Giving Art Destroyed by ISIS a Second Life
I love art history class. It is a breadth of knowledge not traditionally emphasized in high school. Not only is the class centered around beautiful art, it also brings about a more thorough understanding of the history and culture of places I wouldn’t otherwise know much about. Oftentimes, however, the …
I love art history class. It is a breadth of knowledge not traditionally emphasized in high school. Not only is the class centered around beautiful art, it also brings about a more thorough understanding of the history and culture of places I wouldn’t otherwise know much about.
Oftentimes, however, the class is frustrating. Too often we discuss a beautiful piece of art or architecture now in ruins or forever disappeared that was destroyed for a reason that seems either tragic or, to be honest, a bit ridiculous. The Parthenon? Used as a gunpowder magazine that then (big surprise) blew up. The cave paintings in Lascaux, France? Archeologists used to wet the paintings so that they would be more visible. The incredible art, architecture, and culture of the indigenous Americans? The Pacific Islands? Largely damaged by imperialism. Increasingly horrifying is the knowledge of the thousands of beautiful and significant artifacts being destroyed by ISIS.
The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist by Michael Rakowitz recreates destroyed artwork while emphasizing the relationship between packaging, food, newsprint and everyday life. His pieces are ‘ghosts’ of the originals, come back to provoke thought.
“As the artefacts disappeared, I was waiting for the loss to translate into outrage and grief for lost lives, but it didn’t happen. So I had the idea of these lost artefacts coming back as ghosts to haunt us.”
One of these works is a lamasu made of 10,500 cans of date syrup. It is 14 feet long and will be unveiled in Trafalgar Square in London looking towards the middle east. Just like the rest of the series, it is based on an artifact destroyed by ISIS, which drilled the face off of a lamasu in February of 2015. – The lamasu were large stone winged bulls that have guarded Ninevah for thousand years.
Michael Rakowitz comes from an Iraqi Jewish background. 44 years old, he is now a professor at Northwestern and a successful artist. His works have been displayed at the MOMA, the National Gallery, the Tate Modern, the Kabul National Museum, and UNESCO, Paris, among others.