Artists in Sulaymaniyah

4 Dec

Rebeen Majeed, Research image for Dado: Transform Project 2010

 

After lunch with Julie we hailed a taxi to an opening at the Galawezh Festival. The taxi driver, Ossman, spoke fluent Dutch, English, Arabic and Kurdish having lived in the Netherlands for two years and he just secured a fifteen year work permit to return to Holland as an electrical engineer. Working during the day with a local company, he was driving a taxi in the evening saving money for his imminent departure. One of the many stories we’ve heard of multi-tasking in the expanding labour market since 2003, as it seems most people have two, three or four jobs now to keep up with the rising costs of living.

We arrived at Tawar Hall which had the appearance of a large hotel with a conference center adjacent, and is one of the main exhibition spaces in the city. The space which has a gallery and auditorium was holding a show to coincide with the last day of the annual Galawezh Festival which highlights art and literature in the  region. The group exhibition primarily focused on abstract painting and included a number of artists from Sulaymaniyah. We visited the show with the artists Rebeen Majeed and Rozhgar Mahmood and afterward went to their house for dinner and Korean beer.

 

Site of Dado: Transform Project, old government building in the state of restoration

Rebeen Majeed, Research image for Dado: Transform Project 2010

 

Rebeen Majeed is an artist and curator who recently organized the exhibition Dado: Transform Project set in a disused 18th century government building that was in the process of undergoing renovation. The show centered on the idea of the ability of objects to be re-interpeted, re-defined and re-used in a multiplicity of ways. The transformation asserts a new context and destination for objects, while drawing into questioning assumtions about the ordering of everyday life. Moreover it is the pervasive potential for change and a sense of freedom that can be seen as challenge to the homogonizing forces of modernity.

Rebeen Majeed, Untitled (2004)

 

The art practice of Rebeen takes many forms, in an early photographic work he compiles a number of images of himself in profile. His shaved head excentuates the flatness at the back of his skull which is a common trait in the area due to the Kurdish custom of wrapping young babies tightly in their cots. In the work, Rebeen imagines through drawn variations, what the back of his head might have looked like were it not for this tradition.

Rozhgar Mahmood, A pot of water (2009)

 

Rozhgar Mahmood’s work also ranges from intimate performances to social interventions. A pot of water (2009) is a thirty minute video that documents the tedious performance of emptying a large container of water with a teaspoon. This durational action undertaken at a residency at the Wyspa Institute of Art in Gdansk, Poland highlights a sense of apprehension through the repetitive nature of domestic life. The solemn state of anticipation evident in the work is also found more broadly in others from her generation. As Rozhgar remarked, “there is a sense of waiting, waiting for something, but not yet knowing what that something is.”

Rozhgar Mahmood and Avan Aumar

Rozhgar Mahmood and Avan Aumar

Rozhgar Mahmood and Avan Aumar

 

Collaborating with the artist Avan Aumar on another piece. Rozghar and Avan worked with women in an area of Sulaymaniyah encouraging a transition out of the usual everyday sphere of the home into public space. The artists set up a living room in an abandonded lot with furniture donated from various nearby houses and then held meetings and workshops with women from the local area. This semblance of a familiar environment was effective in providing a visible transitional space which was maintained by the women for the duration of the piece.

Shirwan Fatih, Rubber (2009)

Shirwan Fatih, Rubber (2009)

 

The artist Shirwan Fatih also dropped by and we watched the documentation of his new work Rubber (2009). Shirwan collected old erasers from children in six classes of elementary school in exchange for new ones. The rubbers were then arranged in large rectangles by class and installed sequentially on a gallery floor from the first to the six year. What becomes apparent in the installation is the decreasing number of rubbers in each rectangle as the years progress. Shirwan attributes this change to our lack of willingness to admit mistakes as we grow older. The objects of the erasers offer a tangible history of these mistakes, the evidence which remains of our errors. In a way, the project cleans the slate, refreshing the tools of education.

The artist Shirwan Fatih also dropped by and we watched the documentation of his
new work Rubber (2009). Shirwan collected old erasers from children in six classes of
elementary school in exchange for new ones. The rubbers were then arranged in large
rectangles by class and installed sequentially on a gallery floor from the first to the six
year. What becomes apparent in the installation is the decreasing number of rubbers
in each rectangle as the years progress. Shirwan attributes this change to our lack of
willingness to admit mistakes as we grow older. The objects of the erasers offer a tangible history of these mistakes, the evidence which remains of our errors. In a way, the
project cleans the slate, refreshing the tools of education.

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