Mar 18th 2014

The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist (2007 to present) unfolds as an intricate narrative about the artifacts stolen from the Iraq Museum, Baghdad, in the aftermath of the US invasion of April 2003; the current status of their whereabouts; and the series of events surrounding the invasion, the plundering, and related protagonists. The centerpiece of the project is an ongoing series of sculptures that represent an attempt to reconstruct looted and stolen archaeological artifacts.

The reconstructions in Rakowitz’s work are made from the packaging of Middle Eastern foodstuffs and local Arabic newspapers, moments of cultural visibility found in cities across the United States. The objects were created using the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago’s 2003 “Lost Treasures of Iraq” database as a resource, as well as information posted on Interpol’s website.
The reconstructions, including some new artworks, are displayed opposite the ancient statues from the Oriental Institute’s collection, which were part of a formal division with the Iraq Museum in the 1930s. Reunited yet still divided, the reconstructed statues and their original counterparts stand face-to-face in this installation. This abridged version of The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist follows its display as part of “The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology” at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.

Michael Rakowitz (b. 1973, New York) is an artist based in Chicago. His work has appeared at dOCUMENTA (13), P.S.1, MoMA, MassMOCA, Castello di Rivoli, the 16th Biennale of Sydney, the 10th Istanbul Biennial, Sharjah Biennial 8, Tirana Biennale, National Design Triennial at the Cooper-Hewitt, and Transmediale 05. Solo exhibits include: Lombard Freid Projects in New York, Alberto Peola Arte Contemporanea in Torino, and Stadtturmgalerie/Kunstraum Innsbruck. His public project, Return, was presented by Creative Time in New York in 2006. His work features in major private and public collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Neue Galerie, Kassel, Germany; Smart Museum of Art, Chicago; Van Abbemuseum, Endhoven, Netherlands; The British Museum; Kabul National Museum, Afghanistan; and UNESCO, Paris.

His solo exhibition, The worst condition is to pass under a sword which is not one’s own, was on view at Tate Modern in London in 2010. A new commission for SALT in Istanbul premiered in November 2011. Rakowitz was commissioned by Creative Time in 2011 for his project, Spoils, a culinary intervention at New York City’s Park Avenue restaurant that invited diners to eat off of plates looted from Saddam Hussein’s palaces. The project culminated in the repatriation of the former Iraqi President’s flatware to the Republic of Iraq at the behest of current Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki on December 15, 2011—the date Coalition Forces left Iraq. In 2012, his Enemy Kitchen food truck served Iraqi food to Chicago’s hungry public, served by veterans of the Iraq War working under Iraqi refugee chefs, and will soon return to the streets. Another recent project, The Breakup, was first presented by Al Ma’mal Foundation for Contemporary Art in Jerusalem in October 2010, and was exhibited at Rhona Hoffman Gallery in Chicago in 2014. Rakowitz is Professor of Art Theory and Practice at Northwestern University.

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