In a brand-new exhibit, over 250 artworks detail the devastating effect of war on Iraq, something its curators accept has not been addressed culturally until now
As you walk into Moma PS1 in Queens, New York, guests are saluted with an unlikely wall statue- the CNN logo at the end of an oversized amber chain.
It’s great for a selfie op, but there’s a deeper meaning to the artwork, established in 2002 by Thomas Hirschhorn. CNN played a pivotal role in speed up the 24 -hour news coverage of the Gulf war, setting the speed for war news.
This artwork is being shown as part of Theater of Enterprise: the Gulf Wars, 1991-2011, boasting over 250 artworks by 75 creators. It details the terrible, horrendou effects of war, as told by western and Middle Eastern artists.
” We recognise there hasn’t been a major sketch of Iraqi art in the US ,” said Peter Eleey, who co-curated the exhibition with Ruba Katrib.” Everyone wants to talk about the current conflict, but this conflict has been going on for 30 years. We’re looking at what an master on one side of such issues constructs, versus another, sometimes on the same event .”
With the recent killing of the Isis ruler Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and with US troops leaving northern Syria and being deployed in eastern Syria, America’s military spirit is as topical as ever. But for the artists who lived in Kuwait and Iraq in the 1990 s, what was it like to live through such fright?
” It’s timely but likewise belated, because this has not been addressed culturally ,” said Katrib.” Iraqi art has not been addressed; Iraqi culture creation hasn’t been addressed either. But the US has been caught in Iraq for three decades, so why has there been such a lack of representation, interest, or season and space given to Iraqi culture product ?”
Good question. While America is slowly warming up to Middle Eastern art and culture( a new not-for-profit in Washington dedicated to Middle Eastern art opened in September, while an exhibition of female Iranian masters is opening next week at the High Line Nine in New York ), the 1991 Gulf war’s devastating impact has yet to be fully explored within art- at least that which has been shared with a wider western audience.