When this exhibition graced the Iraqi pavilion of the 2013 Venice Biennale, the commissioners were keen to make it authentic, even down to serving tea and kleytcha bil joz, Iraqi traditional biscuits. Since the biscuits couldn’t be bought in Italy, an Iraqi expat with a Swedish passport was flown in to give a crash course to a Venetian bakery: great lengths indeed. Whether it was the biscuits or the artwork that won the audience over, the Iraqi pavilion received a great deal of positive attention from the press and public alike during its time in the festival. For those who weren’t lucky enough to see it in Venice, the Welcome to Iraq exhibition is regrouping on London soil thanks to its curator Jonathan Watkins.
Like all war torn countries it’s generally expected that the art that comes out of it will deal head on with these traumas. But, what made this such a compelling exhibition were the challenges to this assumption. Instead of making artwork about the war, the artists display a ‘Spirit of 45’ or ‘make do and get by’ attitude, lamenting the legacy of war and the everyday disruption. Artists involved in the exhibition were chosen based on their air of inventiveness, borne out of necessity that practicing art through these extraordinary circumstances brings. Artists include, a political cartoonist Abdul Raheem Yassir, sculptor Furat al Jamil and the artistic duo WAMI who use new and used cardboard to replicate the furnishings of Iraqi houses.
You’ll be able to sup tea at this exhibition too, whilst pursuing the national archive library books from Iraq, an active space which encourages learning about the wider culture of this country. (Words: Laura Thornley)
The exhibition is on until 1 June. For more info: www.southlondongallery.org/page/144/Welcome-to-Iraq/954