May 18 2015

March Meeting 2015: (Day 5) Outings To The Flying Saucer and the Kalba Ice Factory

by Kevin Jones
HASSAN KHAN’s installation at the the Flying Saucer building, Sharjah. All photos by Kevin Jones for ArtAsiaPacific.
HASSAN KHAN’s installation at the the Flying Saucer building, Sharjah. All photos by Kevin Jones for ArtAsiaPacific.

In the history of the March Meeting, the 2015 edition was unique. With the artists themselves curating the different discussions, inviting panelists and devising topics as they saw fit, March Meeting 2015 seemed propelled by a desire to embrace the totality of an artist’s thinking around a project—from Eric Baudelaire’s interrogations on the nation-state and its flip side (i.e., statelessness) to Ayreen Anastas and Rene Gabri’s new political imaginaries. For the final day, the participants of March Meeting 2015 hit the road to see two installations, both part of Sharjah Biennial 12, by artists with equally expanded horizons: Hassan Khan’s works at the Flying Saucer building, and Adrián Villar Rojas’s Planetarium (2015) at an abandoned ice factory in Kalba, a city on Sharjah’s eastern coast, on the Gulf of Oman.

The Flying Saucer is a 1970s-era building in the city of Sharjah, which has existed alternatively as a grocery store and a fast-food restaurant. It was, in fact, designed by Sheikha Hoor al-Qasimi’s father, the current ruler of Sharjah, and was purchased by the Sharjah Art Foundation with the intention of transforming it into a permanent exhibition space. Here, Hassan Khan plays with colored panels on the building’s windows as a sort of membrane between inside/outside, while two billboards atop the entrance are in dialogue with life on the street. Inside, works explore the intersection between architecture and artworks, while Khan’s video stages the uneasy relationship between power and humor in a recast of Egyptian comedy.

Adrián Villar Rojas’s Planetarium, as the title implies, is a site to observe what is real and alien, and nature and spectacle. Two months ago, when the project was revealed at the start of the Sharjah Biennial, the site’s cavity-riddled cement pillars were packed with detritus of all stripes—bird skeletons, gnarled sneakers, festering gourds and rotting spuds. Rojas has painted the tops of the columns in a surprising explosion of color, making the raw concrete bottoms seem like plinths holding up cross-sectioned layers of startlingly aesthetic debris. The site is at once stark and sumptuous, stately and putrid. Varyingly shaped concrete blocks, one of which resembles a makeshift altar, punctuate the expansive space. Outside, giant rows of peaty compost hunch like sacred mounds on some Neolithic site. In one memorable masterstroke, Rojas lures us into a teeming, decaying world, which we ponder with near-existential wonderment.