international biennials.

For Sharjah Biennial 11, Hasegawa proposes a selection of artworks that reassess the Westerncentrism of knowledge in modern times. She calls for a gathering of architects, designers, creators, and artists, who will bring together different perspectives, and challenge viewers to seek new knowledge by sharing ideas. Hasegawa offers the metaphor of the courtyard in Islamic architecture; she sees Sharjah as a place of hospitality and discipline, and proposes a biennial that embraces these qualities, while also exploring the complexity and diversity of cultures, societies, and politics.

Sharjah Art Foundation President Sheikha Hoor Al-Qasimi stated, “We are pleased to announce Yuko Hasegawa as Curator for Sharjah Biennial 11. Hasegawa has had a distinguished career characterised by major curatorial projects, notably in Eastern Asia and Latin America. Her proposal for the 2013 Biennial reflects the long tradition of Sharjah as a place where the gathering of diverse communities encourages an exchange of ideas and knowledge.”

Hasegawa added, “Sharjah is historic and present, social, natural, and political. It is a place that encourages thinking and negotiating with others. My natural response to its dynamism is to produce a Biennial which asks questions through art, and creates a dialogue that liberates us from Eurocentrism, Globalism, and other relevant -isms.”

Curatorial Concept

We live in paradoxical times, where within our increasingly “mediated” environments certainty of the actual is sacrificed. Ironically this has led to a new formalism, as though seeking to re-join the mystically inflected symbolism of the past. We are a rapidly urbanizing species, and yet the result is often an increasing neo-provincialism.

The production of knowledge must derive from an honest and unbiased engagement with reality. If biennials are places that produce new knowledge, then they must be places of liberation from Eurocentrism, Globalism, and any other -isms.

As Ken Lum wrote in the Sharjah Biennial 7 catalogue, “Criticality in art was highly circumscribed by the prevailing Euro-American codes of art historical understanding, not by the politics of difference with its intersections with postcolonial, feminist, and anti-racist debates.”

This is a shift away from a theoretical inquiry into the “universal” nature of the modern individual in favor of an inquiry educed from the complexity and diversity of locally rooted cultures, societies and political manifestations: the actual physical practice of each individual artist.

Sharjah is historic and present, social, natural and political. It is a place that encourages thinking and negotiating with others. My natural response to its dynamism is the wish to bring to it a Biennial which questions what kinds of practices are possible through art, and what kinds of knowledge can be produced, a Biennial which opens up undefined territories and encourages new production in the hands of many artists, architects, designers, scientists and engineers.

The sahn courtyard of Islamic architecture, with the howz pool and fountain at its centre, is my inspiration. I want to create a fountain of ideas that gush forth continuously, only beginning with this Biennial, then becoming a place to which we return, time and again. The fountain is generous. It is hospitable. But it is not uncritically open.

To derive knowledge and practice from this fountain one must have discipline. Discipline inevitably asks, “Do you know how to use this?” “Do you know why?” “Are you using it for the purposes of life?”

My proposal for the Biennial will align with Sharjah’s tradition of generosity and discipline. What emerges will be more than just a form of disembodied visual or informational culture; it will be a space that welcomes and challenges all of the visitors’ senses, their minds and spirits.

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