Iraq

Welcome… To Which Iraq?

“Welcome to Iraq” is the title of the 2013 pavilion of Iraq, ostensibly chosen to offer a welcome to a different side of Iraq. Rather than daily bombings, legendary corruption, or the unfolding of an unprecedented military – corporate – prison complex, the pavilion purports to provide an opportunity to discover Iraq through a selected series of artworks by artists living across the country.

Through promotional videos put forth by the organizers themselves, British curator, Jonathan Watkins, and commissioner, Tamara Chalabi, are shown being escorted by security, perusing paintings and holding meetings. The videos appear almost out of time, with the grey haired, bespectacled Watkins unassumingly assuming the character of orientalist discoverer, though rather than the era of British colonialism in Iraq, the military personnel required for this curatorial adventure speaks directly to the ever – reverberating violence of the American – led occupation that continues to rip apart the country today.

Indeed, Iraqi commissioner Chalabi is known as an author, but more widely as the daughter and supporter of, her father, Ahmed Chalabi, perhaps most notorious for being on the CIA’s multi-million dollar payroll for decades and playing a central role in advocating and pushing for the Bush Administration’s invasion of Iraq. Fortunately for Watkins then, the kind of military security and Green Zone access one might need to feel “welcomed” into Iraq can be provided if commissioned by the right political figure. Which brings into question the role of curators in perpetuating particular political facades of neutrality and the often problematic frameworks of patronage.

Unfortunately for the Iraqi artists in the video, waiting to find out if they might be selected for a chance at Venice, security remains out of reach. There are no guided tours and museums remain closed. Attacks on artists and intellectuals, a paralyzing brain drain, crippling isolation, and rampant corruption pours billions of dollars into self-serving projects that hardly effect the rehabilitation of Iraq’s educational or artistic infrastructure.

Can life for artists, or anyone in Iraq for that matter, be called anything close to welcoming?

Anonymous

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Pavilion

Organizer/Commissioner:
Ruya Foundation for Contemporary Culture in Iraq (RUYA) (non-governmental organization)
Artists:
Abdul Raheem Yassir; Akeel Khreef; Jamal Penjweny; Furat al Jamil; Hareth Alhomaam; Ali Samiaa; Bassim Al-Shaker; Cheeman Ismaeel; Kadhim Nwir; Yaseen Wami; Hashim Taeeh
Curator:
Jonathan Watkins
Budget provided by the state:
€0
Open Call?
Yes
Selection procedure:
RUYA appointed the curator, who in turn formulated a curatorial theme and selected the artists after several studio visits. The exhibition is funded entirely by private donations and corporate sponsors.

Curator

Name:
Jonathan Watkins
Gender:
Male
Born:
The United Kingdom, 1957
Lives and works in:
The United Kingdom
No. of participations in the venice biennale:
2

Artist

Name:
Cheeman Ismaeel
Gender:
Female
Born:
Iraq, 1966
Lives and works in:
Iraq
No. of participations in the venice biennale:
1
Represented by galleries in:
Not represented by a gallery

Artist

Name:
Bassim Al-Shaker
Gender:
Male
Born:
Iraq, 1986
Lives and works in:
Iraq
No. of participations in the venice biennale:
1
Represented by galleries in:
Not represented by a gallery

Artist

Name:
Ali Samiaa
Gender:
Male
Born:
Iraq, 1980
Lives and works in:
Iraq
No. of participations in the venice biennale:
1
Represented by galleries in:
Not represented by a gallery

Artist

Name:
Hareth Alhomaam
Gender:
Male
Born:
Iraq, 1987
Lives and works in:
Iraq
No. of participations in the venice biennale:
1
Represented by galleries in:
Not represented by a gallery

Artist

Name:
Furat al Jamil
Gender:
Female
Born:
Germany, 1965
Lives and works in:
Iraq
No. of participations in the venice biennale:
1
Represented by galleries in:
Not represented by a gallery

Artist

Name:
Jamal Penjweny
Gender:
Male
Born:
Iraq, 1981
Lives and works in:
Iraq
No. of participations in the venice biennale:
1
Represented by galleries in:
Not represented by a gallery

Artist

Name:
Akeel Khreef
Gender:
Male
Born:
Iraq, 1979
Lives and works in:
Iraq
No. of participations in the venice biennale:
1
Represented by galleries in:
Not represented by a gallery

Artist

Name:
Abdul Raheem Yassir
Gender:
Male
Born:
Iraq, 1951
Lives and works in:
Iraq
No. of participations in the venice biennale:
1
Represented by galleries in:
Not represented by a gallery

Artist

Name:
Kadhim Nwir
Gender:
Male
Born:
Iraq, 1967
Lives and works in:
Iraq
No. of participations in the venice biennale:
1
Represented by galleries in:
Not represented by a gallery

Artist

Name:
Yaseen Wami
Gender:
Male
Born:
Iraq, 1973
Lives and works in:
Ukraine
No. of participations in the venice biennale:
1
Represented by galleries in:
Not represented by a gallery

Artist

Name:
Hashim Taeeh
Gender:
Male
Born:
Iraq, 1948
Lives and works in:
Iraq
No. of participations in the venice biennale:
1
Represented by galleries in:
Not represented by a gallery

Politics & Economics

State System:
Federal parliamentary constitutional republic
Ruling Political Party:
Coalition government is led the right wing Islamic Dawa Party of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Population (World Bank, 2011):
32,961,959
GDP per capita (World Bank, 2011):
$3,501
World Bank credit:
$890,160,000
Net OECD ODA Aid Received (2011):
$1,904,050,000
Military Expenditure (SIPRI, 2011):
$6,054,000,000

Alliances


Arab League
World Bank debt
Non-Aligned Movement
OPEC
Organisation of Islamic Cooperation

Conflicts

Country independent since:
1932 (from Britain);2004 (the Coalition Provisional Authority transferred sovereignty to the Iraqi Interim Government)
Last Major Border Revision:
1991 (independence of Kuwait)
Colonial History:
Former British mandate
Global Militarization Index (BICC, 2011):
26
Nuclear Force?
No
Ongoing Conflicts and Disputes:
Ongoing turmoil after the Iraq War (2003-2011).