Now in its ninth year, 1-54 will be accompanied by 1-54 Forum, the fair’s talks and events programme, including film screenings, performances and panel discussions with international curators, artists and cultural producers. Dr. Omar Kholeif, Director of Collections and Senior Curator at Sharjah Art Foundation, has been invited to guest curate the talks programme for the first time.
Entitled Continental Drift, speakers include Khalid Abdalla, Hoor Al Qasimi, Princess Alia Al Senussi, Michael Armitage, Joanne Birnie-Danzker, Anaïs Duplan, Tamer El Said, Lubaina Himid CBE RA, Isaiah A. Hines, Bill Kouélany, Koyo Kouoh, Hope Masike, Otobong Nkanga, Osinachi, Berni Searle and Sumayya Vally, among others.
‘Drifting grifters travel transversely…scoping the indistinguishable vastness; the terrain thaws, softens beneath their feet…seize the splinters that remain from the wreckage of the Earth. They will disappear, if they have not already.’
-Blake Karim Mitchell (a poet without a name) From Ibn Afreekya /Son of Africa, a self-distributed pamphlet, translated from Arabic by Dr.Omar Kholeif.
To be carried slowly…
To accumulate, to gather…
A continuous slow movement from one place to another.
Movement, shift, flow, transfer…
Continental Drift is a choreography that will unfold in slow-motion over the course of 1-54 London 2021. Transmutations of time and the anxious hysteria of the free-wheeling present collide in an interwoven series of exchanges that unfold in conversation, song, and dance that echo across broad expanses of time. Across four days, hushed silences find their expression in intimate moments staged between artists and audiences; mediators and narrators, who collectively delve into themes of legacy, philanthropy, and digitality.
Exploring this interstitial moment in history, 1-54 Forum explores the concept of the drift as a moment for gradual reflection—a cumulative act of knowledge gathering, a dance from one end of the continent to another, oscillating gently: deep time in constant motion. Conceived as a symphonic reverie—a production of tessellating forms, movement, and action unfold as dissonant variations traveling through topics and themes that encompass ecology and ruin, antiquity and futurism. Conceived in fragments, Continental Drift is a modular concerto that explores the engine of empire; the jagged contours of history; the imagined scarcity of resources and how these various facets converge into resounding rendition—an imagined landscape for the future. Part ballad, part pop song; minor details and minor feelings rise to the surface—amplified into an interleaving chamber of resonant voices.
The ‘voice’ in this context is intended to embody a polyphonic spree of dissonant varieties, invoking concepts of Négritude and Black emotion; exploring solidarity movements; moments of rupture, fracture, and re-constitution to proffer a context for new forms of visual culture to emerge. In this regard, ‘the drift’ is conceived as a collective act of marching, in slow motion, towards the future.
Born in Egypt to Egyptian and Sudanese parents, Dr. Omar Kholeif is a writer, curator, cultural historian, and Director of Collections and Senior Curator at Sharjah Art Foundation. Initially trained as a political scientist, Kholeif’s career began as a journalist and documentary filmmaker before entering the picture palace of museums. Concerned with the means through which emerging technologies intersect with debates around gender, postcolonial, and critical race theory — Kholeif seeks to understand how these crossroads alter the way audiences “look at” and conceive of culture. They have curated more than one hundred exhibitions and commissions of art, design, and architecture on six continents and are the author, coauthor, or editor of thirty-three books, which have been translated into twelve languages. Recent volumes include Goodbye, World! Looking at Art in the Digital Age (Sternberg, 2018); The Artists Who Will Change The World (Thames and Hudson, 2018) and Art in the Age of Anxiety (SAF/Mörel/MIT Press, 2021). They are currently at work on a monograph entitled Internet Art: The First Thirty Years (Phaidon, 2022) and a memoir as anthology entitled Code-Switchers: The Art of Being Invisible (2022/2023).