Backstroke of the West: Reflecting on Demanding Memory

I was able to experience Backstroke of the West by Iraqi-American artist Michael Rakowitz at the Museum of Contemporary Art. I have been wanting to experience the exhibit since seeing this description:

IMG_5129.JPG

"Also on view are Spoils (2011), a project that saw the artist serve Iraqi date syrup and venison on Saddam Hussein’s very own china, and The invisible enemy should not exist (2007–ongoing), a lifelong project to fabricate at full scale every single item looted from the Iraqi National Museum."

IMG_5140.JPG

I am fascinated by the idea of fabricating what as lost, to scale. So you know what was lost then? Imagine that. About 2 or 3 month's ago I asked my mother to record a conversation with me. "I need to capture your story." She flat out refused. "I have no interest in that" and continued playing solitaire.

I wonder if it is the DNA of capitalism to preserve and catalog for no other reason than to prove its existence. Black people know all too well the horrors of a lost (pre)history. So I have to see these for myself, all the while wondering if my mother's inclination is the truer to my (pre)colonial self. What is our attachment to these relics of the past and how does Rakowitz's work interact with that attachment in light of the cultural genocide we know as the afterwords of their destruction.

IMG_5141.JPG
IMG_5131.JPEG

Rakowitz's work reclaims the dialogue and holds a place marker for the culture while still allowing it to move forward, to acknowledge the connection between the past and the present. I distinctly Iraqi present even if fingered by the west.

Michael Rakowitz is also responsible for Enemy Kitchen (2003–ongoing), a pop-up food truck that serves Iraqi dishes by the way.

 

IMG_5138.JPG
IMG_5143.JPG