The treasure that Iraq lost to ISIS at the Mets exhibition


Using food packaging and newspapers as materials, U.S. artist Michael Rakovitz brings back the treasure that Iraq lost to ISIS and Western museums.

Using food packaging and newspapers as materials, U.S. artist Michael Rakovitz brings back the treasure that Iraq lost to ISIS and Western museums.

Michael Rakowitz was born in New York to a Jewish and Iraqi refugee family.

Photo provider: LT Archive

This article first appeared in the May issue of Luxembourg Times, which is currently available at kiosks.

In the Gilgamesh epic, a 4000-year-old Mesopotamian poem, King Gilgamesh wears a new robe and sash after heroically killing a monster. At that time, Ishtar, the goddess of love and war, sees him and falls in love. Ishtar was the Queen of Heaven in the city of Uruk in Iraq today and the goddess of the Inanna Temple.

From ancient times, cloth, sashes, rugs, statues and other objects have been symbols of civilization and have preserved stories for future generations. When society loses such items, the collective memory they represent is lost.

American artist Michael Rakovitz, a descendant of the Iraqi Jewish family, uses contemporary materials of Arabian culture such as food packaging and newspapers to reconstruct the ancient relics that Iraq lost during the war. doing.

His installation “The Invisible Enemy Must Not Exist” is an archeology that was plundered or destroyed during a violent period from the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad after the United States invaded Iraq in April 2003. Revive the relics. With the help of more than 30 assistants, Rakowitz used materials from waste that surprised Western viewers for Arabic lettering and a unique brand to dispel these lost artifacts. Reproduce.

Located on the upper floors of Fraclorraine, Mets’ contemporary art center, Lacowitz invites the audience to see his monumental panel. Reproduction of the destroyed relief sculpture of the ancient Assyrian palace (now Mosul) in Nimrud. Similar to a wall carpet, it is made from layered patchwork of food packages such as Maggie Halal chicken soup, Iraqi date syrup cans, Halal raspberry jelly desserts, chewing gum and sage tea.

The installation will place the audience in Iraqi locations within the Iraqi National Museum the day before ISIS destroys it. But even then, the room was already quite empty, as most of the artifacts that revived here were on display in Western museums.

The first attraction for viewers is not the meticulously reconstructed panels, but the blank space left by the lack of actual panels found in museums abroad. A sticker on the exhibition floor shows the name of the missing relic and the current home. The viewer needs to bend down to read them, like kneeling in front of tombstones and temples. It is an amazing effect and shows the immense power of colonization and capitalism in robbing society of their heritage.

Relics currently residing in Western institutions were immediately granted permanent residence with immigrants labeled “aliens” even if legally accepted by the country, and were actually allowed to return home again. It shows discrepancies with non-archaeological objects.

Invisible enemies must not exist (Ajiburu Shapu)Borrows its name from a street dating back to 574 BC, which passed through the Ishtar Gate in ancient Babylon. One of the translations of the name is “The arrogant person may not win.” Rakovitz’s work, which he describes as showing “ghosts that have become haunted in Western museums,” lacks this arrogance. He acknowledges the imperfections of his reconstruction, and the impossibility of repairing the past.

Food packaging, Rakowitz’s primary tool, hints at the lives of those who have fled their hometowns, not just those who were victims of the war. He commemorates the exiled Iraqi and the dead through things that share the same fate.

Rakowitz also contains debris destroyed by the Islamic State at the sites of Assyria’s Nineveh (Nineveh) and Calf (Nimrud). To identify the missing parts, he uses data from resources such as Interpol, the Iraqi National Antique Heritage Commission, and the Iraqi National Museum.

As a modern storyteller, Rakovitz proposes an alternative scenario to history that has put the Middle Eastern heritage and its people at a disadvantage. He successfully negotiated the return of some Iraqi relics to his hometown and joint custody between eastern and western institutions in exchange for free delivery of his own works to western museums. Proposed. In doing so, he is one of the rare artists of our time who has changed the practices of some of the world’s most powerful institutions.

Michael Rakotwitz’s first solo exhibition in France, “Reappearances,” can be seen at FRAC Lorraine in Mets. The exhibition will be held until August 14th. The museum is open Tuesday to Friday from 14:00 to 18:00 and Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 to 19:00. The address is 1bis, rue des Trinitaires, Metz.

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