On Saturday, as part of Sharjah Biennial 12, I visited Hassan Khan’s installation in The Flying Saucer, an eccentric sci-fi-esque building built in the 70’s in the residential Dasman neighborhood of Sharjah. The local monument has been acquired by Sharjah Art Foundation and was originally home to a French bakery, then a fast-food chicken franchise, and has most recently stood empty, slowly fading in the sun and sand.
Khan had added colored glass panels to the triangular windows inside The Flying Saucer. The jewel box colors create a groovy, kaleidoscopic effect that jive with the space’s starship ceiling and linoleum panelled bathroom doors. A widescreen TV plays an 8-minute loop of a short film featuring two men arguing in Arabic about which of them should have possession of a slapper and a cap of invisibility. Their absurd tiff, staged in an abstractly black space, seemed to challenge our very notion of reality as though Khan is suggesting that our understanding of the bounds dividing fact from fantasy are not so solid as we may think. I half-expected The Flying Saucer to lift off into an alternate reality when the film credits rolled.
Andeel, a well-known Egyptian cartoonist has collaborated with Khan and designed two billboards for the building’s roof. They ask in Arabic, English, and Urdu (the three main languages spoken in the UAE), “Is there no respect at all?”
I’m thrilled that Sharjah Art Foundation will be using this space for further art exhibitions and events and will be following along to see how The Flying Saucer’s revitalisation draws in local residents in the months to come. You can visit Hassan Khan’s installations inside The Flying Saucer throughout Sharjah Biennial 12 until 5 June.