Sharjah Art Foundation announces three SB14 curators: Zoe Butt, Omar Kholeif, Claire Tancons

Sharjah Art Foundation has again found some exciting options for the Sharjah Biennial; and for the next edition, SB14 – opening in March 2019 – it has gone for three curators rather than one. Zoe Butt, Omar Kholeif, and Claire Tancons will each curate a distinct exhibition in response to the Biennial’s theme Leaving the Echo Chamber.

SB14 will bring together a range of experiences and works by contemporary artists – including the now-expected mix of major commissions, large-scale public installations, performances, and films – “to explore the ways in which contemporary life, enabled by rapid technological change, has created a seemingly inescapable ‘echo chamber’ of information, complex personal networks, and shifting narratives that are physical, spiritual, and virtual”.

Or as SAF’s President and Director Hoor Al Qasimi put it: “Contemporary life is dominated by competing information and fluctuating histories – a reality that raises important questions about the trajectory of contemporary art, as well as the conditions in which it is made.

“Butt, Kholeif, and Tancons bring incredibly different perspectives to these questions, and together represent the complexity of challenges faced by today’s artists and society as a whole.

“The aim of the Biennial is to deepen the context of these questions through thought-provoking and often experiential works of art.”

So Leaving the Echo Chamber will explore subjects ranging from migration and diaspora, to concepts of time and interpreted histories. The three curators have offered these summaries of their own responses, and we’re reprinting them unedited to maximise the flavour of their possible contributions:


Zoe Butt is Artistic Director of The Factory Contemporary Arts Centre in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Before her 2016 appointment she had seven years as head of Sàn Art, Vietnam’s most active independent contemporary art space. Her focus is on building critically thinking, historically conscious artistic communities.

Journey Beyond The Arrow: curated by Zoe Butt

Journey Beyond The Arrow gives deeper context to the movement of humanity and the tools that have enabled (or hindered) its survival. From spiritual ritual to cultural custom; from technological process to political rule of law; all such practices possess particular tools (object and action), which aid or abet mobility. In this exhibition, artists reveal the generational impact of a range of physical and psychological ‘tools’, whose representation and meaning has shifted as a consequence of colonial exploit, religious conflict, or ideological extremism. Journey Beyond The Arrow seeks to illuminate the necessary diversity of humanity and its exchange across the globe.


Claire Tancons is a curator and scholar invested in the discourse and practice of the postcolonial politics of production and exhibition. Born in Guadeloupe and based in New Orleans she has curated for several international biennials and exhibitions – especially for experimental participatory performances like Up Hill Down Hall in 2014 in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall.

Look for Me All Around You: curated by Claire Tancons

Look for Me All Around You questions if obscurity is the harbinger of futurity, darkness the site of seeing, and blackness the scene of unmasking. In Look for Me All Around You, what is being “looked for” is not what is being “looked at” – if only it could be seen. Standing witness to the imperilment of the contemporary in the atomised space between “me” and “you,” Look for Me All Around You seeks to eschew the sole realm of the retinal embedded within hegemonic structures of looking, learning, and feeling. It strives instead, through mechanisms of repossession of perception, to reflect and deflect encroaching conditions of dispossession and diaspora, between piracy, clandestinity and fugitivity.


Omar Kholeif is a writer and curator working at the intersection of art, global politics, and emerging technologies. Currently the Manilow Senior Curator and Director of Global Initiatives at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, Kholeif has held several senior curatorial positions at UK institutions (particularly successful at the Whitechapel Gallery) and has curated numerous exhibitions, commissions, and programmes internationally – his Focus section for the 2015 Armory Show was very well received.

Making New Time: curated by Omar Kholeif

Making New Time examines time as a unit of experience that is at once singular and collective, representing chaos and possibility. Unfolding in three parts, this exhibition examines the physical body through the lens of artists who have represented tactile figures and forms in vibrant ways to question how we experience ourselves in relation to others. From here, the exhibition moves into worlds of augmented and virtual reality, featuring works that establish how time has enabled new forms of shared experience. The presentation concludes with an investigation into the trials, tribulations, and traces of history, suggesting how our existence can be changed, altered, and re-imagined.

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