In a nod to the world’s hottest storytelling platform – Pecha Kucha or “show and tell” – Selections has asked a number of artists and designers to talk about a specific project through imagery and an economy of words. The result is a simple yet engaging and visually captivating tale that sheds light upon the work whilst providing insights into the life and personal thoughts of each featured artist and designer. Passion and knowledge all wrapped into one.
I studied fine art in Baghdad with an emphasis on graphics and painting. In 2005, my thesis concerning the logic order in Mesopotamian drawing earned me a PhD in the philosophy of painting. I’ve taught and lectured widely at several faculties of the University of Fine Arts in Baghdad. At the end of 2006, I left Iraq for an artist residency at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris and from there I followed the call of a fellowship offered by SOAS in London in 2008. I held a fellowship at the Chelsea College of Art in London from 20111 to 2013. Currently and temporarily, I work as associate professor at the Royal University for Women (RUW) in Bahrain and concentrate on research. My work graces numerous private collections, art centres and museums, including the Centre for Modern Art, Baghdad, the Jordan National Museum Amman, The British Museum, The Imperial War Museum in London, The Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha, The Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah and the Ramzi Dalloul Foundation in Beirut.
Archaeological Ruins of Mesopotamia/Ruins of Wars and Contemporary art. (Ruins embody a set of temporal and historical paradoxes.)
Since leaving Iraq in November 2006, I have developed my practice in ruins technique and aesthetics of destruction. I have also started to sign my works numerically from 2007. Regarding the numerical signature of mine: it’s based on the Abjad system, in which each number corresponds to an Arabic letter. Traditionally, the Abjad system allows letters and words to be analysed as if they were numbers. As mentioned earlier, I fled Iraq in 2006, a year that saw a peak of violence and marked the culmination of three decades of wars, two of them intentional. To physically taste war is completely different than to experience it second-hand. The first lesson you learn is that ruination is the essence of all being: death has no meaning and anything solid can be reduced to nothing in seconds. The learning of this process of vanishing, this morphing of matter to dust, of something into nothing, has led me to conclude that ruination, or destruction, is hidden de facto in the phenomenon of figuration, Thus, for the last 12 years, I explored the space located between existing and vanishing, a concept which for me also holds many layers of meaning. Ruins might be categorized under four heading:
1-Natural organic ruination/chronology/decay
2-Human ruination/wars/no chronology
3-Archaeological ruination/chronology/ruins, rubble and debris
4-Destroying archaeological sites by humans not by nature/debris and ruins
Celebrating My Survival: My picture burning material outside my studio in Streatham Hill, London
“Capture the tremor of terror mixed with pleasure to be survived us human.”
Let fire to do what it needd to do in the materials, without any control, then allow that specific destruction system and its aesthetics to build my work. Considering my art starts up once the process of destroying material starts.
The ruin concept appears in its material specificity and violence hidden in the process of destroying materials, namely in my physical practice.
But the question is: Where does the pleasure of destroying material come from? Is it just celebrating my survival?
The above images are still images from our team videos of our ongoing project: Coexistent Ruins: Exploring Iraq’s Mesopotamian past through contemporary art.
Under Ruins Technique the project She/He Has No Picture was executed. Image is a detail of it. She/He Has No Picture (2019) is a wall installation commemorating the victims of the pre-dawn bombing on February 13, 1991 of Public Shelter Nr. 25 in the Al Amiriyah neighbourhood of Baghdad. Without warning two American F-117 planes fired two laser-guided smart missiles, incinerating over 400 people – mostly women, children and old men. Shortly after, a small booklet was published listing the victims’ names. Only 100 of these were accompanied by a photographic portrait. The others merely had a notice printed beside their names reading either “She has no picture (female)” or “He has no picture (male).” Central to this project is the face, the face of victims, of viewers and of the faceless and its relevance to memory and mourning.
Still images from one video of many from our project: Coexistent Ruins: Exploring Iraq’s Mesopotamian past through contemporary art. The video shows a performance of one of our team artists, Reya Abd Redah. “The trauma is the present, the therapeutic located in the past,” in the last vestiges of Mesopotamian archaeological sites.
Past Present Future
Soled ↓↓↓↓↓↓ virtual
-With Mesopotamia is in this order:
Present→→→ Past →→→ Future
Excavating future at Mesopotamian Archaeological Ruins
Sedimentation of the future
Soon is here/soon is now/TO BE RUINS OR SEDIMENTATION SOONER OR LATER, SOONER OR LATER ACTUALLY IS HERE
Get Mesopotamian Ruins narrative, how all be sunken by dust soon!
“The images capture the silent sedimentation of historical events, acts of creation and growth, acts of violence and destruction, all sunken into ground.”
-If the past is just archaeological ruins, and, the present just wars ruins accumulation, what kind of future narrative should be weaved?
-“Mankind’s days are numbered all their activities will be nothing but wind.” Sumerian Proverb.
Sound of Mesopotamia Sedimentation (SMS)
“The stairway climbs up and up, undaunted, to the roofless summit where it meets the sky,” where it meets nothing.
Rose Macaulay/Pleasure of Ruins
“…and in our imagination, we scatter the rubble of the very building in which we live over the ground; in that moment solitude and silence prevail around us, we are the sole survivors of an entire nation that is no more.”
Ancient Mesopotamia Heritage, side by side treasure of oil, have made Iraq the theatre of colonialism and conflicts. And the resulting hardship has formed Iraqis’ modern life, and maybe their future. Mesopotamia is a historical region in Western Asia situated within the Tigris-Euphrates river system, in modern days roughly corresponding to most of Iraq. Might you know, Mesopotamia is the first cradle of civilization in the earth. Living in such a historical region, which has such a long history as well of wars and violence, has saturated my memory with ruination. Iraq’s dialectical landscape hovers between the deep geological archaeological past and a catastrophic (present) and future. And living in a place like Iraq makes ruination part of Iraqi everyday life. Actually, Iraq is panorama of ruination.
My numerical signature is rooted by Mesopotamian artefacts at archaeological museums, especially Western museums, which have the most important Mesopotamian heritage.
In this work, which depicts my left forearm, I utilize a fundamental property of this organic material and its temporary existence to deliver a specific concept of ruination. Using a system of organic material such as my flesh, which contains a process of decay over time, to show a chronology aspect of ruination. Simply, one might say a ravage of time. The system of that process and morphing over time engender different aesthetics of decaying and ruination. Comparing this organic material with other artistic materials such as stone, paint and canvas.
A VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE APPEARED IN PRINT IN SELECTIONS, SHOW & TELL #51 PAGES 70 – 73.