In a one-hour lecture organised by the A. M. Qattan Foundation (AMQF) in Ramallah, renowned artist Michael Rakowitz took his audience on a journey between different cities, which were the hub of his art projects and works. Most of Rakowitz’s projects and works deal directly with people and address a variety of political and social themes.
The Iraqi-American artistic talked about a number of his art projects, experiences and works. These include Return; Spoils, a culinary intervention at New York City’s Park Avenue restaurant; and Enemy Kitchen (2003-ongoing).
Rakowitz also talked about his project The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist. This is the name ancient Babylonians gave to the northern section of the processional way that ran through the Ishtar Gate (now put on permanent exhibition at the Pergamon Museum, Berlin). The idea of the exhibition is informed by making reconstructions that simulate artefacts looted from the Iraqi museum following the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. These are made from the packaging of Middle Eastern foodstuffs and local Arabic newspapers.
Khaldoun Bisharah, architect, anthropologist and Director of Riwaq Centre for Architectural Conservation attended the encounter. On Rakowitz’s project, Bisharah said: “There is a link between memory and substance. We cannot talk about things while they are absent. Their absence makes up make them so that we can talk about them. He created a project about the looted artefacts, which he made from paper. These were the most influential in the project. They seek to make ordinary people realise why we seek to preserve material things.”
Yazid Anani, Director of the AMQF Public Programme, stated: “The lecture lies in an important context. It reminds us of the concept of art and what the art work means for societies befallen with social and political crises.” According to Anani, “what Michael does is an art that talks to, and is produced with, people. All the steps of his projects have their own political, societal and ethnic implications. He raises societal themes which are sometimes “taboos”. He places these problems as a mirror in front of people to discuss them”.
During his visit to Palestine, Rakowitz will take part in a workshop that brings together teachers and students of arts and architecture. Together, they will produce arts works to be presented in an exhibition that will be launched at the inaugural opening of the AMQF new building in Ramallah.
Rakowitz is Professor of Art Theory and Practice at Northwestern University. His work has appeared in venues worldwide, including Documenta (13), MoMA PS1, MassMOCA, Castello di Rivoli, and many international biennales.
Rakowitz has had solo exhibitions London, in New York, Torino and Innsbruck. He has won many grants and awards for his art practices.
On his participation in the seminar and workshop, Rakowitz stated: “It is an honour to be in touch once again with a society I feel I am part of. It is indeed a pleasure to work with teachers and students to reproduce Palestinian artefacts using a technique I used in my previous works, using materials that will later transform into something different.”