Can Artists Save the Planet?

By Glazebrook, Mark | The Spectator, May 19, 2007 | Go to article overview

Can Artists Save the Planet?


Glazebrook, Mark, The Spectator


Given his interest in the merging of blue with green, David Cameron would presumably feel at home in the United Arab Emirates while Sharjah's 8th Biennial is on. The Biennial's title and theme is Still Life: Art, Ecology and the Politics of Change. I imagine that the first two words refer not only to the historic painting genre -- a genre which reminds us of our mortality on the occasions when it includes the depiction of a human skull. The two words may also suggest sentences such as 'Despite man's destructive tendencies there's still life on planet earth but we can't take it for granted.' Whether or not there is a double meaning here, the Sharjah theme is serious, responsible, apt and perfectly timed.

Sharjah Biennial is billed as the largest art event in the Gulf. That's now saying something considering the recent ambitions of other Emirates to partner the Louvre and stage art fairs, not to mention a rival Biennial even.

A Biennial is not built in a day, however, and the Sharjah Biennial, after 16 years' experience, is large enough. It is staged in the Sharjah Art Museum, the Expo Centre, the Qanat Al Qasba, the Heritage Area, the Khalid Lagoon and elsewhere.

Much credit is due to the Sharjah Biennial director, Hoor Al Qasimi, and the artistic director Jack Persekian. More than 80 artists, from some 40 countries, have responded to Hoor Al Qasimi's theme in more than 80 very different ways. Given the undesirability of trying to analyse these individuals into groups, what follows is some general thoughts provoked by the event, interspersed with random snapshots of work by just a few artists.

Unlike at the mother of all Biennales, Venice, founded 1895, where Tracey Emin bats for Britain this year, no artist is formally representing his or her country in Sharjah. In this approach the Sharjah Biennial is more like Documenta Kassel, founded by the painter, curator and pedagogue Arnold Bode (1900-77).

Documenta Kassel has a less hectic fouror five-year cycle. Although this somewhat remote German town is less blessed by nature and by man than Venice, it established itself from 1955 onwards as the most serious of all regular surveys of contemporary art. However, a two-year cycle has proved to be the norm. São Paolo Bienal of Art (Brazil) began to make itself felt from 1948 on. There are now over 50 Biennales or Biennials of varying importance worldwide. Their themes do not lack ambition, scope or lateral thinking. Earlier this year, for example, the title of Moscow's 2nd Biennale -- make of it what you will -- was Footnotes on Geopolitics, Market and Amnesia.

Outside the Sharjah Museum two Swiss artists called Lutz and Guggisberg set a half-humorous, half-doom-laden tone with masses of roughly chopped, charred wooden birdlike inventions, larger than ravens.

Some of these strange, torched, stricken and blackened creatures stare down on visitors like eyeless vultures. Many more are grounded. Each bird is different. The total effect hovers back and forth between solemnity and irreverent wit.

Can artists save the planet? Can Biennales save the planet? The answer that emerges from Sharjah's highly stimulating series of commissions and other displays is that the imaginative creativity of both does indeed have a special part to play, alongside the talents of scientists, economists, politicians, industrialists, businessmen, farmers, fishermen, consumers -- all of us, in fact. Of course, man will find it hard to beat fate or nature in the production of disasters such as meteors, volcanoes, earthquakes, pandemics and the tsunami that wiped out Minoan civilisation. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Can Artists Save the Planet?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.