Bagdad mon amour

29.03.18 > 29.07.18
ICI Stephenson

From March 29th to July 29th, 2018, Institut des Cultures d’Islam presents the Baghdad mon amour exhibition.

Exhibition view from Bagdad mon amour with artworks of Ali Assaf, Julien Audebert and Dia Azzawi © Ali Assaf, Julien Audebert and Dia Azzawi

The exhibition Bagdad mon amour is a reflection on the artistic strategies for the re-invention of the Iraqi cultural heritage ravaged by decades of wars. Predominantly from Iraq, the artists gathered here are trying to overcome the looting and destruction of museums and archeological sites, from Baghdad to Mosul. These phenomena, which already happened under Sadam Hussein, became systematic since the 2000’s following the second Gulf war conducted by the United States and their allies, and more recently with the cultural massacres carried out by the Islamic State terrorist group.

By revealing these artists’ protective impulse, which expresses in various forms of allegory, parody, archeology or montage, Bagdad mon amour conveys the utopian idea of a “museum without walls” in order to confront the Iraqi catastrophe. Far away from nostalgia, a constellation of modern and contemporary art pieces, of archives and nomadic signs, celebrate a surviving visual culture which resists obliteration. The growing anxiety generated by ghost-objects, disappeared from the museums, gives way to the collective imagination, in order to sketch a possible renaissance of Bagdad, between gestures of preservation and re-invention.

Exhibition views from Bagdad mon amour with artworks of Ala Younis and Lorna Selim © Ala Younis and Lorna Selim

The exhibition also shows the links existing between the “warning” artists or “archeologist” artists of the present, and the generation of the Bagdad Modern Art Group. As early as the fifties, and led in particular by Jewad Selim, they committed themselves to the reinvention of a cultural heritage that questioned the notion of “national heritage”. They had found refuge at the Bagdad Archeology Museum – largely ransacked in 2003 – to be inspired by Islamic, Sumerian and Assyrian antiquities.

They represented the post-independence project of a new nation before a contemporary era, haunted mostly by phantom-objects and contraband collections. Constructed on this concept, the exhibition assembles works of art based on the notions of inventory, reconstitution, the study of monuments and documents : anxious works of art ready to imagine the next “Renaissance” of Bagdad.

Exhibition views from Bagdad mon amour and artwork of Sherko Abbas © Sherko Abbas

« Iraqi history is full of holes, we need to weave together all these layers of Iraqi visual culture and heritage. »

Morad Montazami, curator
Exhibition views from Bagdad mon amour with artworks of Michael Rakowitz, Himat, Salam Atta Sabri and Resmi Al Kafaji © Michael Rakowitz, Himat, Salam Atta Sabri and Resmi Al Kafaji

« And if despite all its misfortunes the cultural aura of the Iraqi capital has never weakened, it is in particular thanks to the love that its artists and intellectuals have for it. »

Mouvement magazine

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