SITElab 10: Michael Rakowitz
SITE Santa Fe presents a solo exhibition of Chicago-based, Iraqi-American artist Michael Rakowitz opening in the SITElab on May 25, 2018 through August 18, 2018. In his work, Michael Rakowitz attempts to undo the cultural erasure of Iraq and recreate antiquities that have been destroyed, looted, and removed from Iraq’s museums and ancient sites. Through Rakowitz’s works in sculpture, drawing, and video, lost or stolen objects of significant cultural patrimony are given new life for new audiences in a new era.
Central to this exhibition is the work The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist, (2007-ongoing), a collection of full-scale replicas of objects looted from the Iraqi National Museum in the aftermath of the US invasion of April 2003. The artist, with a team of assistants, construct each item from recycled materials such as the packaging of Middle Eastern foodstuffs and local Arabic newspapers. Each object was created using the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute database, information posted on Interpol’s website, and through information gathered from the artist’s communications with the late curator of the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad. This work represents an ongoing commitment to recuperate the over 7,000 objects that remain missing. The title of this work is a translation of the street that ran through the gate of Ishtar in ancient Babylon. In 1899 the gate was excavated by a German archeologist who then shipped it to Berlin where it still stands in the Pergamon Museum.
Other works in the exhibition include:
May the Obdurate Foe Not Stay in Good Health (2016-ongoing), a work that focuses on objects destroyed, or looted in Syria since the beginning of that country’s civil war in March 2011. Reconstructions of these artifacts are made from the packaging of Syrian foodstuffs imported to the US—products that have become increasingly scarce as the war continues to erode the country’s infrastructure, destroy its environment and its people.
The worst condition is to pass under a sword which is not one’s own (2009), a work that traces links between western science fiction and military-industrial activities in Iraq during Saddam Hussein’s regime.
The Ballad of Special Ops Cody (2017), a stop-motion video, featuring a GI Joe action figure who finds himself in the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute galleries where he encounters and tries to rescue a collection of Iraqi artifacts.
Spoils (2011), documentation of long-term project that involved the artist serving Iraqi date syrup and venison on the very china that Saddam Hussein once used in his opulent Baghdad palace.
SITElab 10: Michael Rakowitz is generously supported by Andy Wallerstein and Mary Sloane, Cornelia Bryer and Herman Siegelaar, and the patrons of SITE Forum.
About Michael Rakowitz
Michael Rakowitz (b. 1973, New York) is an artist living and working in Chicago. His work has appeared in venues worldwide including dOCUMENTA (13), P.S.1, MoMA, MassMOCA, Castello di Rivoli, the 16th Biennale of Sydney, the 10th Istanbul Biennial, Sharjah Biennial 8, Tirana Biennale, National Design Triennial at the Cooper-Hewitt, and Transmediale 05. He has had solo exhibitions at Tate Modern in London, Lombard Freid Gallery in New York, Alberto Peola Arte Contemporanea in Torino, and Kunstraum Innsbruck. He is the recipient of a 2012 Tiffany Foundation Award; a 2008 Creative Capital Grant; a Sharjah Biennial Jury Award; a 2006 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship Grant in Architecture and Environmental Structures; the 2003 Dena Foundation Award, and the 2002 Design 21 Grand Prix from UNESCO. His work features in major private and public collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Neue Galerie, Kassel, Germany; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Smart Museum of Art, Chicago; Van Abbemuseum, Endhoven, Netherlands; The British Museum; Kabul National Museum, Afghanistan; and UNESCO, Paris. Most recently, Rakowitz unveiled a recreation of a winged bull sculpture destroyed by ISIS as the 2018-19 featured public artwork on the Fourth Plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square. Rakowitz is Professor of Art Theory and Practice at Northwestern University and is represented by Rhona Hoffman Gallery and Jane Lombard Gallery.
SITElab is an experimental exhibition series presented in a newly configured gallery space located off the lobby of SITE’s building. SITElab showcases new directions in the work of established and emerging artists and features new works out of artists’ studios, as well as experimental, interdisciplinary, and community-based projects. Michael Rakowitz is the tenth exhibition in the SITElab series.
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