Critics’ Picks

Minouk Lim, New Town Ghost, 2005, still from a color video, ten minutes, fifty-nine seconds.

Minouk Lim, New Town Ghost, 2005, still from a color video, ten minutes, fifty-nine seconds.


“What Should I Do to Live in Your Life?”

Sharjah Art Foundation
Al Mureijah Square, Al Shuwaiheen
March 8–May 12, 2012

The title of this exhibition, “What Should I Do to Live in Your Life?” poses a good question in a world so clusterfucked by globalization that unresolved issues of identity and belonging often rumble precariously under shifting geopolitical terrains. With this in mind, curator Claudia Pestana has invited Lee Kit, Minouk Lim, João Vasco Paiva, Part-time Suite, and Yuk King Tan to inhabit the rooms of the stately Bait Al Serkal building, a converted family home on the port of Sharjah, as a link to Hong Kong and Seoul—also port cities—where the participating artists are either from or based. Arranged in cabinet-style solo presentations, subtle, conceptual works negotiate globalization-in-practice, from the circulation of people, as in Tan’s 2004 Island Portrait of sixty-one Chinese workers building the Cook Island National Courthouse in the South Pacific, to goods, as in Lee’s recontextualizing of brand names—Vaseline, Nivea, and Massara—in a karaoke video installation Sing Anyone of Then, or All of Them, 2009. The result is a curatorial exchange between a city host and its invited guests, extending the Sharjah Art Foundation’s recent focus on artist residencies (and cultural diplomacy).

Of course, intercultural connectivity has its issues, as pinpointed in Lim’s visceral hymn to urban redevelopment in New Town Ghost, 2005, a video following a young slam poet and drummer performing around the Yeongdeungpo district in Seoul on the back of a truck. This city-under-construction could be located anywhere—from Hong Kong to Dubai—filled with identikit skyscrapers and residential high-rise complexes, giving breadth to the rapper’s periodic, breathless, megaphone-amplified invocation: “Oh, my complex.” Yet in the face of hyperurbanization (and homogenization), voice and drum are reduced to whispers in what one might describe as a David and Goliath encounter between the nuances of the locality and the drive to globalize—a binary the artists in this exhibition are visibly caught in the middle of. Here, the question changes: How do we live in this life? Part-Time Suite has a suggestion in video Loop the Loop, 2009: three group members walking the edges of a city rooftop connected to one another with rope. If globalization is about living together, then we face this question collectively.