Sweeping, 2016

Street sweepers, green polythene trash bags, long handled brooms, garbage truck, waste
Daily Performance: 6:00 AM—2:00 PM
19 November, 2016 — 19 February, 2017
Al Shuweiheen, Sharjah
Commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation, March Project 2016

Every day a team of sweepers clean the streets of Al Shuweiheen, a busy residenIal neighbourhood of Sharjah that is bustling with shops. Each sweeper follows a specific route, collecIng refuse in large green bags, as he silently circulates his designated area three to four times per day.

While Sharjah Art Museum is located within Al Shuweiheen, there are few encounters between the museum and the neighbourhood. For his project, the arIst has remapped the routes of five sweepers in order to converge at the perimeter of the museum’s building. As each sweeper finishes a cycle, he will deposit a bag of collected refuse on the sidewalk in front of the museum building. A row of 20–25 trash bags will be allowed to accumulate until 2:00 pm each day, before they are removed by a garbage truck. 'Sweeping' (2016) is an attempt to draw attention to what we habitually overlook—waste and the labour that is involved in sanitation—is positioned here as an art practice. In place of conventional notions of art, the sweepers put forth trash in its place and claim their labour as a creation of beauty.

Far from a dividing line, the row of trash bags demarcates an opportunity of both physical and metaphorical dialogue between the museum and the neighbourhood—with the sweepers and the waste acting as mediators. As a social tool, the act of sweeping throws into relief questions of class, race and position, and offers a mediation on dirt, which anthropologist Mary Douglas describes as ‘matter out of place’. Throughout Sweeping, what is usually swept, lingers in plain sight. In this project, altering the paths of the sweepers bends the social order by rearranging matter and human labour that keeps all in place.

Made with the support of Bee'ah Sharjah Environment Company LLC. Participating sweepers include: Assainar Akkaparambil, Khayyum Shaik, Rafique Ahmed I Wagle, Altaf So Gulab Ali, Shaikh Afzal Shaikh; Inspector Assistant: Mohmed Babumiya; Sector Supervisor Waste Management: Hussam Mohammed Faraj

2018 © Vikram Divecha