Founded in 1993, the Sharjah Biennial has grown from a traditional and regionally focused exhibition into the global event it has become today. Originally modelled on a classic biennial format with artists chosen to officially represent each participating country, the Biennial provided a rare glimpse into the world of artistic practice.

In 2003, the Biennial saw a marked shift in direction as Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi took on the role of co-curator with artist and curator Peter Lewis. With two artists at the helm, the focus turned more directly towards the art and the individual artists themselves, thereby establishing what has proven to be an enduring theme in the Biennials future manifestations.

About the Exhibition, /seconds
Invited by the Sharjah Art Foundation the exhibition followed the collaborative work of Sheikha Hoor Al-Qasimi and Peter Lewis since 1998, who had together initiated the 6th International Biennial, which anticipated the design and building of a major Art Foundation by Hoor Al-Qasimi that would focus the Arab region and countries in terms of its exhibitions and events toward establishing a universal dialogue. Sheikha Hoor Al-Qasimi and Peter Lewis had established these changes to the Biennial in 2003, at a time of international conflict. In the last decade Sharjah Art Foundation has stood as the intellectual meeting place that brings together artists and publics from a world tragically divided. The exhibition /seconds, in its conception echoes the desire to articulate the universal, as a new and provocative conception and, more profoundly, about the general conditions for articulating a new truth about the present time.
/seconds has curated over 100 artists posters and 40 video works, for this exhibition, selected from the commissioning of the journal since 2004. The works chosen by Sheikha Hoor Al -Qasimi, Director of the Foundation and Peter Lewis, explore cultural productions in global culture, whose space and time has been accelerated by the Internet, through the temporal immediacy of audio-visual transmissions. The exhibition includes work that presented these transmissions in a range of practices, precisely in how they are to be exchanged throughout the world. This particular curatorial work, bringing together the Arab world with other cultures, constitutes a radical activity of independent curating, in how museums can perform in response to the urgency of establishing critical and structured dialogue through art, and conference. In this, the exhibition engaged with perceptions of time and space, by which Lewis and Al-Qasimi sought to challenge the models of museum display. In the endeavour the project was significantly contemporary, being an artist collaboration, following in the lineage of avant-garde practices working critically in the terms of arts universal principle and potential for change.
Participating Artists:
Abdullah Al Saadi, Emily Allchurch, Conrad Atkinson, Fabienne Audéoud, George Bolster, Tony Chakar, Elizabeth Chadwick, Gordon Cheung, Ami Clarke, Stephen Clarke, Judith Cowan, Roger Cremers, Myriam Custers, Shezad Dawood, Sean Dower, Milena Dragicevic, Thomas Draschan, Alan Dunn, Paul Eachus, Laura Emsley, Al Fadhil, Nooshin Farhid, Anna Faushauer, David Ferry, Damian Flores Cortes, Peter Fillingham, Leo Fitzmaurice, Alison Gill, Margarita Gluzberg, Alex Hamilton, Margaret Harrison, Laura Hatry, Dan Hays, Taraneh Hemami, Aaron Hobson, Janet Hodgson, Mandy Lee Jandrell, Mohammed Kazem, Peter Kennard, Uta Kögelsberger, Karen Knorr, Colm Lally, Thaniel Lee, Liliane Lijn, Rut Blees Luxemburg, David Mabb, Ruth Maclennan, Melanie Manchot, Kito Mbiango, Makiko Nagaya, Adam Nankervis, Warren Neidich, Guillaume Paris, Nada Prlja, Annie Ratti, Cullinan Richards, Graziella Rizkallah Toufic, Giorgio Sadotti, Hilary Koob-Sassen, Edgar Schmitz, Hassan Sharif, Lisa Stansbie, Sergei Sviatchenko, Jalal Toufic, Rob Voerman, Jonathan Whitehall, Cindy Wright, Takayuki Yamamoto. This exhibition also presents a special section composed of selected artists video and audio from issues 1-14 with works by:
Asa Anderson, Paul Allsopp, Martyn Blundell, Ben Brierley, Tim Brotherton, Edward Chell, James Chinnock, Rosie Cooper, Patrick Courtney, David Cunningham, James Early, Luciana Farinati, William Furlong, Mark Harris, Véronique Janin Devoldère, Ben Judd, Anne Keleher, Conor Kelly, Peter Lewis, Peter Lloyd Lewis, Katrin Lock, Karl Lydon, Elizabeth McAlpine, Monika Oechsler, Uriel Orlow, Mark Pickles, Adrian Shaw, Marie-Anne Souloumiac, Stuart Tait, Anders Weberg, Cecilia Wee, Robert William, Jo Wonder




The communications system of the Internet has changed the forms of the art and cultures of the world. Before Marshall McLuhan wrote of the Global Village in 1950s, cultures, which were held in balance by virtue of their difference, have in the last decade been adjusted on new, uncommon ground. The instantiation of the copy has issued the universality of the image itself. This accelerated world of images inevitably has recruited artists into membership of the virtual space, sharing experience online through the digital medium. Yet the revolutionary power of art and literature has universally always been, arguably, virtual, written or drawn in whatever form. The imaginary is born out of contingency, finding universal necessity through the formation of these imaginaries. We could say the actual (or real) is born of the imaginary by careful adjustment of its objective and subjective relationship. The actual appears topographically only upon the surface, from the immense field of virtual possibilities.
The idea of how language, in the oldest forms of print-making, is advanced by communication for its own sake. We communicate every day without needing to say anything important. Language, in this case, is to be read visually in the choreography of signs, articulated as much by pattern and rhythm, sounds transmitted in their repetitions. Words are themselves objects, reading becomes a tactile experience. The book and the magazine are objects by which we design ourselves.
What is actualised from virtual beginnings is, at base, design, whether translated and multiplied into words or images, singing or dancing, or in making things, have started as just notations, diagrams, scores or codes from which to recompose thinking out of its labour and acquired skill. Time spent on the work at hand in fact is generated by a transformation from one medium to another, so that making is necessitated by a wish for immediacy or potential limit arrived at through specific processes.
Technology enframes human consciousness and reconstitutes itself upon the notion of irreversible change to the definition of human. So the technology that we witness and apply today is deep in our consciousness, to arrive in a formation of networks. The devices that multiply cultural forms etherise human transparency at the speed of the machine. What had been social mediated now exceeds the touch, through the prosthesis of the technology. The network provides for all yet wretchedly. The image litters the world.
The move from the private space to the online public or social space is a dramatic one that changes the way we think about ourselves and know each other by sharing pictures, as such these present ourselves. The Internet is good at transmitting billions of images every second. That was one reason the project was named /seconds, yet in question are the limits of the individual and the subject itself. The subject, the master-signifier is precisely, inexistence.
An online journal such as /seconds, as all Internet sites made up of information bytes, is configured into an order of recognisable pages. One and zero maintain equilibrium. When one plus one equals zero, theres another dimension spinning into actual existence.
The digital wiring is transformed as soon as we see a picture or hear a sound, into something more real. It could be a picture of a painting, or a poster, someone talking through the screen, dancing or just abstract, composed of electronic noise...or just the sound of walking in the street, so familiar we take for granted how the illusion is as a first principle of stupidity, of convincing belief, internally cinematic, generated to dissolve or suspend disbelief as we enter the frame of its virtual illusion, upon this shifting ground. The cinematic is total, exterior, real.
What of the actual? How to subsist in a virtual universe of the operation of knowledge that might distinguish something from nothing, or inversely? There was something, now nothing. Have these fair aspects of the universal moved the space of an imagined chaos far from its predicated reason, order? Rather, are these notions not grounded in the physical sense of natural law imagining a world constructed without necessity of law? The order of things has changed shape in the ether of self-consciousness, to conjecture what in fact might never have happened, to tear the mass of effects from an energetic ruin of causes. This is not a reflection of finding the world torn apart, but the skewed sense, of being found apart, insensible. In the holographic image that bends thinking predicated upon the virtual character of disappearance, necessity projects the universal into the real without our presence. The dream of reason, the actual, is by that very reasoning, virtually over. That would be something.

A version of the text was published as the preface of the accompanying catalogue of various writings, published in /seconds 2004-2014.
/seconds is published by Sharjah Art Foundation, on the occasion of the exhibition, curated by Peter Lewis and Hoor Al-Qasimi, 2014