In a new exhibition, over 250 artworks detail the devastating effect of war on Iraq, something its curators believe has not been addressed culturally until now
As you walk into Moma PS1 in Queens, New York, visitors are greeted with an unlikely wall sculpture the CNN logo at the end of an oversized gold chain.
Its great for a selfie op, but theres a deeper meaning to the artwork, created in 2002 by Thomas Hirschhorn. CNN played a pivotal role in accelerating the 24-hour news coverage of the Gulf war, setting the pace for war news.
This artwork is being shown as part of Theater of Operations: the Gulf Wars, 19912011, featuring over 250 artworks by 75 artists. It details the tragic, gruesome effects of war, as told by western and Middle Eastern artists.
We realized there hasnt been a major survey 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. Were looking at what an artist on one side of an issue makes, versus another, sometimes on the same event.
With the recent killing of the Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and with US troops leaving northern Syria and being deployed in eastern Syria, Americas military presence is as topical as ever. But for the artists who lived in Kuwait and Iraq in the 1990s, what was it like to live through such horror?
Its timely but also belated, because this has not been addressed culturally, said Katrib. Iraqi art has not been addressed; Iraqi cultural production hasnt been addressed either. But the US has been entangled in Iraq for three decades, so why has there been such a lack of representation, interest, or time and space given to Iraqi cultural production?
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 artists is opening next week at the High Line Nine in New York), the 1991 Gulf wars devastating impact has yet to be fully explored within art at least that which has been shared with a wider western audience.