An upcoming exhibition at Tate Modern promises to be an eye-opening experience, throwing its audience into an unexpected world where war and science fiction come together in real life. Michael Rakowitz’s ‘The Worst Condition Is To Pass Under A Sword Which Is Not One’s Own’ will run at Tate Modern from 22 January t0 03 May 2010. Admission is free and as Level 2 promotes up-and-coming artists, this could be one to go and see!
The exhibition of works by Michael Rakowitz explores the surprising links between western science fiction and military-industrial activities in Iraq during and after the period of Saddam Hussein’s regime. Level 2 is Tate Modern’s space for emerging artists, dedicated to experimental ideas, themes and trends in international contemporary art.
Michael Rakowitz was born in 1973 in New York and now work in Chicago. His exhibition explores how powerful contemporary mythologies derived from popular culture have informed the collective unconscious. Through a series of detailed drawings and sculptural assemblages, his new project considers themes such as the Iraqi leaders’ fascination with the Star Wars films; the iconography of Jules Verne’s novels; as well as the World Wrestling Federation’s unique take on Gulf War politics.
The centrepiece of the exhibition is a recreation of the Swords Of Qādisīyyah monument in central Baghdad. This triumphal arch, otherwise known as the Hands of Victory, was inaugurated on 8 August 1989. The invitation for the opening ceremony featured the heroic proclamation ‘The worst condition is for a person to pass under a sword which is not his own or to be forced down a road which is not willed by him’. Rakowitz’s version of the arch incorporates pages from a fantasy novel attributed to Saddam Hussein and imaginative recreations of the infamous ‘Darth Vader’-style helmets worn by the Fedayeen paramilitary group formed by Hussein’s eldest son Uday. The artist reveals the multiple references and resonances of the Victory Arch, from the history of its design to its use as a backdrop for military posturing.
Michael Rakowitz works in the manner of a cultural archaeologist, presenting an unexpected network of connections between historical fact and fantasy. Rakowitz’s project ‘The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist’ was shown at the Istanbul and Sharjah Biennials in 2007 and the group exhibition ‘Transmission Interrupted’ at Modern Art Oxford in 2009.
For this on-going project, the artist initiated the recreation of the historic artefacts looted from the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad during the Gulf War, using common Middle-Eastern packaging materials. An earlier project from 2006, ‘Return’, involved the resurrection of an import-export company run by Rakowitz’s Iraqi-Jewish grandfather.
Tate Modern, Level 2
22 January – 3 May 2010
Admission free; open every day from 10.00 – 18.00, until 22.00 on Friday and Saturday.
Public Information Number: 020 7887 8888