Sharjah Art Foundation announces Sharjah Biennial 16 initial artist list and curatorial framework

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Sharjah Art Foundation announces Sharjah Biennial 16 initial artist list and curatorial framework
From left to right: Natasha Ginwala, Megan Tamati-Quennell, Zeynep Öz, Alia Swastika and Amal Khalaf. Al Mureijah, Sharjah, 2024. Photo: Danko Stjepanovic.

SHARJAH.- Sharjah Art Foundation announces its initial selection of artists participating in the sixteenth edition of Sharjah Biennial (SB16), curated by Alia Swastika (Director of the Biennale Jogja Foundation, Yogyakarta), Amal Khalaf (Director, Cubitt, London, and Curator at Large, Public Practice, Serpentine Galleries, London), Megan Tamati-Quennell (curator of modern and contemporary Māori and Indigenous art, New Zealand), Natasha Ginwala (Artistic Director, COLOMBOSCOPE, curator and writer, Colombo and Berlin) and Zeynep Öz (independent curator, Istanbul and New York). The curators have also revealed their curatorial frameworks, which dialogue with each other as well as with the Biennial’s 30-year history as a platform for artistic experimentation and critical discourse.

The curators hybridise and enliven methodologies that inform their personal curatorial practices, such as residencies, congregations, discussions, writing and deep listening, as ways of amplifying the contextual specificities of Sharjah. The ongoing and existing artistic projects they centre either respond to diverse sources of embodied knowledge and intergenerational kinship through modes of song, lament and ritual, or lean into notions of cross-cultural resonances. Other projects focus on communal learning—articulated through weaving, translating and performing—to engage with the texture and rhythm of various lands and waters, and to compose sites for encounters. Together, the curators ask, what does it entail to carry a home, ancestors and political formations with you? Attesting to their responsibility as both host and guest, the curators conjure possibilities of acting and being together through tenderness as a gesture of care, empathy and alliance building.

Collectivity, collaboration and communal sharing are central to Alia Swastika’s conceptual approach. She invites artistic reflections on how power operates in our sociopolitical domains and shapes personal memories, questions the contrast between poetics and politics, and highlights the foundational role of women’s knowledge and spiritual experience in the evolution of our epistemes and the genealogy of humankind.

Amal Khalaf’s point of reference is a type of divination popular in coastal communities around the world—the practice of throwing shells. She proposes storytelling, song, prophesy and sensing as methodologies or rituals for collective learning, grieving, wayfinding and organising in a time of political violence and environmental collapse.

Megan Tamati-Quennell’s project centres a First Nations positionality related to land and place and highlights First Nations knowledge and sensibilities. Drawn from a concept related to the incompleteness of humanity, her project works with ideas of impermanence, fallibility and our desire to imagine new futures and alternative realities.

Ancient stepwells in Indian Ocean littoral sites and water wells found in Sharjah's historic households and courtyards serve as leitmotifs within Natasha Ginwala’s curatorial vision. They signify reservoirs that avow ancestral memory, place-making, sonic remembrance and cross-generational convening amidst tides of annihilation.

Zeynep Öz’s project contemplates the shifts in the societal and economic systems we partake in the present day, specifically those in response to the later stages of the accelerated changes in technology and science, through the lens of their historical precedents.

Running from 6 February to 15 June 2025, SB16 will activate venues in Sharjah City, Al Hamriyah, Al Dhaid, Kalba and other locations in the Emirate of Sharjah, and bring together a diverse and broad range of perspectives through works by Adelita Husni-Bey; Akinbode Akinbiyi; Akira Ikezoe; Alia Farid; Brian Martin; Cécile B. Evans; Dian Suci Rahmawati, Ipeh Nur and Restu Ratnaningtyas; Fatma Belkıs; Hellen Ascoli; Heman Chong; Joe Namy; Jorge González; Kaloki Nyamai; Kapulani Landgraf; Kate Newby; Mahmoud Khaled; Michael Parekōwhai; Mila Turajlić; Mónica de Miranda; Pallavi Paul; Pratchaya Phinthong; Rajni Perera; Rossella Biscotti; Saffronn Te Ratana; Serapis Maritime; Shivanjani Lal; Stephanie Comilang; Steven Yazzie; Womanifesto; Ximena Garrido-Lecca; and Yhonnie Scarce.

Alia Swastika is a curator, researcher and writer whose practice over the last 10 years has expanded on issues and perspectives of decoloniality and feminism. Her different projects involve decentralising art, rewriting art history and encouraging local activism. She works as the Director of the Biennale Jogja Foundation, Yogyakarta, and continues her research on Indonesian female artists during Indonesia’s New Order. She established and was Program Director for Ark Galerie, Yogyakarta (2007–2017). She was co-curator for the Biennale Jogja XI Equator #1 (2011); co-artistic director of the 9th Gwangju Biennale (2012); and roundtable curator for contemporary art exhibitions for the Europalia Arts Festival (2017), including presentations at Oude Kerk, Amsterdam; M HKA, Antwerp; and SMAK Ghent, Belgium. Her research on Indonesian women artists during the New Order was published in 2019.

Curator and artist Amal Khalaf is Director at Cubitt and Curator at Large, Public Practice, at the Serpentine Galleries, both in London. Here and in other contexts she has developed residencies, exhibitions and collaborative research projects at the intersection of arts and social justice. Recent projects at the Serpentine include the launch of Support Structures for Support Structures (2021), Radio Ballads (2019–2022) and Sensing the Planet (2021). She curated the Bahrain Pavilion for the 58th Venice Biennale (2019) and co-directed the Global Art Forum at Art Dubai (2016). She is a trustee of Mophradat, Athens, and not/nowhere, London, and a founding member of the GCC art collective. Her work, exhibitions and research have also been presented at MoMA PS1, New York; Sharjah Art Foundation; Whitney Biennial, New York; Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris; Berlin Biennale; Fridericianum, Kassel; and New Museum, New York, among many others.

Megan Tamati-Quennell is a curator, writer and researcher with a focus in the field of modern and contemporary Māori and Indigenous art, with 33 years of art curatorial experience. She has held positions at Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington, New Zealand, and at the Govett Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth, New Zealand. Tamati-Quennell is of Te Ātiawa, Ngāi Tahu and Kāti Māmoe Māori descent. Her research interests include contemporary Māori art; Māori modernism; Māori women artists, 1930 to today; international First Nations art; Māori, international First Nations and non-western art in transnational contexts; and First Nations art curatorial praxis.

Curator, researcher and writer Natasha Ginwala is Artistic Director of COLOMBOSCOPE, Colombo (2019–ongoing). She also served Associate Curator at Large at Gropius Bau, Berlin (2018–2024) and as Artistic Director of the 13th Gwangju Biennale (2021) with Defne Ayas. Ginwala has been part of curatorial teams for Contour Biennale 8 (2017), documenta 14 (2017), 8th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art (2014) and 8th Taipei Biennial (2012). She co-curated international exhibitions at e-flux, Sharjah Art Foundation, Hamburger Bahnhof - Nationalgalerie der Gegenwart, ifa Gallery, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, L’ appartement 22, Muzeum Sztuki w Łodzi, MCA Chicago, 56th Venice Biennale, SAVVY Contemporary and Zeitz MOCAA. Ginwala is a widely published author with a focus on contemporary art, visual culture and social justice.

Zeynep Öz is a curator and writer. She curated the Pavilion of Turkey, 58th Venice Biennale, and the BACA exhibition of Marwan Rechmaoui’s work at the Bonnefantenmuseum, which travelled to Sharjah Art Foundation (both 2019). She was an interlocutor for Sharjah Biennial 13 (SB13) and curator of the off-site SB13 project Bahar, Istanbul (2017), as well as co-curator of Aichi Triennale 3 (2016). Öz was co-founder of Spot Projects, Istanbul, and director of the Spot Production Fund (2011–2017), during which time she curated the series ‘Produce (I, II, III)’, commissioning over 30 projects. She also commissioned Abou Farid’s War, TBA21 on st_age (2021); the film programme Greatest Common Factor, SALT, Istanbul (2016); Plastic Veins, Home Works VI, Ashkal Alwan, Beirut (2013); and Selling Snails in the Muslim Neighborhood, Westfälischer Kunstverein, Münster (2013). From 2015 to 2020, Öz taught at Boğaziçi University, Istanbul, and served on the curricular and selection committees of the Home Workspace Program, Ashkal Alwan.

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