The Paris-born artist and activist Kader Attia will present the first off-site project of the 13th Sharjah Biennial later this week in Dakar, Senegal, focusing on cultural, political and ecological issues relating to water as a diminishing 21st-century resource.
The event, called Vive l’Indépendance de l’Eau (8-9 January; Université Cheikh Anta Diop), includes symposia, performances and workshops organised by Attia, touching on topics such as colonialism, global warming and public health.
Attia tells The Art Newspaper: “Water nowadays has never been so important because of its paradoxical [aspect]; water is life but it is also death […] Water kills not only when it is not drinkable, but it kills also because it helps the development of malaria and other bacteria. Moreover, water [the ocean] has become a huge cemetery, where millions of refugees are dying without assistance recalling the bloody genocide generated by slavery into the ocean.”
View from the window of the Senegalese mineral water company Kirene, Dakar, 2016 (Image: Kader Attia)
On day one of the programme, the Pakistani architect Samia Rab will discuss the development of coastal architecture in light of rising sea levels. Other participants include the poets Rachida Madani and Pierre Amrouche, while the German artist Christoph Keller will show his 2014 film Anarcheology.
Speakers on the second day will examine “socio-political and historical understandings of water, with particular emphasis on ethical dimensions”, the organisers say, adding that the German artist Hito Steyerl’s film Liquidity Inc (2014) “explores the metaphorical links between the elemental dynamic of water, human productivity and neoliberal capitalism”.
As the workshop draws to a close, each participant will contribute an object, story, soundtrack or image that symbolises the significance of water. “In this way, the varied perspectives and interventions will be brought together and archived in a temporary museum, which extends beyond the duration of Vive l’Indépendance de l’Eau,” a press statement says.
The 13th edition of the Sharjah Biennial is organised by Christine Tohmé, the founding director of the Beirut-based Ashkal Alwan (the non-profit Lebanese Association for Plastic Arts). Other off-site projects are due to take place in Ramallah, Istanbul and Beirut based on the themes of earth, crops and culinary.
The main contemporary art exhibition in Sharjah (10 March-12 June 2017) is due to include works by more than 50 international artists and will be based on the theme of Tamawuj, meaning the rise and fall of waves or an undulating appearance in Arabic. A second leg of the show will launch in Beirut in October.