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'Mohamed is Absent. I am Performing' Contemporary Iraqi Art and the Destruction of Cultural Heritage

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Bernadette Buckley


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Iraq/ contemporary art/ artists/ exile/ displacement/ disconnection between heritage and art?/ Mohamed Abdulla/ Jananne al Ani / Rashad Selim / Predrag Petric/ Catherine David (Forthcoming) This chapter contributes to the growing discourse surrounding the destruction and role of cultural ‘property’ in times of conflict. Specifically, it considers the relationship between Iraqi artists' contemporary practices and the destruction of cultural heritage in Iraq. Currently little is known about contemporary art practices in Iraq - not least because of the closure of all existing contemporary art galleries. Indeed, Iraqi artists in exile widely believe that few practicing artists remain in Iraq. Consequently, current research on Iraqi artists is informed by artists in exile. This chapter deals with the difficulties inherent in any attempt to configure the 'state of contemporary Iraqi art practices' today. Supported by original interviews, this chapter considers the work of four Iraqi artists and their understanding of ‘exile’: Mohamed Abdulla; Janane al Ani; Maysaloun Faraj and Rashad Selim. There are no comparable texts addressing the question of post-occupation contemporary Iraqi art practices. Recent exhibitions highlighting the work of Iraqi artists include those curated by Catherine David (2004) and Maysaloun Faraj(2005). However, in the case of the former, no exhibition catalogue was produced to accompany and/or document the work of the Iraqi artists included in that exhibition. In the case of the latter, catalogue texts differ from the current chapter in two ways. Firstly, the political situation has changed significantly since production of that work and secondly, the catalogue profiles artists' work rather than critiquing it and/or tackling the issues facing contemporary Iraqi artists today. Regarding methodology, the chapter re-appraises existing relevant sources of literature (from museological, political, art-critical and art theoretical perspectives. Because maintaining contact with fellow artists currently working in Iraq exposes such artists and their families to risk of attack, this chapter does not deal directly with those artists currently living in Iraq. However, it is supported by five original interviews with Iraqi artists in exile (as detailed above) and by two interviews with curators of contemporary Iraqi and Middle Eastern art. The latter includes Catherine David, (Curator of Documenta X who worked for two years with Iraqi arists in Germany) and Predrag Petric, (Curator of forthcoming Art In Focus: Art from the Middle East at Tate Modern). Word Length 6000 words

Publication metadata

Author(s): Buckley B

Editor(s): Stone, PG; Farchakh Bajjaly, J

Publication type: Book Chapter

Publication status: Published

Book Title: The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Iraq

Year: 2008

Pages: 283-310

Series Title: Heritage Matters

Publisher: Boydell Press

Place Published: Woodbridge, Suffolk

Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9781843833840