The work of Michael Rakowitz interrogates the history of museums and their historical complicity in extractive and colonial legacies. His practice aims to establish a new dynamic of reparation and accountability. Born into a Jewish-Iraqi family, the American artist explores the transformations brought about by exile and finds ways to resuscitate images, forms, or architecture(s) that have disappeared, or are about to be erased.
For his first solo exhibition in France, Rakowitz explores the physical reality of his cultural heritage in order to raise questions about provenance and power, while sketching out new perspectives for potential decolonization. His work links the economic realities and cultural issues currently affecting Iraq in poetic and pragmatic ways.
For nearly 15 years, Michael Rakowitz has labored to make objects reappear that were looted from the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad during the US-led invasion of the country in April 2003. This project includes items destroyed by the Islamic State at the Assyrian sites of Nineveh and Nimrud in 2015. Drawing on information produced by the University of Chicago’s Lost Treasures from Iraq database, UCLA‘s Cuneiform Digitial Library Initiative and Interpol, the artist rematerializes a destroyed heritage by reconstructing objects in his Chicago studio with materials circulating in contemporary Arabic-American culture including food packaging, newspapers, etc).
The presentation of these works at 49 Nord 6 Est intersects with the institution’s ongoing investigation of the itinerancy and contingency of artworks; in this context, Rakowitz’s practice eloquently contributes to exploring the transformative potential of diasporic realities.