Shifting Ground is the third of four Sharjah Biennial 13 off-site projects centred around four keywords.
Shifting Ground is a programme curated by Lara Khaldi and focuses on the keyword ‘earth’. It is held in Ramallah, Palestine and Haifa, Israel from 10 to 14 August 2017. Art Radar takes a look at the upcoming events and picks a few highlights.
SB13 Shifting Ground programme focuses on “earth”
Responding to Sharjah Biennale 13: Tamawuj curator Christine Tohme’s invitation to act as an interlocutor, translator and convenor of Shifting Grounds, Lara Khaldi has developed a diverse and expansive programme that approaches infrastructures, burial grounds and the underground as places as well as practices that might be considered vehicles for radical politics.
Khaldi’s Shifting Ground programme of presentations, publications and performances probes the relationship between poetic infrastructures (such as folktales, rumours, urban myths and other forms of collective poetic authorship) and material infrastructures (such as media, power and waste) in Palestine. Khaldi asks how these narratives and sites may be intertwined and how their relationship might be mapped. Khaldi’s guests approach different types of locations – graveyards, haunted sites, underground areas and built infrastructure – as possible sites for secret archives, unexpected museum storage facilities and places of self- and collective production.
Publication launch, 10 August
“Infrastructure” is also the key word at the Shifting Grounds programme’s opening night in Ramallah on 10 August 2017. The programme commences with the launch of a series of artist publications. Samir Harb and Mimi Cabell’s publication explores the history of the infrastructure of authority, tracing the literal and symbolic history of the Tegart forts in Palestine. Artist Inas Halabi looks at buried chemical waste and radiation in the south of the West Bank.
Yara Saqfalhait considers the newly emerging sinkholes around the Dead Sea in relation to a history of unrealised infrastructure projects in the area to investigate the relationship between systems of prediction and the reality they help materialise. Benji Boyadjian presents material on the history of the ancient aqueduct network in Jerusalem and the complexities that occurred once the network became clogged.
Other artist publications turn at pedagogy: the work of the Ma’touq Collective attempts to rewrite and reinsert Palestinian insurgents from the 1920s into present narratives, while Subversive Film (Reem Shilleh and Mohannad Ya’qubi) address a syllabus for filming during the Palestinian revolution from the archive of filmmaker and co-founder of Fatah’s Palestine Film Unit, Hani Jawhariyyeh.
Additionally, SB13 curators have teamed up with the seminal project by The Palestinian Museum of Natural History and Humankind to produce a handbook of the museum’s collections. They have also produced the Arabic translation of artist Noor Abu Arafeh’s new novel The Earth Doesn’t Tell Its Secrets’ – His father once said (2017), which muses on museums in Palestine and was launched in Sharjah earlier this year.
Shifting Ground “earth” programme
The symposium, which stretches over three days, proposes three main frames for reading the theme of “earth”: “earth as burial ground”, “earth as medium” and “before the museum”. The symposium gathers different styles of presentations, such as artist performances, lecture performances as well as traditional academic papers.
Earth as burial ground — Symposium, 11 August
In a section entitled “Subterranean Sites” Khaldi explores the landscape in Palestine as a historical place of burial. The sessions on this day explore places and acts of burial, the variety of actual and symbolic meanings constructed around them and their political, historical and folkloric agency. Highlights include Sophia Stamatopoulou-Robbins’ video Waste Underground, which explores futurity and storage by tracing the physical features of waste infrastructure in Palestine and how it interacts with the underground in Palestine. Artist Inas Halabi presents Lions Warn of Futures Present, a performance lecture that departs from her research around chemical waste burial sites in the southern West Bank. Asmaa’ Azaizeh (a student of Rabih Mroué) will perform Mrouré’s work Make Me Stop Smoking: presentation of ideas under study (2006) at the Al Baladi Theatre.
Earth as medium — Symposium, 12 August
While land has been a highly charged theme in anti-colonial struggles, this session focuses on earth as a substance that can function as a medium for opposition. Exploring earth as a means and a material for folk tales permits the question of whether the earth preserves history, or whether story preserves the earth. Keller Easterling contemplates the word ‘medium’, which has historically referred to everything from elemental air and water to milieu, magic, the growth medium of the environment, and contemporary technologies of communication. Filipa César presents “It matters what matters. Matter matters”, a presentation that unearths Amílcar Cabral’s double agency as a state soil scientist and a ‘seeder’ of African liberation movements. Palestinian artist Jumana Emil Abboud presents her Out of the Shadows (2016) – a performance focusing on various folk tale characters drawn from Palestinian oral traditions. The narrative is populated by water brides, ghouls and enchanted creatures who inhabit wells and springs.
Before the museum — Symposium, 13 August
Despite the efforts of artists, academics and activists to deconstruct the institutionalisation of violence, the museum remains a colonial institution. This programme explores the contradictions inherent to any politicised engagement with the museum, especially in the context of Palestine. As the press statement reads,
How can one read museums in Palestine? Palestinian material culture is either confiscated, destroyed or lies in colonial museums or secret military archives […] Looking at historical case studies, archival documents and slightly unusual museums, the sessions on this day will address these questions and also examine why certain art objects are resurfacing now.
Highlights of this panel include Kristine Khouri and Rasha Salti’s project “Four Stories of Museums and Art Collections in Exile”, which offers an introduction to case studies of small collections of art from the 1970s and 1980s from across Palestine, Chile, Nicaragua and South Africa. They hope to reflect on the importance of building a ‘national’ art collection in Palestine, while considering how international solidarity networks have historically enabled them. Subversive Film (Reem Shilleh & Mohanad Yaqubi) present the aforementioned project Syllabus – a research project and publication based on the archives of filmmaker and co-founder of Fatah’s Palestine Film Unit, Hani Jawhariyyeh.
Noor Abu Arafeh also presents The Last Museum: Museum of all Museums, a performance through which the artist proposes the disappearance of museums from the future. “The Museum of Museums” will be the last standing monument dedicated to preserving and documenting the existence of museums.
- Palestinian artist Khaled Jarrar’s “Castles Built from Sand Will Fall” at Ayyam Gallery, Dubai – December 2016 – “Castles Built from Sand Will Fall” explores the dissident, critical and therapeutic art practice of Palestinian artist Khaled Jarrar
- Palestine’s Young Artist of the Year Award 2016: Pattern Recognition – October 2016 – young Palestinian artists push beyond their comfort zones with commissioned works
- “Europa”: Palestinian artist Emily Jacir at Whitechapel Gallery in London – December 2015 – “Emily Jacir: Europa” piercingly penetrates visitors’ conscience by recounting histories of migration, resistance and exchange
- All art is political: “Immateriality in Residue” at Experimenter Kolkata – in pictures – December 2015 – “Immateriality in Residue” features Indian artists Prabhakar Pachpute and Sanchayan Ghosh, Bangladeshi artist Ayesha Sultana and French-Indian artist Gyan Panchal
- “Putting me in jail would be their biggest mistake” – Palestinian artist Khaled Jarrar talks to Art Radar – July 2013 – Khaled Jarrar may have knocked down Palestine’s Separation Wall and rebuilt it in London but really, he insists, his art is more personal than political
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