November 9, 2018 - Fikra Graphic Design Biennial - Fikra Graphic Design Biennial 01
e-flux Architecture
November 9, 2018
November 9, 2018

Fikra Graphic Design Biennial

The former Bank Of Sharjah. Main venue for Fikra Graphic Design Biennial.

Fikra Graphic Design Biennial 01
Ministry of Graphic Design
November 9–30, 2018

Bank of Sharjah/eLseed Building
Heart of Sharjah
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Today, Friday, November 9, the Middle East’s first graphic design Biennial opens its doors for the course of 21 days. The UAE’s fictitious "Ministry of Graphic Design" will introduce visitors to the best and most ground-breaking graphic design in the Middle East and beyond, examining the discipline’s limits, scope and purpose in the rapidly changing world of the 21st century.

The biennial brings together hundreds of designers, collectives, institutions and industry leaders from more than 20 countries for one of the most wide-ranging and ambitious creative events to be undertaken in the city. Organised by graphic design studio and education platform Fikra, it seeks to act as an international platform for creative practitioners in the Middle East to contribute to global design conversation, foster collaboration and explore the role of graphic design in an increasingly complex and culturally fragmented landscape.

Fikra Graphic Design Biennial takes place in an iconic 1970s modernist block that once housed the Bank of Sharjah and is now scheduled for demolition. T.ZED Architects have been commissioned to adapt and repurpose the building to house the Ministry of Graphic Design across multiple floors, preserving many of the old features and remnants of the bank’s design in the process. The Ministry of Graphic Design will be the building’s final occupant, and a consciousness of its history and heritage informs a number of elements of the event.

The innovation-driven administrative structures of the UAE have inspired the inaugural biennial’s theme. The country already has designated Ministers of State for happiness and AI; now for three weeks, it has an (entirely unofficial) Ministry of Graphic Design. As conceived by the exhibition’s artistic directors Prem Krishnamurthy, Emily Smith, and Na Kim "Ministry of Graphic Design" is a playfully formulated but serious-minded pop-up institution to create a starting point for continued dialogue, research, and understanding within the graphic design field—locally, regionally, and internationally.

Reflecting the hierarchical structures of government, the Ministry comprises six distinct departments of offices, each of which focuses on a different aspect of historical or contemporary graphic design. The departments are led by a diverse curatorial team, with each "Head of Department" responsible for the content and contributors of its exhibitions and events.

The Department of Graphic Optimism will be presenting talks and workshops by UAE-based designers and artists that delve into the history of the works displayed in the exhibition. The program will be an exploration of the cultural era in which Hisham Al Madhloum’s early works were produced, as well as a historical examination of the graphic trends prevalent in print media in the first few decades of the UAE since formation.

The Department of Mapping Margins, curated by anthropological archaeologist Uzma Z. Rizvi, evokes the future of critical design while providing strategies to decentre and decolonise disciplinary lines of control. Its programme of talks, communal feasts and pedagogical experiments creates opportunities to reflect on the state of contemporary graphic design. 

The Department of Flying Saucers will offer a range of activities including workshops, music performances, lectures and more. Seendosi will kick-start with a music performance by DJ Park Daham and Public Fiction will hold a lecture addressing the role of pop-culture in instigating social and political affairs, amongst others.

The Department of Non-Binaries, headed by Basel-based non-profit cultural association common-interest celebrates the power of hybridity and ambiguity. Bringing together 21 artists, whose work resists categorisation and challenges binaries of all types, the installation will include work by Alexandra BellPaula Minelgaite and Lizania Cruz, amongst others.

The Department of Dematerialising Language will relieve language of its tangible trappings, this ministry department explores the communicative potential of objects and symbols beyond the written word and introduces transient, participatory, performative, and other unexpected modes of communication. Co-artistic directors Na Kim and Emily Smith – aka Kith & Kin – have marked the department with custom-designed Mobile Units or site-specific locations, each containing works that challenge the assumed limitations of language.

Office of the Archive (OotA) is the on-site archiving programme/performance, documenting the activities of each department in the Ministry of Graphic Design. The archivist team the Absolute Beginners (Osaka-based curator Tetsuya Goto and assistant Saki Ho) will be working in a public office at the very top of the building to archive the biennial as it progresses. As well as collaborating with other departments on the specific events described above, the office will be inviting other biennial participants to engage in public dialogue over the course of the three weeks.

Fikra Graphic Design Biennial
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