Contemporary Art Iraq review

This exhibition covers themes including ‘Time and Tradition’ and ‘Protest’ and covers a wide range of artists and artwork. The exhibition gives you an insight into the lives of people living in Iraq but also to a certain extent challenges the preconceived ideas given to us by the news and press.

The pieces vary from photographs and paintings to video installations. Some pieces work and some in my opinion don’t. The first gallery is themed around ‘Time and Tradition’. The first thing you see is a set of large pictures (taken by Taib H. Ameen) of the same man dressed in different traditional clothes. In most of the pictures the man is staring at you or into the distance and clutching some sort of weapon which makes the pictures seem powerful but also slightly threatening. I liked this piece because of the power and beauty of each photograph. I also liked the short documentary in the same gallery called Yayli. It’s about the loss of livelihood for men driving horse drawn carts. The documentary follows one man and his struggle to keep his business as more and more people choose to travel in cars instead of the horse drawn cart. The documentary is pretty self explanatory and shows the effect modern methods of travel are having on traditional methods of transport.

The second gallery is themed around ‘The Changing City’ which starts with a set of photographs of a man walking through various areas of a city with a leaking bucket of white paint which leaves a white trail behind him. The piece I think stands as a metaphor of wherever you go, your presence and actions always leave a mark of some kind. I liked it because of its simplicity and for the composition of each picture.

However some of the pieces didn’t work as well. Nylon for example is a video installation in which a piece of nylon is screwed into a ball and then left to expand into its original form. I didn’t like this particular piece because of its lazy execution. I would have preferred something more visually compelling. Another piece which I didn’t think worked was W.C. It’s a video piece which shows two different toilets and people who choose which one they want to use. It does say something about the choices we make and the contrast to the way in which people live however personally I didn’t see it as very poignant and it didn’t really work for me.

My favourite piece in the exhibition was a piece in the third gallery called Iraq is Flying. It is made up of several pictures of different people all around Iraq jumping in the air. The people include soldiers, children, businessmen and farmers as well as a few others. I really liked it because it showed people with entirely different lives all united by a positive gesture that’s full of hope.

Overall there was a lot of different themes and meanings to each piece however the theme which I would say most of the exhibition encircled was the theme of hope. The hope that the people are keeping as they slowly rebuild their lives. That’s why I liked this exhibition and why I would recommend it to anyone interested in the arts.

Review by LiveWire Critic, Conor Muir-Cochrane (Apr ’10)

Contemporary Art Iraq is on at Cornerhouse until Sun 20 Jun 2010