December 26, 2013

The Bank, By Superflex And The Residents Of Sharjah, UAE

superflex_sharjah_bank_1.jpg

It's Things I Really Want To Post Before The End Of The Year Week here at DT, starting with The Bank.

The Danish artist collective Superflex contributed one of the most thoughtful installations for this year's Sharjah Art Biennial. Whatever their stated aspirations, biennials turn out to be expensive plays for attention from a tiny global political and cultural elite, art circuses which have little or no relevance to the vast majority of the host city's residents. And that goes double for Sharjah, where, like the rest of the United Arab Emirates, 80-90% of the population are foreign migrant laborers.

Superflex worked with the immigrant residents of Bank Street to build a new public space, a park and playground, filled with favorited objects remembered from their home countries or from their travels. The undulating paved landscape looks hot as hell and unusable in the Gulf sun, but in an interview this past summer, Superflex's Jakob Fenger pointed out to me that the park fills up at night, the only time the working class residents is not working.

superflex_sharjah_bank_2.jpg

The Bank includes a fountain duplicated from a Syrian mosque. A combination chess & kalaha table from Indonesia. Swing benches and rockers from Pakistan. A very popular slide from Kerala, India. Shaded tables and chairs which, in Pakistan, are always covered with Coca-Cola logos. And my favorite, a dinosaur jungle gym that was recreated from stills taken from an Indian woman's 8mm home movies.

Fenger told me they started making one dinosaur, and ended up making three, a little dinosaur family. Fenger explained, "A lot of the people living there are men, and they're kind of lonely, and the project gave them a good opportunity to talk a lot to their family. They gathered lots of documentation of their kids back at home."

Though technically temporary, The Bank has already outlasted the Biennial itself. It will remain in Sharjah for some years, at least, until the land it sits on is redeveloped into a shopping mall or whatever.

The Bank [superflex.net]

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