We Began by Measuring Distance presents artists born between 1960 and 1980, from a broad range of cultural horizons (Europe, Russia, North Africa, the Middle and Far East). Most of the works come from Sharjah Art Foundation’s collection to respond to MAMCO’s invitation to present a selection of projects in counterpoint to our current cycle of exhibitions.
Central to the selection is the work of Hassan Sharif (1951–2016). Active in Sharjah from the 1970s, travelling regularly between his base in the Emirates and London, Sharif opposed calligraphic abstraction from the 1980s onwards, and developed a multidisciplinary practice combining drawing, photographs, texts, and installation that seeks to articulate the space and its measure to its sculptural transformation and its physical experience. The selection of works presented here reinforces the role and importance of the “system” in Sharif’s oeuvre—an echo of the redefinition of the concept of “structure” and geometry in the work of Rasheed Araeen.
The exhibition takes its title from a film by Basma Alsharif (*1983): innocent-seeming, “neutral” measurements gradually take on a political hue, and ultimately challenge how History itself is translated into images and sound.
The Mapping Journey Project by Bouchra Khalili (*1975) is a series of cartographic presentations of the journeys undertaken by migrants gaining illegal entry into Europe. Slovenian artists Nika Oblak and Primož Novak (active as a duo since 2003) apply an inverse logic with a performance tracing a north-south itinerary from Ljubljana to Sharjah.
Marwan Rechmaoui’s sculpture (*1964) is a meticulous reproduction of the 60 districts making up the map of Beirut in rubber: a reminder of how cartography can preserve the trace of the conflicts and divisions that have marked the city’s complex history.
Melik Ohanian (*1969) explores cinema’s ability to communicate a sense of space and time: for eleven consecutive days, a 100-metre section of rail track was laid over the course of a day, to produce a four-minute travelling shot.
We Began by Measuring Distance conceives of space by turns as a landscape to be journeyed through, and as a performative territory. As such, it explores the relationship of narrative to History, and of documentation to politics.