The invisible enemy should not exist : ( Section 1, Room C, Northwest Palace of Nimrud)


Pi Artworks Istanbul is pleased to announce the Chicago-based and award-winning artist Michael Rakowitz’s first solo exhibition in Istanbul.

Michael Rakowitz’s “The invisible enemy should not exist” is an ongoing series that he began in 2007. The goal: to recreate the missing and destroyed artifacts taken from the National Museum of Iraq, more than 7,000 in total—a cultural pillaging that occurred in the early 2000’s during the Iraq War and its wake. Then, in 2015, Rakowitz extended the series to include the “reappearance” of the relief panels from Kalhu (Nimrud), room by room. Kalhu was the site of an Assyrian palace, a treasure of ancient Mesopotamia (located in current-day Numaniyah, south of Mosul, Iraq); the relief panels that remained at Kalhu were destroyed by ISIS in 2015, sending shock waves throughout the world and causing grief in the local community. In Rakowitz’s recreations of the rooms at Kalhu, he leaves out the looted reliefs which now sit at reputable, colonialist institutions throughout the West. These blank spaces carry weight.
Rakowitz is an artist for the dispossessed, for the erased, and displaced. And, it is not only in the content of the work that he speaks to this, but also in its materiality. To bring these artifacts and panels back to something of its original colorful form, Rakowitz uses a papier-mâché technique with Middle Eastern product packaging and Arabic-English newspapers. This not only references back to prior and seminal series of his, but it also speaks to the very birth of this series itselfthe idea of consumption by the West of this region’s riches and history, paired with the simultaneous discarding of the worth and identity of its people, their “wrappers”, their context. Rakowitz adorns these artifacts proudly with identity marking labels and papers. They literally wear a tag announcing where they came from. They are impenetrable to dispossession. Further, like much of Rakowitz’s work, meaning and effect is manifold; it should not be lost that this is also a work that is about political justice, as it is about environmental justice, metaphorically and literally, cultural justice, and so on. 

Installation Views