Project: I LOVE to YOU: Workers' Voices in the UAE
Dates : 4 April - 4 June 2007
Sharjah Biennial 8, UAE

Introduction to our publication accompanying the exhibition

The title of this work, taken from a book by Luce Irigaray, complicates notions of love, by placing within the phrase I love you, a barrier of protection, a to, which not only confers a distance of respect for the other, but also provides the possibility for relations between individuals that would not be based on subjugation or appropriation.
I love to you is a collection of writings, drawings, images, poems, songs and interviews which relate to, address, and interrogate a public intervention which arose out of an invitation to develop a work in the United Arab Emirates. The intervention involves the placement of bullhorns in different parts of the city of Sharjah, which broadcast recorded songs sung by workers living within the UAE.
These workers who come from a variety of countries (e.g., Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, Iran, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Philippines, Egypt, Syria, Ethiopia …) and speak a multiplicity of languages make up 85 – 95% of the workforce in the UAE. Despite comprising a staggering majority, these individuals have few political rights and absolutely no political voice. The potential for abuse is extensive – politically voiceless, they can be subject to social and economic deprivations, physical violence, work without compensation, unsafe labor conditions, political isolation, fear of reprisals and loss of sponsorship, loneliness, and countless other injustices.
These workers also comprise a growing multitude worldwide who trade in any semblance of political rights in their ‘native’ countries for the possibility of a better life - somewhere else/beyond it/outside of it. The so-called-logic of the so-called-market, which has become an ideological juggernaut in our time, is willfully unable to take into account the political voices of these individuals, just as it has chosen to remain deaf to the call of the social and ecological catastrophes which await the entire globe- particularly if we continue to subject ourselves to the chorus of ringing cash registers, misleadingly mislabeled as the free market or democracy.

From our recordings, we have assembled a limited selection of songs and in some cases poems. If they are beautiful, they complicate a one-dimensional account of these individuals, simply as ‘workers’. In fact, some of the poems and songs are written by those who give voice to them. Yet in many cases, we do not hear ‘professional’ singers, they are amateurs, amatore, lovers whose voices retain a surplus beyond the meaning of the words they utter, beyond the beauty of the rendition of their chosen songs. This surplus is what may possibly constitute the space of the political voice, exceeding the individual and disturbing the accepted notion of a unified, homogenous or containable community.
We hope that this collection of materials, including the interview with philosopher Malden Dolar, whose ideas have been an great discovery during the process, will help set the flight lines for emergent questions and contributions to the ongoing processes of refusal, contestation, and disagreement - which construct the core of what we could call a democracy underway, to struggle for.

Initial Description
e-Xplo has been invited to develop a work for the Sharjah Biennial. We have invited the artist Ayreen Anastas to work with us.

All of us have shared concerns and reservations for this project. The political circumstances in the UAE are by no means the worst in the world; however, at least when one reads about the Emirates, it appears as though there could be no more ideal situation for corporations. A state as not only a shelter for corporations, but a state as a corporation. Its citizens, the few, its shareholders. Foreign workers (who have little or no rights) comprise the majority of the workers in the country. For these same reasons, however, we have been extremely curious about Sharjah and Dubai and the social, ecological, political, and economic conditions in the area.

If Iraq and Afghanistan can be described as the military wing of neoliberal expansion, Dubai and the UAE in general may be described as the dream factory or utopian wing. Of course, each of the Emirates has its own unique quirks, qualities, landscape, cultural and social norms, but the entire context of the UAE presents an incredible picture of how in fact neoliberalism has not only reached every edge of the globe, but has actually taken hold and refashioned itself through these edges.

The physical geography and the sheer magnitutde of the development of this area begs us to organize some kind of physical journey. But this raises many questions. If we organized a tour, who would it be for? And when could we organize it, given the 5am to 11pm traffic? Furthemore, limitations in time and budget finally encouraged us to look in other directions.

We have by now made our preliminary visit in the beginning of this year. Over 95% of the workforce in the UAE is foreign, non-national, non-citizen. For us, this is a staggering fact which points a very awkward and ominous direction for the future. Our work will focus on the voices of these legal and undocumented workers. We also hope to shed some light on the very concept of voice.

We begin our work with the simple concept of recording songs from the workers - from pakistan, india, afghanistan, bangladesh, china, iran, egypt, syria, palestine, iraq, phillipines, ... to call attention to their voices, which politically speaking remain unheard. What unfolds in the process is a series of encounters and disjointed glimpses into the possible future of laborers worldwide.

More about Sharjah Biennial 8

For a great article on Dubai please read Mike Davis's:



The Sharjah Biennial 8 (SB8) will present various attempts in visual arts and film that address the growing social, political and environmental challenges the world is facing due to excessive urban development, pollution, political ambitions, and the thoughtless misuse, abuse and exhaustion of natural resources.

SB8 will focus on the renewed role of art in addressing a wide range of issues that directly and radically affect, and in an alarming magnitude the human existence on this earth (man's relation to earth and earth's relation to man). The biennial will not only stand for these issues as a venue and a platform for presentations, exhibits and discussions, but will take an active role in commissioning artists to produce new work corresponding to the topic at hand and will also partner with institutions to stimulate wider involvement with the issues brought up particularly amongst educational institutions.

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