Art-Trope had the occasion to participate to a preview visit of the exhibition “Baghdad my love” which takes place at the Institut des Cultures d’Islam in Paris from March 29th to July 29th 2018. Guided by Curator Morad Montazami, the Institute’s team and some of the Artists, we had the opportunity to see the Artworks that were selected from Iraqi and transnational Artists. Between Art and History, the exhibition echoes the artistic and cultural dynamism of the country which has been facing threats regarding its heritage.
The Institut des Cultures d’Islam at a crossroads
The Institut des Cultures d’Islam is not new on the Parisian artistic scene. Indeed, already in 2006 was implemented its foundations based on the school that used to occupy one of its current buildings. However it was particularly in 2013, following up the opening of the new building, that a new impetus was given to the Institute. This cultural establishment of the City of Paris aims at being an opening to the world as well as a place of encounters and learning. Social cohesion is also part of its DNA. “The specificity of the Institut des Cultures d’Islam, beyond the fact that it is divided in two buildings (…), is to host in [one of its buildings] a prayer room which belongs to and is managed by the Great Mosque of Paris. The idea is to bring together different types of audience” says the Institute’s General Director Stéphanie Chazalon. These encounters are encouraged by a multidisciplinary programming which transcends audiences. To both Stéphanie Chazalon and Artistic, Cultural and Science Director Bérénice Saliou, “opening” in all its dimensions is a motto.
The exhibition entitled “Baghdad my love” is a “cry from the heart”
Presented under the high patronage of the UNESCO, the exhibition “Baghdad my love” combines Iraqi and transnational Artists’ perspectives on the artistic and cultural heritage of Iraq since the conflicts have been agitating the country. Morad Montazani, the exhibition’s Curator but also Research Curator “Middle East and Northern Africa” at the Tate Modern in London, designed this collective investigation like an artistic manifesto. “This exhibition was designed as a manifesto exhibition (…). The homage to Baghdad (…) is above all a “cry from the heart” responding to the heritage and humanitarian tragedy in Iraq (…). The exhibition is based on the Iraqi museums and archeological sites looting that have been taking place since 2003 (…). It is a visual heritage that is at stake (…)” explains the exhibition’s Curator. Fifteen years after the arrival of the Americans on the Iraqi soil, the idea is to put the artistic urge that comes from it in the spotlight. “We have not paid enough attention to how modern and contemporary Artists have been taking over the question of this heritage’s preservation” reminds Morad Montazami.
An exhibition setting between Art and History
Going through the exhibition “Baghdad my love” is to navigate through Art and History. “The Artist’s work is also to complete the perspective of historians and archaeologists” highlights Morad Montazami. As a result, the exhibition opens with the sewed “windows” of Artist Ali Assaf, made in 1993 as a homage to his mother who was weaver in Iraq. In these colorful folds of fabric, the Artist reuses the shape of “English-Indian” windows style typical of the buildings of the Iraqi city of Basra. Each color expresses an aspect of the Artist’s personal memory and the country’s collective memory. Red represents Asia, beige humble living, black the women clothes the Artist’s mother used to make. Interacting with these windows open to the world, the sculpture made of sand bags by Artist Julien Audebert, entitled Sandbagwal and made in 2011 uses the figure of the lion of Babylon’s ruins. The bags symbolize the American military camp Alpha that took possession of the archeological site. The destiny of such sites is therefore multifaceted. The next part of the exhibition puts together more contemporary architectural references. It is the case for the Artists collective Baghdad Modern Art Group including Jewad and Lorna Selim, who all reinvent the architectural experimentations of the Iraqi capital city in the 50s. The crossed perspectives multiply and come together in the ultimate room of the exhibition, transformed into the temporary office of the Mossul Eye collective. A cry that can be heard loud and clear.
The word of Morad Montazami, the exhibition’s Curator
In order to go more into details, we had a discussion with Morad Montazami. “The banners of the exhibition’s hall make it a manifesto space. The idea is to show that preservation gestures are also gestures of reinvention. To terminate the exhibition with Mossul Eye is to remind that in reality, on the grounds, what is at stake is the same” explains the Curator. “In a country that is in a state of heritage crisis, we have to deal with the crisis, of course, but we also have to show that the cultural dynamism is destroyed along with the objects. Such dynamism is only transmitted by the Artists who lived this heritage” reminds Morad Montazami. As for the position of the Artists who are inspired by Islam cultures on the international artistic scene, “the reinstallation in 2011 of the Iraqi Pavilion at the Venice Biennial was an important step. It has not been done since 1977″ indicates the exhibition’s Curator. It is for a better understanding of what is at stake in the cultural and artistic dynamism of a country in crisis that the Institut des Cultures d’Islam invites you to share a unique experience between Art and History.
Read our article the Montreal Biennial bankruptcy here.