On March 13, at a gala dinner with the ruler of the small Emirate, seven artists were announced the winners of the Sharjah Biennial Prizes.
Thai artists Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Chai Siri were recognized under the category of “Outstanding” for their video Dilbar (2013), which tells the haunting story of a Bangladeshi builder constructing the new Sharjah Foundation art spaces.
Tiffany Chung and Wael Shawky received awards for their “Exceptional” contributions, the former for her cartographic drawings that examine urban issues. Meanwhile, Shawky’s work Dictums 10:120 (2013), likened art jargon to the mystical phrasing of qawwali songs in a performance with lyrics comprised of fragments from the biennial’s curatorial text translated into Urdu.
In recognition for a practice sustained over many decades, Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian received an award. Her decorative works borrow from Iranian reverse-glass painting and mirror mosaics, crafts which traditionally pass down from father to son.
For their “Promising” work, awards were given to Magdi Mostafa’s sound cells: FRIDAYS (2010), a piece that synched the amplified rumblings of washing machines to the projected voice of the sheikh calling women vessels of procreation, and to Fumito Urabe for Drifting Through (2013), a serene installation of small hanging boats and discarded objects.
The 2013 prize jurors were Bassam El Baroni (curator and art critic based in Alexandria, Egypt), Hu Fang (the co-founder and artistic director of Vitamin Creative Space) and Sarat Maharaj (professor at Lund University & the Malmö Art Academies, Sweden).
True to the theme of the biennial, the committee’s selection reflected the possibility of a new cultural cartography, at least within the confines of the art world.