Michael Rakowitz takes over levels 1 and 2 of Jameel Arts Centre with eight major installations made over the last two decades; this the first solo exhibition by the renowned Iraqi-American artist to take place in the Middle East and Asia.
A sculptor, detective and sometimes chef, Rakowitz is keenly attuned to the social dimensions of art practice and his work is characterised by a process of deep research. Working with architecture, artefacts and food, Rakowitz excavates personal, social and material histories and connects seemingly disparate stories across time and space. In particular, he is interested in how pop culture can be used to access shared cultural narratives.
The exhibition includes the multifaceted and ongoing installation The invisible enemy should not exist, exploring destroyed and looted artefacts from ancient Iraq through life-size reconstructions made with food packaging familiar to Middle Eastern diasporas in the US and elsewhere. Also featured in the exhibition is a listening room for The Breakup, a radio series and wider project that juxtaposes the disbanding of The Beatles with the collapse of the Pan-Arab project, as well as The flesh is yours the bones are ours, an ambitious one-room installation looking at Art Nouveau building facades across Istanbul as repositories of repressed histories.
Invested in the role of art as a catalyst for public debate, Rakowitz came to prominence with a series of public art projects including paraSITE, inflatable, easily constructed shelters for homeless sleepers, and Enemy Kitchen — workshops and a food truck serving Iraqi cuisine on US city streets. His most recent public artwork is the lamassu – a recreation of an Assyrian human-headed winged bull destroyed by ISIS in 2015, commissioned for the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, London.