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March 20 2009 6 20 /03 /March /2009 11:25

The Lombard Freid Projects Gallery presents, until April 4th, “the worst condition is to pass under a sword which is not one’s own”, an original proposition of Michael Rakowitz, which plunges us into the imagery of the Iraqi’s leaders, unexpected…

At first sight, when we enter in the gallery, the imposing sculpture representing two white forearms crossing plastic green and red swords leads us directly to the Star Wars movie. But who would believe that this installation is actually a détournement of the Victory Arch, a monument built under Saddam Hussein to proclaim the victory over Iran in 1989. In fact, the drawings and the sculptures presented here will surprise us, and teach us a very particular side of the Iraqi history, since the purpose of this exhibition is to highlight the influence of the science fiction genre (especially the Stars Wars movie) in the Iraqi military environment.

The whole proposition is pervaded by a symbolic referenced to History, as much in the drawings, the forms, the colors than in the materials chosen. Each element tells us a story : for the Victory Arch, he used a white papier-maché form the pages of Saddam Hussein own novels. The two swords, green and red, evoke the colors of the Iraqi flag. We also learn that before the Gulf War, Hussein made a desfilé of his soldiers down the Victory Arch accompanied by the Star War musical theme. Then the helmets down the sculpture which have the shape of the one of Dark Vador, are made of GI Joe toys : the eldest son of Saddam, Uday Hussein, was a fan of Star Wars, so he asked for his paramilitary group an exact replicate of Dark Vador helmet.

Michael Rakowitz

“As established in the drawings, Saddam’s fixation with fantasy illustration was far reaching. After Baghdad fell in April 2003, erotic fantasy paintings by Rowena Morrill, a colleague and close friend of the man who designed the famous 1980 Star Wars poster, were discovered by US military personnel in one of Saddam’s mansions. Even more, without permission, Saddam appropriated an image by fantasy illustrator Jonathon Earl Bowser to adorn the cover of his turgid romance novel, Zabiba and the King. An original print of Bowser’s illustration as well as actual copies of the novel will be part of the exhibition.”

Thus Michael Rakowitz puts into light many other stories, pointing out the intricate relation of fiction and history, where weapons and toys are not where we expect them…

We let you discover what is the connection between the CIA and the telescope “supergun” made from boxes of balsa wood and plastic military models, pointing towards an image of the moon….

[Visual above : Michael Rakowitz, Installation view at the Lombard Freid Projects Gallery, March 2009, courtesy Lombard Freid Projects Gallery] 

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