Caribbean Artists at the Sharjah Biennial 14


Jonathan Griffin (Frieze) recently reported on “The Exhibitions to Look Forward to in 2019: the View from the Americas.” Griffin mentions “three artists with roots in the Caribbean—Christopher Cozier, Alia Farid and Ulrik Lopez,” who “will debut game-changing projects at curator Claire Tancons’s contribution to, ‘Leaving the Echo Chamber’ (March–June).” ‘Leaving the Echo Chamber’ is part of the Sharjah Biennial 14 (SB14), which opened on March 7 and will continue through June 10, 2019, in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. The biennial includes three exhibitions; one of them—Look for Me All around You—was curated by Guadeloupean-born curator Claire Tancons. Other Caribbean artists in this exhibition include Allora & Calzadilla (Puerto Rico-based, Cuba/USA), Carlos Martiel (Cuba), and Suchitra Matai (Guyana/Canada/USA).

Griffin writes, “Lopez deploys Yoruba traditions of syncretism tied to Santería to re-create a 1966 experimental ballet from the XVII Chess Olympics, a performative embodiment of Cuba-United States relations during the Cold War, while Farid will present a video, edited in Mexico, focused on the musical and theatrical culture of a small fisherman’s village called Salakh in Qeshm.”

Christopher Cozier (see artwork above): For his SB14 commission Christopher Cozier (Trinidad) produced “All around us–elsewheres are beginnings and endings” (2019), part of his ‘dig and fly’ series, in collaboration with Trinidadian artists—filmmakers Shari Petti and Maya Cozier, and musician Etienne Charles. For this exhibition, “Cozier filmed technicians assembling a structure out of scaffolding in the desert landscape of Mleiha, Sharjah, in order to see what would arise. Focusing on the fact that much of what mobilised political activist Marcus Garvey’s early thinking revolved around the predicament of transplanted labour, Cozier set up a scenario to see and listen to the workers. During the shoot at this temporary site, children began playing around the scaffolding as if the production had crossed into or interfered with their playground or backyard. [. . .] Everyone around the site and involved in this act of labour, including himself as the artist, was from ‘an elsewhere’, which could form the basis for dialogue across geographies, histories and personal experience….”

Look for Me All Around You, curated by Claire Tancons: Look for Me All Around You is an open platform of migrant images and fugitive forms. Composed of multiple scores drawn from the many scales of Sharjah as city, emirate and peninsular territory, these after-images and after-forms circumnavigate global history, meeting through the confluence of the Gulfs of Mexico and Oman and the Atlantic and Indian Oceans in a call-and-response between the Americas and the Emirates.

Par for the diasporic course, the migratory journey, the heretic pilgrimage, Look for Me All Around You takes as a point of departure political activist and pan-African leader Marcus Mosiah Garvey Jr’s (1887–1940) unrelenting address to ‘Look for me in the whirlwind or a storm, look for me all around you…’ (1925). The platform attests to the alternatively dispossessive and repossessive disposition of diasporisation as an aporetic phenomenon of the contemporary, encompassing human, semantic and material forms of displacement.

As a contrapuntal proposal that may not fully be registered in the realm of the retinal embedded in hegemonic structures of looking, learning and feeling, Look for Me All Around You manifests in a state of emergence under conditions of performance. It revels in displaced artefacts, coded languages, sonic disturbances, transient presences, light flashes and shadow imprints, revealing the immiscible historical flows and comparable contemporary constituents of both the Arabian peninsula and the American continents and insular territories as results of human and natural resource extraction and exploitation. An always already othered time-space discontinuum, Look for Me All Around You bears witness to the imperilment of the contemporary within the atomised space between ‘me’ and ‘you’. What is being ‘looked for’ is not what is being ‘looked at’—if only it could be seen.

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[Above: Christopher Cozier’s “All around us–elsewheres are beginnings and endings” (2019)]

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